Alberto Contador will have plenty of obstacles to overcome if he hopes to beat a dominant Chris Froome and his sports science juggernaut –aka Team Sky, the marginal gains machine.
Besides Froome, the Spaniard must deal with the disruption of his Saxo team caused by the arrival of new team owner Oleg Tinkoff, a man who spent the last Tour de France belittling Contador’s efforts — or as Oleg likes to say, lighting a fire under the Pistolero’s pedals.
Then, Contador’s Tour road captain Michael Rogers was hit with a positive for clenbuterol after his overall victory at the Japan Cup — a prohibited substance that Alberto knows well. Contador’s own steak con clenbuterol cost him a Tour and Giro titles.
Today, the news is that Bjarne Riis, the man at the head of Contador’s brain trust, has been battling a profound psychological depression in the aftermath of the Tyler Hamilton and Michael Rasmussen allegations — that Riis was well-aware of their doping activities and took an active part in their illegal activities.
Riis was quoted at length about his depression and the sad tale including this statement: “Then came a period when it was not possible to make any decisions, and the whole thing slides. You can’t concentrate, you can’t do a lot really… At some point, there is no more space in your backpack, and so it has to be emptied. It’s uncomfortable because you can not give anything. You can’t be there for anyone else – you can’t be there for yourself.”
He says he’s on the upswing with the help of therapy but the question remains whether he will really be there 100% for Contador. In terms of training, tactics and preparation, Riis is one of the best and the Spaniard needs Riis even more than he needs Rogers or a replacement like pal Sammy Sanchez.
At the staged launch of the Saxo-Tinkoff squad, Contador looked clearly uncomfortable around new owner Tinkoff despite the Russian’s claim that any differences between the two were overblown by the media. The inflammatory tweets were all in good fun, according the Oleg.
Nevertheless, one rumor has Tinkoff scuttling the last minute deal to bring Sanchez, a strong climber and former polka dot winner, into the fold. There just hasn’t been much good news out of the team other than not folding due to financial constraints.
If Bjarne Riis is still depressed, then you can be sure Contador is also depressed about his chances against Froome. It’s one less bullet in the chamber.