One of the Big Beasts of cycling’s Grand Tours – the Giro, The Tour de France and the Vuelta – Alberto (El Pistolero) Contador has said he wants to make his 2016 valedictory year one for the record books.
Contador is still the best grand tour rider of his generation, he won seven, including two Tours de France.
He won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, two Girosd’Italia in 2008, and again this year, 2015 and three times won the VueltaaEspaña, in 2008, 2012 and 2014.
When he tested positive for clenbuterol (a drug that improves respiration and is often used by asthma sufferers) in the 2010 Tour de France he was stripped of the 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro titles, and all other race wins from July 2010 to February 2012 when his ban from competitive cycling ended.
But comebacks are nothing new to ‘the pistol’, a decade ago as a young rider headed for the top his career was interrupted by stroke. He came back.
His two biggest rivals next year will be Britain’s Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana.
Irish cycling fans will be hoping for possible stage wins by cousins Dan Martin (Cannondale Garmin) and Nicolas Roche (Team Sky).
“My rivals are very strong, Froome especially is good in time trials. Quintana is a young rider, always improving. He gets stronger towards the end of big races, and so I see him as a rival equal to Froome,” he said in London last week.
Contador, who still insists he failed his dope test because he ate contaminated beef, also said, cycling is genuinely a much cleaner sport today – but Chris Froome will nevertheless struggle to convince his more ignorant critics that his achievements were drug free.
Froome, an exemplary and clean sportsman, was jeered by members of the public and had urine thrown at him this year.
Said Contador: “I’m very happy and proud of how they’re doing things in cycling. I believe the philosophy has changed completely. There can always be a stupid rider.
“But I believe that for top-level riders it would be impossible to do anything that wasn’t clean, because the controls are very effective. It would be suicide. “In the end the public will concentrate more on what it sees on the television.
I don’t think it will change everyone’s point of view.Contador said he believes 2016 will be a red letter year for him as he readies to end his career on a high. “I’m confident. This year I prepared myself 100 per cent for the Giro.
The team hasn’t made many big signings but I’m confident in the riders around me and Oleg Tinkoff (owner of the Tinkoff-Saxo team) has a lot of confidence in me. “He has invested money from his own pocket, and I would like to repay that confidence,” he said.