Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has confirmed that he will ride in this year’s race, which finishes just one week before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is scheduled to hear appeals from the UCI and World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) against the decision earlier this year of the Spanish national cycling federation, the RFEC, to clear him of doping charges.
Those charges, of course, result from Contador’s positive test for clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France, which he went on to win. Tour organisers ASO had hoped that the situation would have been resolved ahead of this year’s race, and the CAS hearing had originally been set for earlier this month.
However, in May, shortly before the Saxo Bank-SunGard rider sealed an emphatic overall victory in the Giro d’Italia, the sixth grand tour win of his career, it was revealed that CAS had agreed to a request from Contador’s lawyers to delay the hearing to allow them more time to gather evidence on his behalf.
That leaves the way open for Contador to defend his title but also raises the prospect that if he succeeds in doing that, but subsequently loses the appeal at CAS, he could be stripped of both the 2010 and 2011 Tour de France – something that a sport which continues to struggle with the fallout of a succession of doping scandals involving some of its biggest names can ill-afford.
Speaking yesterday after taking part, along with 500 fans, in his own 150km sportive based around his home town of Pinto near Madrid, Contador confirmed that he is aiming to become the first cyclist since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win both the Giro and the Tour in the same year, a feat achieved by only seven riders.
“I’ll ride the Tour,” he told the Spanish sports daily AS. “I know that the Giro-Tour double is very difficult to do, few have managed it, but I’ll try.
Contador said that he’d considered missing the Tour to focus on the Vuelta instead, as he had done in 2008 after joining Astana, which ASO had excluded from the French race as a result of the doping scandal surrounding it the previous year, adding that team manager Bjarne Riis had helped influence his decision.
“The Giro was very tough, I still feel the tiredness in my muscles. It would have been easier for me to relax and prepare for the Vuelta, but the Tour is the biggest race with the best riders. It’s very important for the team and the sponsors that I take part in it. We examined the pros and cons along with Bjarne Riis and made the decision.
The 28-year-old reveald that he had undergone physical tests on Friday to gauge his condition. “The results are encouraging,” he said. “I’m not in the same condition as in other years at this point. But I consider it to be normal wear after the Giro and there is still time before the Tour.”
Contador is now setting off to undertake a recce of the mountain stages that will prove decisive in this year’s Tour, and between now and the race getting under way a fortnight on Saturday, his only competitive rides will be in the Spanish championships, where he intends to compete in both the road race and the individual time trial.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.