Alberto Contador’s victory on the Coll de Pal in Semana Catalana yesterday not only confirmed the em
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Ten months ago Alberto Contador was seriously concerned about how long he might live. During a routine stage of last May’s Tour of Asturias, the Liberty Seguros rider fell to the ground, suffering convulsions. A tube had to be inserted down his throat to help him breathe, and he was taken to hospital with a broken jaw and other facial injuries. Initially it was thought that Contador, then just 21, had suffered convulsions because of his fall, but subsequent examination revealed the opposite. The Madrid rider had a cavernoma, a genetic weakness of the blood vessels in his brain, which had become narrowed. The convulsions were the result. A month after his crash, Contador underwent a five-hour operation to correct the problem. Five days later, while he was sleeping, he had another convulsion, luckily noticed by his mother. It meant another five-hour operation and then weeks of rehabilitation during which returning to top level cycling was hardly considered. Contador had to be escorted everywhere as his body recovered from the trauma of the attacks and operations. Towards the end of last season, the extremely promising Spaniard returned to training and he made his return to competition at the Tour Down Under in Australia, winning the event’s key stage. Yesterday, the Liberty rider’s talent was demonstrated once more as he took the main mountain stage of Semana Catalana and the overall lead with it. A strong time triallist, he should hold the lead in Friday’s deciding time trial, which takes place at the factory of his team’s co-sponsor, Wurth. Contador was supposed to be one of Liberty’s leaders at Paris-Nice, but a crash on the first road stage put him out of contention. Yesterday, however, he discovered what it was like to have all of his team-mates working for him, from Nuno Ribeiro and Marcos Serrano on the penultimate climb, then Isidro Nozal, Dariusz Baranowski and Giampaolo Caruso on the foot on the final climb to Pal, then team leader Roberto Heras, and finally Tour of Murcia winner Koldo Gil. “I was aware towards the end of the stage that of all the riders up there I was the strongest one in time trials, so I had nothing to gain from attacking from a long way out,” explained Contador. “Besides, I had Koldo Gil there to respond to attacks and he did a great job.” Although most of the attacks on the final climb came from Saunier Duval’s Jos Angel Gomez, Contador said he believed stage runner-up Peio Arreitunandia is more of a threat, as he looked strong on the road up to Pal and did not lose energy trying to get away. For Contador, the big surprise was the absence of Gilberto Simoni in the final reckoning, especially after his team had spent the opening days chasing down attacks. Asked if he would like to dedicate the win to anyone in particular, Contador replied he didn’t think that that would be the right thing to do. “I’m dedicating it to everyone: to my family, to my friends and to the team, because they were the ones who supported me last year.” Looking ahead, Contador now hopes to gain selection for Liberty’s Tour de France team, for which he was slated to appear last year. With Gil, Luis Leon Sanchez and several other Liberty riders in great form, selection is going to be tough, but perhaps team boss Manolo Saiz is finally bringing together a squad that will win him that elusive Tour title. And perhaps Contador might just be one of those set to become one of the next generation of Tour stars.