As I have admitted in previous blogs, I have had a like him/ hate him sports fan perspective on Conta. With Chain Gate, my initial reaction was that it was Bush league and had no place in the top level of the sport.
At the time I thought Chain Gate was a horrible display, and I was rooting for the lanky one to take back the time on Conta. Then the TDF played out and Andy's SCHLECKnd attitude brought me full circle with the Spaniard. Sometimes sports force you to root for one athlete over the other - Bird or Magic, Brady or Manning, Lance or Jan. Conta vs Andy.... it's very easy for me to pull for the guy that WANTS it and shows he knows how to finish. In truth, Andy Schleck got me back on the Contador bandwagon with being a bit on the SOFT side. With time to think about it, many of us would have done the same thing as Alberto. We are human and flawed....many of us are a bit more Conta down deep than Andy. Whether we like to admit it or not, our inner "black hat" is a bit more likely to come out than our "white"one.
|The Schlecks are a bit on the soft side (Marshmallow Peeps kinda soft) when it comes to having a killer instinct|
As most of us do, I think a lot while out riding. With some time to reflect on Contador's 2011 season, I realized/remembered a few things.
*Dramatic story of a near death experience, to Grand Tour winner (As fans, we like those stories... especially in A-Merika!)
* Regardless of the help needed (Rasmussen ejection) or how close some of the victories were, he has won 5 GRAND TOURS... All 3 Grand Tours not just 1 of them multiple times. Really let that one sink in! That is the combined GC wins of Ivan Basso & Denis Menchov.
* He and his team got screwed out of the TDF in 08 (Anti-Astana/ Anti-Johan/Lance or whatever the reason) Without him we had the MOST forgettable Tour in....um.... a long.... LONG TIME! Who won that again?!? Carlos...zzzzzz
* I thought the cobbles at the 2010 edition of the Tour would end him, instead he did a very solid job with them and went on to another win! He wanted no part of riding that type of race, but he prepared and used it to gain some time instead of lose time.
* He is damn good for TV viewing! As a sports fan, there are athletes you love & ones you love to hate. Either way, you tune in to watch them. He is one of those guys & I think the sport needs him for engagement sake. Overall, he is more like Lance than most US fans might realize and that means he is one to watch (to root for or against). He has a wicked desire to win, he is a smart athlete that knows how to seize the moment even if it might require damage control later. He would rather be off the podium if he isn't on the top step. He is egocentric, he is not a nice guy on the bike, and he will do whatever it takes. Yep, Lance was all of those things as well....and as I have stated many times I liked every bit it from LA (No Gifts, The Look, Simeoni gate)!
I will say this and own it: Doped or not guilty, I hope he is riding in top form next year! I want to watch Conta vs Cadel vs Schleck vs Wiggo at the TDF!
If Conta is 2nd TDF winner stripped in the last 5 years that means, This is now the 2nd times in the last 100 years! Does this mean that cycling is closing the gap on the dopers, or are they throwing out a sacrificial lamb? As Floyd Landis explained in our Twitter exchanges earlier this year, Alberto is not the most likable and is a big name, so a good target. He lacks the "cancer shield" Lance carried so he is fair game. Would it make the sport any cleaner? Would it really make any rider pause and not take drugs? Did the Festina affair or Op Puerto really do that?
I know what some of you are asking "Don't I want a clean sport?" I do! But I am also an optimistic realist, I know that there are 70 year old Masters racers doping and the French Cat 3 kid that was positive for 12 different drugs. It has been part of the sport since 1900 will always be there. I do want a clearer sport, but I know it will never be squeaky clean and 100% "Pure". No twibbon band is going to change someone's mind that is that close to their dreams & financial security.
Honestly who are we to judge one rider against another? Contador's winning margins are less that past Grand Tour winners like Lance, Basso, Merckx, etc. So is that some kind of proof that he is clean or pretty clean? Our current favorite riders can all be tied directly or by 1 degree to a doping team, teammate, Dr. or director. For example: Cadel Evans (time with T-Mobile 03-04), Andy Schleck (Riding for Riis & his brothers payments to Fuentez, etc), Cav having a missed test in 2011.
Either way I am looking forward to the 2012 season! I am just rooting for a season with a certain Spaniard racing it!
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