Alberto Contador has said that he is glad that he is no longer "a slave to the little details" now that he has retired from professional cycling. The Spaniard's last competitive outing came at the Vuelta a España in September but he also lined out in Japan and China in recent weeks as he bade farewell to the peloton.
"You reach a moment in which you have to analyse your life. Cycling was a very big part of my life, and a very big passion, but it wasn't my whole life," Contador told La Gazzetta dello Sport, adding that he had no second thoughts about calling time on his career at the end of this season.
"No, I was happy for 15 years. I gave more than 100 per cent. I gave all my time to this sport, but now I have the rest of my life to live and enjoy myself.
"When you're a professional, you have to train even when you are resting. Even after four hours of training, you have to look after yourself at home with your eating and your rest. These are the small things that allow you to win. The life of a cyclist is also about being a slave to small details. At a mental level, above all, it's very hard. I was sick of all these things."
At the beginning of the summer, it briefly appeared as though Contador might extend his career into 2018 for one final tilt at the Giro d'Italia, but although he will not return to Italy to race, he reiterated that the corsa rosa was his favourite Grand Tour. Contador appeared in the race three times, winning in 2008 and 2015. He was stripped of his 2011 title after receiving a retroactive ban for his 2010 positive test for clenbuterol.
Contador cited his Giro debut in 2008 as his favourite memory from the race. On that occasion, Contador's Astana team had initially been overlooked for an invitation due to its ethical record, but was handed a late reprieve by RCS Sport on the eve of the race.
"I didn't know the Italian public or the course," Contador said. "I arrived at the last minute when I was called up by the team and I won the race. It was a very strong emotion."
Although Contador's formative years as a cyclist coincided with Miguel Indurain's dominance at the Tour de France, he said that his idol as a youngster was the late Marco Pantani.
"I watched Marco on TV and then I studied him on video," Contador said. "With him, anything could happen, even a kamikaze attack from distance. He always inspired emotions. One day he'd lost three or four minutes in a time trial and the next he'd try to recoup his losses. He won a Giro and a Tour, but for the public it was as though he had won five Giri and five Tours. There was never a more exciting rider."
Contador and Pantani's careers overlapped briefly in 2003, and the Spaniard said that he made it his business to seek out Il Pirata at the GP Amorebieta that spring.
"I said to him, 'I'm Alberto Contador, it's an honour to meet you.' And he said, in a very kind way, 'thank you very much.' Pantani wasn't just anybody for me, he was a rider to be respected," Contador said. "Maybe there was a bit of Marco's spirit in me. I was always a non-conformist rider. It was better to risk losing everything by trying to be first, than to settle for second place."