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Photo gallery: The entertaining and controversial career of Alberto Contador

Photos by Cor Vos | Words by Matt de Neef & Matthew de Vroet

  • James

    Great pics of a great champion. Saw him win on Willunga in 2005 and have followed him closely ever since. Need more racers like him!

  • Pete

    He will be missed. Who’s going to attack the Sky train now?

    • Landa?

      • jules

        Porte?

        • DaveRides

          As we saw with his kamikaze move on Dan Martin at the Tour this year, attack means something very different for Porte compared to most riders. I’m no Sky fan, but I wouldn’t wish that on them.

          • jules

            very harsh :)

  • jules

    the bad: he probably doped his whole career. his chaingate attack of Schleck in 2010 Tour was a bit questionable.

    the good: he was a rider’s rider. hard as nails, he attacked relentlessly and with panache. at the end of the day, he was a cyclist who loved riding his bike fast and he did that to the maximum of his ability (and beyond, in all senses of the phrase). whether continuing with half his skin missing after a crash or with a broken leg, his courage was awe-inspiring. he wasn’t intimidated by Lance and put Lance in his place in 2009.

    Contador is the sort of rider I’d aspire to be (except for the doping part).

    • Stewie Griffin

      Let’s not forget that shortly after the Contador Clenbuterol affair, several pro riders got away clean with clenbuterol positives due to contaminated meat in china. They were believed, were as Contador was labelled a pathetic liar and doper, with a tainted career. Others however, have gotten away more easily

      https://cyclingtips.com/2014/04/rogers-has-been-cleared-but-questions-about-clenbuterol-remain/

      I’ll miss him, for the great entertainer and personality he is. Always be prepared to attack and decide who can win the GT when he’s not able to win it himself. I hope he releases some test results just to show how exceptional he is.

      • Let’s not compare Clenbuterol in Spain, vs China. Had it happened in China he would have been fine. IIRC, others before him had also tested positive for Clenbuterol in China and had also got off (sorry, that’s just going off memory, and I can’t be bothered searching for the links).

        • Stewie Griffin

          Cheating is in human nature. Doesn’t matter if the farmer is Spanish or Chinese.. I’ve worked for 8 years in the meat industry, 5 of them were dealing with Spanish exporters, I would say 70% of them is cheating somehow (origins of the meat, false certifications, tampering with temperatures, etc, etc..) I would not be surprised if some farmers would use clenbuterol too. Where someone can make a financial gain (& substantially growing that gain), people will cheat.

      • DaveRides

        I always had the feeling that Contador’s two year ban was disproportionate, and that he was really being punished for other unsubstantiated suspicions (bad) or making an enemy of someone powerful at the UCI (worse). A more proportionate sanction would have been one equal with what Michael Rogers received – result in the race wiped and no further action required.

        With what we’ve since learned about how the UCI operated back then, you have to wonder how differently things might have turned out for Contador had he picked his enemies a bit more carefully instead of riding against LA in the 2009 Tour.

    • jakub

      I don’t quite understand why the chaingate is still being mentioned. I’d say that it is more than clear from the footage that 1) Schleck launched his attack first to which Vinokourov responded immediately, followed by Contador from behind. After his initial acceleration Schleck dropped his chain and started to slow down, and was almost immediately passed by the two (and that happened before he came to a complete halt). Indeed, Contador might have seen that Schleck started suddenly slowing down, but – you have to keep in mind that they weren’t on a recovery ride and almost certainly were already on threshold, way before Schleck’s acceleration happened. Gasping for breath with your heart rate hovering around 180bpm, it is certainly possible that you simply do not keep track of what is happening around, you just try to follow wheels. 2) If I recall correctly, Schleck’s chain fell off due to shifting both front and rear simultaneously – e.g. clearly a rider’s error. Even without 2) being relevant and true, the whole situation certainly didn’t happen in a way that Contador saw Schleck stopping and _then_ launching his attack. As for the doping, it certainly isn’t clear cut (IMHO). The levels of clenbuterol detected were ridiculously low, way below any performance enhancing potential. The whole blood-doping theory of Contador using clenbuterol during the season, then storing the blood (with residual clenbuterol) to later re-inject it – based on phthalates (plasticizers) in his blood was dismissed by CAS as “very unlikely”. CAS ultimately leaned towards a contaminated supplement, with a burden of proof on Contador. He couldn’t prove it (the tainted steak theory was dismissed as well), therefore was handed the ban. That being said and established, I give him a benefit of doubt.

      • jules

        I’ll give you chaingate, but not the clen. As far as I can tell, the CAS’s finding was based on strange legalities about which evidence was presented and how parties made their respective cases. In practice, the plasticisers in Contador’s blood were never explained by the CAS in their decision. It’s pretty obvious how they most likely, or almost certainly got there. And it’s not explained by contaminated supplements. Sometimes you don’t need to be a judge to see the blindingly obvious and sometimes you can see it more clearly than judges, free of artificial legal constraints.

        • jakub

          I see your point, and I definitely admit that it is likely that he might have doped. The problem with phthalates is that they are easily detectable within general population (I’ve read figures like 98% have measurable levels). In Contador’s case, if I recall correctly, the argument about blood transfusion was based on the fact, that one of his samples showed an irregular spike in DHEP levels compared to his previous samples taken during the Tour. However, at the time the whole DHEP test was experimental and not an established proof of doping. IIRC soon after his case was closed, WADA decided to end funding for the plasticizer test, since the whole method was deemed inconclusive as an evidence for blood doping – I don’t know the details, but perhaps questions like what is the baseline level of DHEP, then the possibility of accidental ingestion/leak from any common packaging etc. couldn’t be ruled out. It wasn’t like a let’s say Landis case, where you have a ratio of testosterone that simply cannot occur naturally. Again, I don’t know the exact details about the legalities, but based on this, I can see why the whole theory of transfusion was dismissed in front of court, as there was simply too many what ifs.

  • Russ

    Sadly, to be the only rider in history stripped of winning the Tour and Giro for doping offences will be his legacy.

  • zosim

    I always wonder what people mean by “animate” races when in reality what they mean is “provide some TV interest with an invariably doomed long range attack or series of attacks”. By this measure Rolland should be lauded as he loves the showboating attack that almost always comes to nothing. Sure, sometimes he hits it just right and either splinters the race or wins a stage but it’s pretty hit and miss.

    Don’t get me wrong, if I put Contador’s dodgy stuff aside for a bit, he’s an interesting rider to watch but I can’t say I’ll be sorry to see one of the last marquee riders from “that era” retire and give his spot to someone without that baggage.

    • pedr09

      Thing is zoism, if a rider never attacked unless he was virtually assured of success (somehow…), there would simply be no attacks, especially in races where strong teams can reel in attackers easily. Rolland and Contador are not really a good comparison as Rolland inevitably loses a heap of time early in a GT so that when he attacks, the leader’s teams don’t care, yet the attacks still fail. Contador on the other hand has a proven history of attacking and winning. Not every time of course, but enough to make the leader’s teams panic and to upset their plans. This leads to isolations, mistakes, crashes on descents etc. and for the other GC contenders to become vulnerable. This is what makes Contador exciting, his gravity.

    • Rodrigo Diaz

      Valverde would have really liked if the attack on 2012’s Fuente De had been “invariably doomed”. And Froome would have also loved to have the doomed attack in 2016 that set Quintana up. :)

      You may not like Contador, and that’s fine. But those are not showboating attacks – they are tactical options for someone who is racing for the win but is not the strongest guy in the race, so the routine team-train-and-attack-last-climb-finish that race favourites perform wouldn’t do. So he took his chances, and made them work sometimes when he understood that conservative racing was doomed (see what I did?). That’s resourceful.

    • jules

      to slightly misappropriate Sandro Donetti’s quote – pro sports are theatre. Contador was a better actor than Froome.

  • Andrew

    Definitely miss him, for in the past several years he showed more grace and personality than most of the peleton put together. Would have loved to be a fly on the handle bars on his bike during the bloke-fest chat between he and Big Tex

  • Andy B

    Great career :) Big fan

  • DaveRides

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to un-see the moobs on the fan in the 2010 Tour pic. Pass the brain bleach!

  • Big J

    Just my thoughts, but I’m more than a little uncomfortable with a gallery dedicated to someone who was a known doper for at least the first 1/2 of his career. You don’t ride for ONCE, Discovery, and Astana on bread and water.

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