Alberto Contador, who rode the final WorldTour race of his career last month at the Vuelta, says that power meters should be banned from races. In a wide-ranging interview with Spanish sports daily Marca, he also shared his views on whether the sport should have a salary cap and spoke about his biggest regret and his feelings on his 2012 ban for doping.
Contador, who took a storming win on the Angliru on the Vuelta’s penultimate day to finish fourth overall, believes that power meters were a major factor in Team Sky’s ability to control the race as Chris Froome followed up his Tour de France win with the overall victory in Spain.
Marca had asked the 34-year-old whether he believed that the use of team radios denied riders freedom of expression and the ability to race intuitively.
“Earpieces don’t have to be taken away,” he replied. “They have less of an impact on intuition than power meters.”
To illustrate his point, he said: “If you’re riding up a climb and you know you can’t exceed 400 watts, and Sky are taking turns at the front at 400 watts, you don’t dare attack because you’ll burn yourself out, in 2 kilometres you’ll blow up.
“If you don’t see the numbers, your feelings can lead you to attack. Riders block themselves when they see the numbers, especially if the gradient is 6 or 7 per cent.”
Last week, accounts filed by Team Sky’s management company revealed that it had a budget of £31 million in 2016 and Contador was asked whether he felt cycling should have a salary cap.
“It’s a controversial topic, with people for and against it,” he reflected. “If a team has four times the budget of some others, that means many of its riders could be leaders of other teams. And teams like that can control races.”
He insisted his own departure from the professional ranks had nothing to do with his views on the subject, saying: “The wage limit could be high, but not stratospheric.
“A team leader could have a high salary, and then you could put together a good, competitive team which would bring much more balance to races now there will be eight riders [per team] in the Grand Tours.”
Asked how the sport had changed in the last 15 years, Contador said: “I think it’s more commercial now, with more pressure because previously teams were formed by families that owned a brand and who loved cycling.
“Now, with the budgets involved, all of the sponsors, or 90 per cent of them, are multinationals with markets on five continents. Previously, teams had riders of two or three nationalities, now they may have 15.
“It’s global cycling. Now we have races in Australia, China, Japan, the UAE. It’s more interesting for the multinationals and for riders from those countries, but for us it means disruptive schedules and travel.”
Contador, who along with Vincenzo Nibali is the only rider of the current generation to have won all three Grand Tours – something only six riders have ever achieved – was asked what his biggest regret was.
“Like anyone else, I’d have liked to have won the three Grand Tours in a single year. I won them all, but in different seasons.
“If I’d tried it when I was younger and when I had a very strong team around me, maybe I’d have had more of a chance. But there’s nothing other than that.”
While Contador has seven Grand Tour wins in his palmares, the loss of his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia titles after he tested positive for clenbuterol during the first of those races clearly remains a sore point for the Spaniard, who has always maintained his innocence and that traces of the banned substance were in his system after he ate a tainted steak.
“Anyone who reads the decision will see there’s no substance to it. The sanction imposed on me came after it was found there was no evidence of doping, that it was possibly due to food I had eaten. And that’s it; you get that sanction.
“It’s something that’s caused me a lot of damage, but I’m not going to go on and on fighting it.
“I’ve put it to one side because it doesn’t bring me anything positive and because I’m satisfied with knowing that whoever takes a bit of interest in it and reads the decision will know that I did not commit any act of doping.”
While he has ridden his final top-level race, Contador will be back on his bike in Trek-Segafredo’s colours twice more in the coming weeks, in late-season criteriums in Japan and China that are effectively exhibition races.
For the future, he’ll still be out on the bike as he looks to ease into his post-riding career without giving his body too much of a shock, while his Alberto Contador Foundation is partnering with Trek Segafredo to launch a development squad for next season to be run by his friend and former team mate, Ivan Basso.
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.