Alberto Contador’s entire career has been built upon comebacks. Early on, he recovered from a cerebral cavernoma to become the world’s pre-eminent stage race. He marked his return from his doping suspension in 2012 by winning the Vuelta a España.
And, after a listless 2013 campaign, Contador returned to his previous levels by being the 2014 season’s most outstanding road rider, as voted by Cyclingnews readers. The Spaniard won almost a third of the votes to beat Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali and world champion Michal Kwiatkowski to the honour.
In true Contador fashion, there was a comeback even within the comeback season. His hopes of a third Tour de France title (his 2010 win was revoked following his Clenbuterol positive) were dashed when he fractured his tibia in a crash on stage 10 and his season, too, seemed to have come to a halt.
Remarkably, Contador was back in the saddle in time for the Vuelta a España little over a month later, and with some defiance, he went on to see off the resolute challenge of Chris Froome to carry the red jersey to Santiagio de Compostela, his third win in his home Grand Tour.
Yet long before that startling display, Contador had shown himself to be the early-season’s outstanding performer. The first inklings that El Pistolero was firing once again came at the Volta ao Algarve, where he claimed a stage win, and the confirmation arrived at a dramatic Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
With typical daring, Contador blew the race apart on the Passo Lanciano on stage 5 en route to a fine stage win on the vertiginous Muro di Guardiagrele, an attack that earned him overall victory and also set the tone for a triumphant spring campaign.
Victory at the Tour of the Basque Country followed, and while he had to settle for second place behind Andrew Talansky at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Contador won his personal duel with Froome. At the time, it seemed a significant psychological blow ahead of the Tour, but crashes would ultimately end each man’s challenge.
Even when he had stopped racing for the year, Contador continued to make the headlines. He was the first – and as yet, only – contender to throw his hat into the ring for the Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double, while team owner Oleg Tinkov was busy trying to persuade Froome, Nibali and Nairo Quintana to join the Spaniard in riding all three Grand Tours. It remains to be seen what Contador ultimately achieves in 2015, but on the evidence of the season just past, it’s unlikely to be boring.
Contador clocked up some 32.56% of the votes and while Nibali’s Tour de France triumph won him plenty of admirers, the Sicilian had to settle for second place on this occasion. Michal Kwiatkowski’s smart Worlds victory was the keynote triumph of his campaign but the Pole had been an impressive performer all season, not least when he calmly disposed of Peter Sagan in the finale of Strade Bianche.
Alejandro Valverde’s year-long consistency earned him the WorldTour classification and it was also enough to see him take fourth place in the Cyclingnews poll, ahead of Marcel Kittel, the year’s outstanding sprinter, and Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana.
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