As he awaits the Court of Arbitration for Sport's verdict on whether he should be banned following his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador has admitted that his career has not followed a smooth path since he was affected by a life-threatening brain injury in 2004. He also revealed that he has been doing all he can to distract himself from thinking about his case, and that it was partly his desire for distraction that encouraged him to ride the Tour de San Luis in Argentina last week.
Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with Basque newspaper El Correo, the Saxo Bank team leader said of his current desire for distraction, "I try to do whatever I can to distract myself, to have the whole day planned out, although sometimes it's difficult. I enjoy the bike and racing and this does help, but sometimes things come into your head and you ask yourself why you are in this situation. My sporting life hasn't followed an easy part since I had my accident in 2004. But that made me see things from a different point of view. It helps me to distract myself."
He confessed that he has also been filling up his days with more appointments than he would usually like, but has enjoyed getting back into training over the last few weeks having barely touched the bike since the end of the Tour de France last July. In fact, he admitted that he had done so little riding during that period that his brother/manager, Francisco, had wondered if Contador had laid off the bike for too long. During that down time, Contador gained seven kilos, but most of this has already been shed.
"In a month and a half, I lost four kilos and I've still got another three to shed. [Levi] Leipheimer said to me during [the Tour de San Luis] that he thought I only had another one to get rid of, but I told him it was three, although he didn't believe me," said Contador. "Genetically, I am very privileged. No matter how much I eat, I don't put on weight beyond a certain level. And as soon as I start to cut down on the food and train, I lose it without any problem. In Gran Canaria, I was training for five hours and just eating fruit and the weight was falling off me. If you are sensible about things, you don't have any problems."
Reflecting on his two summit finish wins and second place overall to Leipheimer at San Luis, Contador said, "I went there with the idea of taking things easy, but I always ended up getting involved in the action. I was very happy with how things went, it was much better than I imagined - I won the two summit finishes in a race of quite a high level, which left a good taste in my mouth. Over seven days I picked up the kind of rhythm you can't achieve when you're training. I've still got lots of base training to do, though."
Contador admitted that the only thing about his form that didn't surprise him was his relatively poor showing in the time trial. "I was expecting it to go like that. I'm not in good enough condition yet to be able to push to the limit for 20km. Over four or five kilometres, I wouldn't have had any problems, but over that distance, without any specific work, the lack of training stands out. I am going to change a few things on the Specialized during the training camp in Valencia."
He acknowledged that he had been impressed with Leipheimer's performance in Argentina, and said, "There are few riders as professional as him. He's really focused on the bike and you could see that he hasn't been away from it for too long over the winter. He's at an extraordinary level. You only had to see his legs to know what kind of form he was in."
However, Contador played the American's chances at the Tour de France. "He's been on the podium and time trials are important, but it's the mountains that make the difference. If the race was decided in the time trial, Tony Martin would win it."