People wondered how Alberto Contador and his clan could work with Bjarne Riis at Saxo Bank-SunGard. The Giro d'Italia has proven a perfect symbiosis between the two personalities, as directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit explained to Cyclingnews after stage 20 in Sestriere.
"This morning before the start, he [Contador] told us that he wanted to win the stage," Mauduit recalled. "It was the third time he said so at a team meeting after the stages going to finish at the Etna and the Zoncolan. But Vassil Kiryienka had such an impressive ride that Alberto forgot about winning today. Of course he was also determined to win the uphill time trial to Nevegal."
The Frenchman described the daily meetings conducted by team manager Bjarne Riis. "They are so clear and well prepared that most of the times, there's nothing to add," Mauduit said. "Bjarne is anything but a dictator. He asks us [the other staff members] and the riders to give their comment. During this Giro, the riders intervened about five times. Contador doesn't say much but he wants to make sure the tactic is clear for everybody. Sometimes, he'd ask, in English: Why this? Please explain."
When Contador decided to leave Astana and join Saxo Bank-SunGard, he asked for a few riders and staff members to come along but he didn't bring any directeurs sportif. "I chose this team for the experience and the competence of Riis and I was sure that he would pick the right technicians for the key positions and it's the case," Contador told Cyclingnews. "I'm happy with the people I'm working with this year. It makes me serene."
At the beginning of August, most of the staff of the Danish team was to be re-shuffled after the departure of some of them to Leopard-Trek. But Mauduit and Fabrizio Guidi who was the other directeur sportif at the Giro were yet to be hired by Riis. Mauduit was free after the dismissal of the Cervélo test team he joined in September 2009 after falling out with Bouygues Telecom where he started as directeur sportif. His previous experiences included coaching the Chinese women's national team, a Japanese club team, some Korean riders he trained near his home in Poitiers, France, and the French development team Vendée U.
"I wasn't necessarily destined to become a directeur sportif," Mauduit explained. "But once I started this job, I was hoping to do it in a well organised team and that's the case now. Saxo Bank-SunGard has a reputation of being structured to perform, it's true. Contador also found here what he was looking for. When I first met him at the training camps, I was surprised by his humility. He's so discreet that you don't see him emerging from the group. Sometimes I wonder how can he deal with his popularity but he does it well. He does everything well!
"From a directeur sportif's perspective, it's fantastic to work with him in this team because we're here for everyone. Alberto doesn't ask for more attention than Jesus Hernandez or Kasper Klostegaard."