Discovering a talented Spaniard

From one of many promising young riders, Alberto Contador has turned into a dual Grand Tour winner...

From one of many promising young riders, Alberto Contador has turned into a dual Grand Tour winner in the space of just 12 months. On the eve of the Spaniard's Olympic Games debut, Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez tracked down three people from his early years that knew, and still know, the Spaniard with the aim of colouring in the Contador canvas.

His directeur sportif places him in the same league as Lance Armstrong. He has been compared to Spain's greatest ever cyclist, Miguel Indurain. Alberto Contador is a double Grand Tour winner and he's quite possibly the best rider of his generation. Yet outside of his sleepy hometown of Pinto, Spain, not much is known about this shy and unassuming rider's roots, nor his pre-professional days and the early stages of his fledging career.

Luis Maria Malo Lopez met a young, gangly Contador when he started competing for the Real Velo-Club Portillo cycling club. The Madrid-based club has always placed a strong emphasis on its riders developing friendships with each other, while the club mantra - that was no doubt passed on to Contador - has always been, "if you want something, you have to work to achieve".

"He arrived as a teenager when we had a very youngster-orientated team," said Malo Lopez, who was the club's president. "A man called Javier Fernandez Alba, who was at the time our youngster sport director, took him under his wing.

"I remember Alberto starting with us in 2000," he added. "He was only with us for one year but we won everything in the calendar that year. So much of this was down to him. We had many good riders, and he was one of the best."

Malo Lopez was also the manager of Velo-Club Portillo in 2000. "One of his coaches at that time was Carlos Rosado. But when the coach was absent, I had to take his position when we competed at races," Lopez smiled. "We competed at the Vuelta a la Sierra Norte, to Ruta del Vino, and also in Santander in the circuit of Cantabria."

Rosado once told Spain's El Pais newspaper about a crash Contador had in a race in Zamora. He cut his lips and dislodged a tooth. However the junior didn't cry because of his injuries but because of his damaged bicycle, which he'd written off. That was the only bike he had.

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