Friday, July 22, 2011

Contador: A more likeable character?

Earlier today I asked the question "@neilroad Not a Conta fan, but I liked that a lot. Does this TDF make him more likeable overall?" His response "@hbstache Pondering that same question."

It started quite the Twitter chat, with many people jumping in. It also started me thinking about how I viewed Contador myself


Pic I took post TT at Tour of Missouri.  He borrowed Levi's new bike and headed off to the hotel.  Not what I was expecting from a Tour winner.
  • 2007 - I was pulling for him to beat Rasmussen at the Tour.  Full disclosure, I was riding RAGBRAI with Team LIVESTRONG.  It was easy for me to get in the spirit, Lance owned part of the team and that team was filled with guys I really liked.  Conta seemed likeable enough, he had comeback from a serious crash, was a bit quiet and appeared humble.  I was around Alberto for a few minutes at the Tour of Missouri a few months later.  My impression of him, was that he was very quiet and really lacked a strong presence compared to Popo, George and Levi. It was hard to believe he was a Grand Tour winner.
  • 2008 - I still liked the guy at the time of the GIRO, but the Pistolero thing was wearing on my nerves.  I felt he and Levi got robbed with the Astana/ASO conflict.  
  • 2008 - Vuelta This is where I feel Alberto's new "Pistolero" persona started to grow and take on a life its own.  He was critical of Levi's efforts in the final TT at the Vuelta.  They were gonna take the podium and Levi had been a faithful teammate and didn't follow Alberto's wheel on previous stages as it would have taken across rivals. I was stunned with the attitude and media comments of the new/real Alberto.
  • Late 2008 - Alberto initially made positive comments about Lance's comeback.  Then quickly followed them up with comments about wanting to be the leader, leaving the team, etc. This was the point where most fans began to choose sides.  Much like Brady vs. Manning, you make a choice and you have your reasons.  
  • 2009 Tour - We all know this story with the Lance and Conta team battle.  Everyone has their opinion of that situation.  I will say again, as I did on Twitter, I heard some 2nd hand stories from the Nike rep that was with the Team. The gist was that Contador was being a loner, and staying away from the other team members, etc. The Lance battle is what most people talked about, but I felt the most telling issue was the attack Contador put in, that took Kloden out of podium contention.  At this point I flat out did not like this guy! They had the chance to sweep the podium and he still attacked. At this point you were either pro-Lance or pro-Contador.  I had met and ridden with Lance, so it's pretty obvious who I pulled for.
  • 2010 Tour - I felt his attack on Schleck and subsequent youtube apology were a joke.  I will agree with initial comments of Pro's like Steven Cozza, that the attack was not right.  There was no way he did not see Schleck come to a dead stop in the middle of the road.  After that stage I was really anti-Contador, as many were.  But, by the end of the Tour in 2010, I had to respect Contador's ability to manipulate the not so clever and naive Andy Schleck. I hated the stage finish on the Tourmalet, but thought Contador was brilliant trading a stage for the Tour.  He gave up 1 Mountain top finish and completely cleared up Andy's upset tummy.  I actually respected  Contador more than Schleck after this Tour.
  • Clebuterol positive test - I was in the 90% of people that thought the steak excuses was completely BS.  Combined with plasticizers in the blood, I figured he just screwed up and took a transfusion of blood that was not completely clean of PEDs.  Had I thought before that he was using something?  He was brought into the sport by the kingpin of Operation Puerto Manalo Saiz so the answer was YES! I was not shocked that Spain cleared him, and that he was racing in 2011.  
  • Giro 2011 - He was on the top of his game even with Beef Gate still hanging over his head.  He simply out rode everyone, while be tested more than he has ever been.
  • This year's Tour - I didn't believe it was possible to win the most difficult Giro in years, and then win the Tour.  Alberto's luck was only slightly better than Lance's luck last year.  On several occasions this year, Alberto seemed mortal in mountain.  I didn't think he was going to win the Tour, but I didn't expect to see him get dropped by Thomas Voeckler.  Then came the attacks that showed he would rather lose this Tour than finish on the podium.  I will say those attacks and his post race interview today had me warm a bit to Alberto.
     



Could it be that his mortality made him more likeable?  Was it the lack of "shady" moves during this race?  Did not seeing him do the "Pistolero" help? Is simply okay now that he is not going to win and then possibly have it taken away in court?  I am still not sure how I feel about Contador, but I am sure of one thing, cycling is better when he is riding.  There are teams and athletes that people want to watch because the like them or hate them. Contador is one of these characters; if he is racing, you know it is a must watch!  



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