Alberto Contador is “already bigger” than Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong and by the end of his career, will be even greater than Eddy Merckx, according to Astana Directeur Sportif Giuseppe Martinelli.
Indurain won the Tour de France five times and the Giro d'Italia twice, as well as world and Olympic titles. Armstrong won seven Tour de France titles as well as one world road title. Merckx won both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia five times (including winning both the same year three times), and the Vuelta a Espana once, as well as multiple other one-day and stage races. Contador has so far won the Tour de France three times, and the Giro and Vuelta once each.
"Contador is already bigger than those two (Indurain and Armstrong) and when he reaches the end of his career he will be just ahead of him (Belgian cyclist) Eddy Merckx," Martinelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"In 2010, although he was not so strong as he is now, he has won almost everything. What he has achieved in last Sunday (the ninth stage of the Giro d'Italia in) Etna in Sicily cannot be done by a normal person."
He characterised the 28-year-old as "a simple guy whose emotions are part of his state of mind." Martinelli refused to compare him to Marco Pantani, saying, "Marco Pantani was an abstract artist, but Albert can draw all that the others cannot do: he knows what he wants and puts it in his paper."
Martinelli also admitted that he did not feel capable of properly handling Contador. "Alberto was really too big for me, I felt I had in my hands a treasure, an investment too large to manage."
Contador has now "found a team manager at his level,” in Bjarne Riis of Saxo Bank-SunGard. "If I had been a champion rider, and I was not, at this level, that counts a lot," Martinelli said.
Contador tested positive for Clenbuterol at last year's Tour de France. His doping case will be heard by CAS next month. Earlier this year Martinelli publicly stated that Contador should accept a ban.