He’s won two editions of the Tour de France, taken two of the Giro d’Italia and also clocked up success in three editions of the Vuelta a España.
However, when asked which career result means most to him, Alberto Contador doesn’t pick any of these. Instead, it’s smaller race, but one which had a special emotional significance.
Because of this, his stage five win in the 2005 Tour Down Under is the highlight he nominates.
“I had previously undergone brain surgery [for a cerebral cavernoma – ed.], and no one could tell me if I could ever sit on a bike again, or if I would be able to race. I have since won many important races. But from an emotional point of view, it was the most important victory for me,” he stated, according to Feltet.dk.
Contador was speaking at a press conference held at the Tinkoff-Saxo team get together in Croatia. He is heading towards what will almost certainly be his final season in the peloton and, while his missed out on a third Tour win in 2015, still regards the year a good one.
“I’m happy with how 2015 went…especially the Giro victory, which I have been delighted about,” he said. “Of course I would also have liked to win the Tour. They were the only goal I had in 2015…the double was all I wanted.
“I tried, but for the Tour I was more tired than expected.”
Unsurprisingly, winning a Tour de France in his final year is his big goal, both because it was the first Grand Tour he won [he triumphed in 2007], and also because he hasn’t done so since 2009.
He was first in Paris in 2010 but later lost that title due to a positive test for Clenbuterol. In 2011 he won the Giro but was fatigued in the Tour, ending the race fifth in Paris. He lost both those results when he was handed a suspension in relation to the Clenbuterol case.
Since then he placed fourth in the 2013 Tour, crashed out in 2014 and was fifth again in 2015, once again below par after the Giro.
He has already said that taking another yellow jersey to Paris is his sole goal in 2016. Prior to that he mentions Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya as races he will possibly ride as part of his buildup; after the Tour, the Olympic Games and – possibly – the Vuelta a España are on his radar.
The Tour, though, is what will dominate his thoughts until then.
Unsurprisingly he names Chris Froome as a major rival, with the Briton also trying to take a third Tour. However he sees another rider as a very big threat.
“You should also keep an eye on [Nairo] Quintana,” he said. “From year to year he becomes better. And while Froome certainly will be the strongest in the first part of the Tour, will Quintana be strongest in the last part?”
That’s certainly been the case in the two Tours Quintana has ridden.
Providing Contador starts the Tour fresh, he also hopes that his form will be on the up in the second half of the event, enabling him to mount a major challenge for the maillot jaune.