Alberto Contador is fatigued and it’s just the first week in April. This doesn’t sound like good news for the formerly invincible Spanish stage racer. His number one season goal, the Tour de France, looms ahead and his legs are tired.
After starting his season early and fast and furious down in Argentina at the Tour of San Luis, Contador has been hammering the pedals. Like he always says, it’s hard for him to dial back his efforts — he rides to win even when he doesn’t have his base training down yet. El Pistolero doesn’t go half-gas.
Contador went to the Tour of Oman and rode with aggression but was still beaten by his Tour de France rival Chris Froome of Team Sky. Then he did a hard edition of Tirreno-Adriatico followed by the always challenging and mountainous Tour of the Basque Country. His results — third in Italy and 5th in Basque-ville — are high caliber but not Contador-killer. He isn’t scaring the crap out of people anymore.
“The legs were heavily burdened,” said Contador after this last race. “The body feels the fatigue of all of these days, but although we could not win, we had fun.” He may be exaggerating the fun part.
He is already re-evaluating his participation in the Ardennes races and given the lack of zip in his legs, we’re assuming he’ll stick to his plan of skipping the Giro d’Italia to focus on being in perfect condition for Le Grand Shindig. If he wants to beat Froome and the Skybots, the Giro would be a disaster. (Cadel Evans plans on doing the Giro-Tour double and at age 36 that borders on insanity.)
In the up and down world of pro cycling where one minute you’re on top and the next suspended or crashed out and in a hospital, Contador is in an odd period of flux. He has a new and deadly rival in Froome and his Saxo squad is no match for the high-priced guns at Sky.
He beat a Tour-exhausted Froome in the Vuelta last season but seems to be missing something as we head into April. Too many tapas, one of his birds terminally ill, falling out with Bjarne Riis, too many vodka shots with Oleg Tinkoff? Who really knows?
Years ago Contador could come off a beach vacation on short notice and win the Giro d’Italia. Right now the edge isn’t sharp and we’re wondering why, exactly. Have the gurus of marginal gains finally caught up to him?
The interesting thing will be to see how much Contador modifies his build up to Le Tour. WIll he make his first trip to the Tour of California in mid-May? The Saxo-Tinkoff squad has an invite so perhaps we’ll see the Pistolero ride up Mt. Diablo and across the Golden Gate bridge.
California is the place where tired legs go for rejuvenation.