Monday, July 20, 2009

TDF 2009: EXCLUSIVE: Contador: Wiggins and Schleck most dangerous

Contador in a private meeting last night with Chema del Olmo, and BBB, as he waited to be introduced live on Onda Cera Radio by telephone from Switzerland (Benepe (C)).

Last night BBB talked to Alberto Contador, the Tour's current Yellow Jersey holder. You can read the whole interview from the previous posting here.

He spoke in an interview with Chema del Olmo for Onda Cero Radio, with BBB sitting there at the table to hear his responses-- about among other things how when he fell ill a few years ago, and when he thought he might die, his best wish was to return to cycling. It's almost the same story that we heard from Armstrong, a narrow escape from death can yield the most passionate and determined efforts to win once you know you have life again.

Yet Contador appeared super healthy and more thin than any person could possibly imagine. BBB said "Que delgado tu eres," to which Contador smiled broadly but shyly looked away, the compliment from a woman who he did not know.

But the better to climb away yesterday in Stage 15 from one of the most accomplished cyclists in the world, Lance Armstrong. Extremely shy, the sudden Yellow Jersey has thrown him into the spotlight with thousands of journalists, and fans, who want to see and learn about who this man really is and how he thinks.

Pic: Contador playing with his new numbers last night, while on the table in a plastic bag was his new Yellow Astana jersey and shorts (Benepe (c)).

Last night while he was being interviewed fans stood politely behind us later practically begging for a signature, and possibly even a picture with the Spaniard who is at least for now, conquering the hardest bike race in the world.

And today he did not wear the Yellow Jersey while he was training, and in a press conference held in Sion, Switzerland 20 km from Martigny, and 35 km from Verbier, his shy and non-assuming character started to show. He did not wear it today, because he will wear it tomorrow, he told reporters with a sheepish grin.

There is no doubt that this man could not be more different than Lance Armstrong when it comes to personality. But when it comes to taking the mountains in a race, he seems very much like Armstrong, steaming away as if on air, as Armstrong did so many times in past, dusting his competitors, and appearing unbreakable.

Contador: at press conference today discussing yesterday's race. (Benepe (C))

But is he the same? "Armstrong is Armstrong, and Contador is Contador," he said. "We race very differently," he added. "For me, I am trying to win this Tour," but as for future Tours, he is not thinking of winning any more specifically but he will try to win as many as Armstrong has if it is possible.

He also said that the day after tomorrow's course from Bourg Saint Maurice to Le Grand Bornand is one of the worst in the tour, and demands the most respect, especially the section over Col de Roseland: "That will be the hardest for everyone," he said. The mountain rises to 1968 meters, and is an 18km climb, tougher than the one in Verbier which though included 20 km of uphill, was only 10 km of steep grade.

His greatest compeition he thinks will come not from Armstrong but Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank who ran up the mountain behind him in Sunday's stage to Verbier, and showed no signs of tiring. Contador has a big competitor in Bradley Wiggins of Garmin Slipstream as well who is known for his dominance in the time trials, but showed enormous strength as a climber in yesterday's climb to Verbier. "Maybe he is the most dangerous in the competition for the Yellow Jersey," said Contador.

As we reported yesterday, Contador also reported that since he won the Yellow in Stage 15, the the tension and discomfort he felt with Armstrong, and even with the seeming indecisiveness of Bruyneel to appoint a leader in Team Astana, had ended. "It was one of the best stages I have ever had in the Tour," he added.

Astana mechanics working on several team bikes today in Sion, Switzerland. The yellow one? It belongs to Lance Armstrong said one Astana boss.
(Benepe (c))

There is also no doubt in Contador's mind before he came to this year's event that Armstrong would be a force to contend with: "I knew it would be difficult, and it turned out to even more difficult than I thought." But he said because it was so hard, it forced the situation and helped him push harder.

In his mind, will he ride the race any differently now that he holds the Yellow Jersey? "No, I will ride the same as I did yesterday, even though in the minds of all the media, I am now wearing the Yellow Jersey."

1 comment:

Jed Weaver said...

The first pic is a wonderful candid picture of Contador. Congratulations on getting in there up close and personal. -jed