Alberto Contador is a climber and he is already on the ascent.
The Tour de France media pendulum is steadily swinging back from Sky’s Chris Froome to Contador with Corsica and Le Grand Depart fast approaching.
That’s to be expected in the final week before the Tour. Journalists get tired of writing the “Froome overwhelming favorite” story and move on.
Sure, Froome is still top dog but nobody wants a monotonous Sky repeat of last year so there’s an element of hopeful self-fulfillment in building up Contador’s odds. The media needs drama like French women need lingerie — more, please.
Alberto got another boost uphill from his new climbing sidekick — and former Sky Tour rider — Michael Rogers. The Aussie, who got plenty of help from Contador in the recent Dauphine — is confident that the Pistolero will deliver the goods in France.
“Personally, a victory by Alberto in the 2013 Tour de France would be a huge thrill and feel of achievement,” Rogers said. “When you see how much passion and belief Alberto has day in and day out in what he is doing, it’s impossible to not feel emotional. Like all great leaders he brings the best out of his team and I can’t wait to get things going.”
If any rider can make a true assessment of Contador’s chances against Froome and the Sky Machine, it’s Rogers. Along with Richie Porte, he paced last year’s Tour champion Bradley Wiggins up the Pyrenees and Alps. In Wiggins’ biography My Time, he praised Rogers’ road captain skills during the Tour.
So if Rogers has every confidence in Contador, then that’s fantastic news for cycling fans praying for a dramatic GC battle. We need the Contador from his pre-steak con clenbuterol days.
While the deep and well-drilled Sky team is the strongest in the race, Contador goes to war with perhaps his strongest squad. Besides Rogers, who is riding his ninth Tour de France, the Spaniard will have Nicholas Roche, Amstel Gold winner Roman Kreuziger and his handy dandy Spanish domestiques Benjamin Noval and Jesus Hernandez.
Contador also has the tactical skills of team manager Bjarne Riis along with the experience of Rogers. Together with Contador’s own aggressive and opportunistic approach to racing, that should guarantee fireworks often and in unexpected places.
With his inside knowledge of how Sky rides the Tour, Rogers becomes one of the most vital riders in the race. “I see myself as playing an important role in the last half of the race,” said Rogers. “Certainly in the high mountains and transition stages. The final week is looking to be the hardest.”
That’s to be sure but everyone can already see that Contador is climbing up to Froome.