Who is Alberto Contador?
The simple, obvious part we already know: Spanish, stage racer, three time — maybe two — winner of the Tour de France, born in Pinto, bird lover, hero in children’s book, small town boy.
That’s a pretty rough sketch with no depth but over the next few months we should know exactly who Alberto Contador is. With the UCI ordering the recalcitrant and nationalistic Spanish Cycling Federation to investigate its biggest cycling hero, things are sure to come into focus.
We’re about to discover the Alberto Contador we’ve never met: the real one. Not the media version, the scripted one, the google images in yellow jersey, smiling like an eternal winner. Not the Facebook presentation of Alberto. No, we’re about to get the real deal because nothing is more revealing than a long, contentious international battle over doping allegations.
The next three to six months should should provide us with a deep character portrait of Contador. How he handles the legal battle will give us plenty of opportunity to see him up close and personal, under great stress and fighting for his career.
We’ve learned much about our heroes — and villains — over the course of legal proceedings. Will Contador show himself to be as cynical and combative as countryman Alejandro Valverde, who successfully stalled his case for at least three years, winning dozens of famous races and the 2009 Vuelta a Espana while his lawyers kept the UCI and CONI and CAS off balance?
Will he go on the offensive like a Lance Armstrong, sparing no expense and playing a hardball media strategy? Armstrong himself said Alberto was hard to destabilize during their ugly co-habitation at Astana. We’ll discover how mentally tough the Spaniard is when the games get ever rougher than the psychological ones the Texan liked to play.
Will he turn bizarre like Dane Michael Rasmussen, railing at the world about life’s unfairness, talking suicide and wishing people at the UCI were dead. Is Alberto’s threat to retire a sign that maybe he’s just a little irrational, emotional, ready to crack if this drags on and ends badly? We’ll certainly find out.
Will he go silent and then suddenly cooperate like Danilo di Luca and claim he’s doing it for future generations, the children, the old and infirm — while not naming any names?
Will he transform into a Spanish version of Floyd Landis, bitter, broken, burdened by guilt and expectations, bankrupt and alone? An unlikely scenario but the emotional stress of a drawn-out public trial, the loss of a career and public image, has destroyed many athletes, Hollywood stars and politicians. Things could get ugly.
No matter what happens over the course of the next few months, one thing is absolutely positive: we’re finally going to meet Alberto Contador.