Bert is bad-ass.
So far so good in grand tour numero tres, the Vuelta a Espana, or more descriptively, the Helta Skelta Vuelta.
After week one, the excitement has already ratcheted up to a fever pitch. Chris Froome has not fallen off his bike, has both wrists intact and is having this cliched “good sensations.” The dynamic Spanish duo of Alejandro Puerto Valverde and Nairo Quintana has the red jersey and two of the top GC spots, the little cigar man Joaquin Rodriguez is suffering in the heat but still kicking ass.
However, we reserve our true respect for El Pistolero Alberto Contador. Who isn’t impressed with his ride in the Vuelta after breaking his tibia, what, six weeks ago in Le Grand Shindig? Apparently, even through his tears, as he abandoned the Tour and crawled in the Tinkoff-Saxo car, the first thing he said was “I will be at the Vuelta.” That is pure, uncut, 100% top grade bad-ass.
Shit fire, after six stages the man is only 18 seconds off the lead and he’s only going to get better in the final two weeks when things get nasty in the mountains. We’re impressed. The great tour riders are all mentally rock solid but Contador has shown us just how deep his toughness goes. Like way, way down past where mere mortals fear to pedal.
The Spaniard admitted even he “never expected to do so well,” which is kinda scary in its own right. “I never could imagine that I would be doing so well in a summit finish, above all in the sixth stage and without feeling absolutely great. I’m very happy,” he said.
The question becomes, just how much better he’ll get at the Helta Skelta Vuelta. We’re thinking it’s not going to be on the same order of improvement that Nairo Quintana will experience. We’re sure Mr. Froome will also continue to climb in form while (we hope) that Valverde does a fade in the last week as he did in the Tour, falling off the podium into fourth. The Spanish press will have fun with that and we look forward to Alejandro’s annoyed responses.
Contador is in full “day-by-day” mode and who can argue about that. Near miracle he’s here and he was certainly there on stage six when all the favorites went full gas. “It was a big surprise. I looked back and there were only eight riders, they [Valverde and Movistar] piled on the pressure and I could respond to that.”
After today’s stage 7, things are even more spicy or should we say caliente? Froome crashed — which is yet another reminder of Vincenzo Nibali’s post-Tour remark that perhaps Froome isn’t the best bike handler. Twisted Spoke wonders if this is just a run of bad luck or what might become a bit of a psychological issue for Froome. Combine that with his troubles in bad weather and you have a grand tour rider with a fatal weakness. Whenever the weather has turned ugly, Nibali is at his best while Froome struggles a bit.
But back to our man of the match so far: Alberto Contador. You simply can’t mentally crack the man. The master of psychological gamesmanship, good old Lance Armstrong, tried to mess with Contador when they both rode the Tour of Astana. The Texan later admitted it was a complete waste of time.
Contador has dealt with serious injury, serious controversy and serious assholes again and again — from brain injury, doping controversy, Armstrong, Bruyneel and his Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkoff. Chapeau Alberto.