Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador often seem linked together, whether it’s as Tour de France rivals or frustrated athletes dealing with a long, disappointing year.
They were both in the news today discussing the 2013 season and had a similar take. Contador can’t wait to forget what he called a “strange season” while Schleck, slowly coming back from injury, termed it a “hard season” he is ready to put behind him.
Funny to think that not so long ago, they were head and shoulders above anyone else trying to win a grand tour.
Contador appears to be suffering from Froome-Shock and, if you believe the off-the-record talk of a number of experienced cycling writers, isn’t the same rider since his steak-con-clenbuterol bust. The inference is that the Spaniard has dialed back on illegal substances and is now incapable of the destructive accelerations that left rivals dead.
El Pistolero found himself several bullets short in Le Grand Shindig. Despite the backing of a strong Saxo-Tinkoff squad, Contador couldn’t crack Froome and faded in the third week when he’d assured everyone that was where he would shine.
He finished the Tour just off the podium in fourth which was 16 places ahead of Schleck. Still working his way back from the broken sacrum he sustained in a crash in the 2012 Dauphiné, Schleck is nonetheless satisfied by his 20th place. He insists that he hasn’t lost his engine and that we’ll see him contending for a Tour podium next year.
The interesting parallel between Contador and Schleck is their versions of I-Just-Don’t-Know-What-Happened.” To a degree, they’re both confused about where the form went, how to get it back and if it’s enough to wear yellow again.
Schleck summed it up this way: “From being a Tour contender I disappeared in the space of a day.” He admitted he has been chasing that elusive winning form ever since. Always charmingly honest, he spoke openly of his struggles, both physical and mental and that he was “fucked in the head a little bit.”
Contador is also grappling with what exactly happened to his once-dominating force. The wattage indicated one thing but his sensations and results were a different matter. “The tests told me that I was in great form and I was doing my best-ever times on climbs I use as a reference. But as soon as I arrived in Corsica, my sensations were different,” said Contador. “Who knows what happened to me.”
So it goes that both men promise a more successful season next year. Contador has said he’s learned a few things after being crushed by Froome. The outcome of the beating was a promise to re-dedicate himself to training.
For Schleck, the question has never been talent but rather motivation. After the humbling and painful experiences working his way back, he says he realized how much the sport means to him. He wants to suffer at the front again.
Twisted Spoke hopes to see both men come back strong in 2014 — Chris Froome could use some competition besides Vincenzo Nibali. However, we can’t help but wonder if either will again be in the hunt for a Tour de Francevictory because there’s still an element of confusion. As Contador said, “Who knows what happened to me?”