Although he appeared in the race just three times during his career, Alberto Contador seems to hold the Giro in special regard. It was the Giro, after all, that provided him with a lifeline in May 2008, when his Astana team was barred by the organisers of the Tour de France.
Contador was welcomed back warmly in 2011, despite the fact that he was in the process of appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – ultimately unsuccessfully – against his positive test for Clenbuterol the previous year. In 2015, Contador made his third and final appearance, claiming what he maintained to be his third win, though only two remain in the record books.
No matter, Contador hit all the required notes when he appeared on stage at the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem on Monday to promote the Israeli Grande Partenza of the 2018 Giro d'Italia. He was applauded by local attendees at the presentation when he downplayed the idea that bringing the Giro to Israel constituted a security risk.
"In my opinion, I don't think it's a problem to be here," Contador said. "I was in Israel in 2012 for close to two weeks on a training camp and the support was incredible. Now the situation of the world is a little crazy but it's not a question for just one country or another, it's all the world. I'm sure all the riders will be happy to come here and won't think of these things."
RCS Sport will have been equally content with Contador's comments to reporters after the presentation, when he suggested that Chris Froome ought to line out in next year's Giro in order to complete the rare feat of holding all three Grand Tour titles at once. Contador pointed in particular to the strength of Froome's supporting cast at Team Sky.
"If I were Froome, I'd ride this Giro, but clearly the decision is up to him," Contador said. "He can definitely do it. He's used up a lot of energy in the last few months both physically and mentally, but he has a great team around him, and that allows him to make the difference in the time trials or in the last kilometre of mountain stages. So if I were in his place, I'd aim for the Giro, especially with this spectacular and difficult start."
Barely a week on from his hanging up his wheels, it is perhaps too early to wonder whether Contador has any regrets about his decision. He is, after all, still only trying the mantle of ex-professional cyclist for size, but he evinced no doubts in Jerusalem on Monday, not least because he signed off on his turbulent career with a valedictory win atop the Angliru on the final weekend of the Vuelta a España.
"I don't feel nostalgia, I'm just happy for the way I finished my career by winning on the Angliru. It was the right time to leave," Contador said. "I decided at the Tour when I crashed. I've always given everything and I think it was the best thing to leave while I was still at a high level. At the Vuelta, every day was like a fiesta for me. The last month of my career was incredible, and I couldn't have asked for better."
Contador explained that his time in retirement will be divided between supporting his Fundacion Contador development squad – which will step up to Continental level after taking over the running of Trek-Segafredo's development team – and acting as an ambassador to promote stroke awareness.
"Maybe people don't know the symptoms and it is very important to know to catch this disease in time," said Contador, who suffered a stroke at the Tour of Asturias in 2004.
"I will continue to ride my bike, but I will also have other commitments and a great part of my time will be dedicated to the Fundacion Contador, where we have several cycling teams, including this year a new Continental one."