Alberto Contador has called the two-year doping sanction that resulted in him having two Grand Tours struck off his palmarès as a "tremendous injustice". In an interview with the El Transistor programme on the Onda Cero radio station, Contador said that, to him, his final palmarès includes three "triple crowns", with three victories in each of the three Grand Tours.
The official record books say otherwise, with Contador officially the winner of three Vueltas a España, two Tours de France and two Giri d'Italia.
In February 2012, Contador was handed a backdated suspension after he tested positive for Clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France. Contador went on to win the race but was stripped of the title following the backdated suspension. His 2011 Giro d'Italia win as also scratched from the record books, but Contador says it is not the record books that he pays attention to.
"What stays with me more is the feeling of the people that saw these races, what they enjoyed of them, the way I worked to achieve them, and the way I achieved them," Contador explained. "I don't give importance to what might appear on paper; it is about my own feeling. It's something I'm going to have my whole life.
"It is a tremendous injustice. The final palmarès is the three triple crowns, but it is a complicated topic. In the end, it will not change anything and the people that have shown interest know that it is one of the biggest injustices that has happened in sport."
Contador has been on a big media tour around Spain following his retirement at the end of the Vuelta a España earlier this month. The Pinto-born rider announced ahead of his home race that it would be the final one of his career and he was given a hero's welcome into Madrid on the final day.
Only a few weeks before, Contador had still been on the fence regarding his continuation in the sport, with a potential start at next year's Giro d'Italia on the cards. A tough opening week of the Tour de France helped him make his decision.
"I doubted it before the Tour but not ahead of the Vuelta. In the training camp before the Tour I had really good numbers and I came to the idea of competing until the Giro in 2018," said Contador.
"I went to the Tour and on the fifth day, on Planche des Belles Filles, I was not going well but I managed to save it. But, when it came to the ninth stage to Chambery I had two crashes and that took me out of the general classification. At 25 years old, you think that you have other opportunities to win in another year, but at my age, one is old, and that could be seen in my performance on the stage. That day made me take the decision to retire."
Choosing when you get to end your career is not an option all riders get and Contador was sure to make the most of every moment in his final competitive race.
"I savoured every day at the Vuelta," he said.
"In Andorra, it all came over me, I lost 2:30, and some in the peloton said to me, 'why don't you win a stage and retire already', but I wanted to leave with the affection from the fans at the [stage] starts day after day. Climbing the Angliru, I was thinking 'I have two kilometres to finish my career, it is the last time I am going to be surrounded by so many people', and I savoured it. I have never enjoyed a race with so much freedom. In the Vuelta, I could race how I wanted to."
During the interview, Contador said that aside from a few rides with his foundation, which will become Trek's official development squad from next season, he has barely been on the bike since he finished the Vuelta. In previous interviews he has said that he has taken retirement as an opportunity to eat everything that he hasn't been able to as a rider.
He won't be able to overindulge with burgers and chips just yet, though, with an appearance at the Japan Cup set for next month. Contador also confirmed that he would also be racing a criterium in China, which is more than likely to be ASO's Shanghai criterium at the end of October.
"Since the end of the Vuelta, I have not been so much on the bike, I had quite a few things to do and now I enjoy the things that I couldn't do before," said Contador. "I have lived it in a good way because I had a nice farewell, even though I now have two criteriums in Japan and China."