When the dust settles after the Tour de France, the fever subsides and the wounds heal, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) will find he is at an important juncture with the Olympic Games and the Vuelta a Espana, both offering him redemption opportunities after his second Tour de France abandonment in three years.
In 2014, when he crashed out of the race with a fractured leg, his season looked in tatters but within a matter of weeks he was training again and he stormed back to win the Vuelta a Espana in impressive fashion.
This time the injuries are less severe, however, the full extent of the ailments, and the needed recovery time has not yet been disclosed to the public. In hindsight, his Tour was lost as soon as his front wheel slipped from under him on the first stage, with the second fall on stage 2 only compounding his health issues and knocking his confidence. He looked resigned when he sat on the tarmac in the pouring rain on the road to Cherbourg. He may have already known that his game was over.
Thereafter, he lost time on every climbing stage, with no respite and no indication that his form or even his team, at times, would save his skin. An attack on stage 9 was bravado more than tactics, with the overnight fever snapping his spirit before he finally climbed off his bike, waved the crowd and climbed into a Tinkoff team car.
- Contador abandons the Tour de France
- Contador to sign for Trek-Segafredo on Tour de France rest day
- Tour de France: Contador loses more time to GC rivals
- Tinkoff in crisis at the Tour de France?
- Contador: I've still got my morale despite my crashes
The broadest smile of Contador's entire Tour came at the start of stage 8, when Cyclingnews asked if would sign for Trek-Segafredo on the rest day. "I don't know," plus that grin, was his response, and today's departure is highly unlikely to alter where Contador puts his signature for 2017.
His Tour exit point is relatively similar to his one in 2014 – stage 9 in 2016, stage 10 in 2014 – and the Vuelta is an appetising option for later in the year.
The Olympics were part of Contador's pre-Tour plans, the road course is one that suits him, but it is difficult to predict whether a complete Tour or a break will play into his hands should he head to Rio. So much depends on the real extent of his injures.
Both events are certainly feasible and Contador could line up as contender or leader for the Games before heading the Vuelta where Rodriguez, Quintana and possibly Froome – having done the Tour will offer up resistance. The Vuelta, of course, is a race Contador has won every time that he has started – 2008, 2012, and 2014.
All that is certain at this stage is that Contador needs time to reflect, recover and recharge. The next few weeks and months may well define is ambitions for next year.