Contador, Cheated?

The 2009 Tour de France is still being contested in Alberto Contador’s head. At least, if you follow the Spanish newspaper Marca, or most any other news outlet in Spain, it would seem that while Contador won the war, there is yet a PR battle to fight. Not a week has gone by without the paper running some story on the turmoil within Astana as reported by Contador or a teammate.

Lately, Contador’s target has been as much Bruyneel as Armstrong. He’s been quick to talk about the team’s politics and what he saw as Bruyneel’s attempts to isolate him within the team. It’s hard to say what the truth is and gossip has the value of sand at the beach, but one previous skirmish recently resurfaced that makes the situation a bit more curious.

At the end of the tour, everyone was abuzz about Contador having to catch a ride with his brother because all the team cars were shuttling Armstrong’s cadre. The first occasion was from atop Mont Ventoux, the second on the way to the final time trial. Bruyneel and Armstrong said Contador’s claims were completely false; we’ll never know.

What didn’t get the same level of attention was Contador’s claim that he didn’t get top quality equipment. The claim has been translated a few different ways, but the insinuation was that Armstrong had better equipment than Contador did. Until this week, there was really no way to know just what he meant.

As he said/he saids go, this gets a bit confusing. It begins with Contador statement he didn’t get top quality wheels and had to go buy wheels for the prologue in Monaco. Armstrong shot back and said Contador had exactly the same wheels as his teammates. This week, in a blog entry on Marca, writer Josu Garai wrote that Contador told him and members of Contador’s entourage “confirmed” that Contador purchased a set of Lightweight wheels. Yes, the ungodly expensive, handmade carbon fiber wheels that hail from the land of der Jan.

Well purchase them he may have, but race them he never did. I’ve gone back through the archives of John Pierce, Yuzuru Sunada and Roberto Bettini and viewed profile shots of Contador in each of the mountain stages and the time trials. In each of the shots you can see Bontrager logos on the wheels.

Now disc wheels are all pretty similar, right? So Contador could have been running a Lightweight disc in the rear and a deep-profile-rim wheel in the front, both with Bontrager decals, right? Not so fast. The Lightweight disc has a transparent finish to it, so that you can see the carbon fiber internal spoke pattern. It looks nothing like anyone else’s disc. Similarly, the Bontrager-branded, HED-designed H3 front wheel and Jet disc rear wheel look nothing like any Lightweight. Neither the H3 nor the Jet disc are offered at retail by Bontrager, but because Bontrager licenses HED technology, the re-branded wheels are done with both companies’ full knowledge and consent.

So that leaves the wheels that Contador used on the climbing stages. The high-flange appearance of the Lightweights really can’t be confused with the utter flanglessness of the Bontrager Race XXX Lite tubulars. The white spokes, the beveled rim profile, it’s a distinct look.

A quick e-mail to a source at Trek also confirmed what is standard practice with sponsors: Each Astana rider at the Tour had exactly the same equipment, right down to the slowest of the domestiques.

Is it possible that Bruyneel told the mechanics to withhold wheels from Contador? In theory, maybe, but again a quick check of the photos shows he’s on the same wheels as Armstrong and the rest, so that variety of crazy didn’t take place. It’s true that Armstrong’s bikes and wheels had unique decaling, but unique equipment wasn’t limited to Armstrong as evidenced by the all-white Madone Contador rode for most of the Tour and the personalized black and yellow bike he rode on stage 21 into Paris.

It’s not hard to understand the Spanish media’s dislike of Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel. Alberto Contador is a national hero and the media has largely portrayed the conflict between Contador and Armstrong as a Hatfield/McCoy blood feud.

That Contador is happy to be free of Armstrong should go without saying, but until Armstrong’s return to the sport, it seemed that Contador and Bruyneel had a good relationship. Since parting ways, Contador has been spare in his praise of his former director and Bruyneel has spoken openly of how he believed success went to the Tour champion’s head, making him harder to work with.

And what of Trek? Insiders there are mum on the point, but having the Tour de France champion claim he was shortchanged on equipment must smart.

No matter whether you take a side or not or whose side you take if you do, the claim by Contador that he didn’t get the same equipment as his teammates and had to go buy his own is absurd. It begs the question why he would say such a thing. Seemingly, being wronged by teammates, staff and sponsor make him an even greater champion in the eyes of his countrymen. But with the truth being as weird as it was, one can wonder why that story isn’t enough.

Images: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Touriste-Routier

    Nice work going through photos and comparing them to statements made.

    Perhaps the real reason why Alberto didn’t get rides in the team car with Lance & Johan is that there wasn’t enough room for a 3rd ego…

    While we may never know what went on within the team, it appears to me to be a management problem, maybe not of roles or tactics, but of mouths. The comments made by Alberto, Lance, but more importantly by Johan, in regard to everything have to be some of the most non-professional I’ve ever heard/read.

    It is the responsibility of the DS to keep things professional and to maintain at least the image of cohesion; Johan poured gasoline on open flames. Regardless of the truth, all of the childish banter and back stabbing have left a negative impression in my mind.

  2. Joe Papp

    Who’s to say that he didn’t buy the wheels, but was then prevented from running them by some clause in his contract that would deny him a bonus payment or something if he didn’t run what would appear to be standard Trek-issue wheels? And who’s to say that Armstrong didn’t have three sets of Lightweights in the team truck – just in case – and that Contador asked for a set (thinking he’d get to ride them) but Lance denied him (all the while never having intended to use the wheels and only having hoped to deploy them in his psycho-war w/ Contador? Just saying…just b/c he didn’t *ride* a set of wheels doesn’t mean that Armstrong didn’t have them in the team truck, and that Contador asked for a pair (thinking he’d be allowed to ride them) but LA/Bru denied him.

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  4. Mick

    Astana did source their disc wheels from lightweight starting in ’08, with Trek’s blessing after Bontrager decided that coming up with a disc wasn’t worth the effort.

    These wheels as expected were painted, so as not to be easily identified. Some Astana riders still used these wheels in the TTT & ITT (Contador for sure in the TTT),
    while a few others, Lance included rode rebadged Zipps (Lance, due to his SRAM connection/investment)

    The Team didn’t & hasn’t used HED disc wheels … especially not HED Jet Discs & Stinger Discs, since they are of hazy UCI legality since they are spoked wheels with a bonded fairing…I doubt any Pro Tour Team would want to bother with the potential hassle…

    My understanding was Alberto wheel issue was only related to his TT wheels. One theory could be Contador was supplied with a sub par H3 front(s).
    This wheel (as fine as it is) has be notorious for it’s lack of trueness… I’ve seen 1/4″ out of true (As a dealer I’ve never seen a perfectly true H3… ever ).
    It’s possible he was given poor wheels, forcing him to source out better quality H3’s & disc for his individual TT’s… (Since his wheels where different in the TTT, where it would be in the Team’s interest to supply A1 wheels)
    His disc did change for the ITT’s … possibly again a necessity due to sub par wheels supplied for those stages.

    What better way to (mentally) screw with a rider than giving him sub par equipment? Contador not being supplied with top quality wheels is plausible… I suspect some of the story is being lost in translation (and misrepresented as not being supplied ANY wheels)…

  5. randomactsofcycling

    I’m with Alberto on this one. Though he would do well to consult a PR firm before he begins a slanging match with the Man Who Fights Cancer. It’s fairly clear that Bruyneel knows what side his bread is buttered. Regardless of whether Contador received equivalent treatment within the team, he is the only one who can possibly lose in a slanging match with what is now Team Radio Shack. L.A. seems to be a polarizing force in many situations and it’s clear you are either with him or against him.
    History will show whos pedals spoke the loudest.

    1. Author

      Thanks everyone for the interesting comments.

      Touriste-Routier: You bring up an interesting point regarding the egos. In Bruyneel’s defense, I don’t think there is an example in the history of the Tour in which a team director arrived at the race with two riders capable of winning the race and managed to keep them both in line. I need to check this with Bill McGann or Owen Mulholland, but a quick check of my personal database tells me that every instance of two potential winners on one team has been a nightmare.

      Champs: Exactly right. You can’t be both victim and victor and if you’re going to choose one….

      Joe Papp: I must admit yours is always an interesting and thought-provoking perspective. Let’s suppose he did buy the Lightweights; the question is why? Surely no one would suggest that Contador is so unsophisticated as to lack an understanding of his own contract and sponsorship agreements. As to suggesting that Armstrong may have had sets of Lightweights, well, someone would really only suggest that if they really didn’t understand Armstrong. For better or worse, he’s a company man, through and through. I’ve seen him training incognito—in an all-black kit—in Malibu and the only non-sponsor equipment on his bike was his SRM. Similarly, when he did some testing at the ADT Event Center velodrome—presumably for a run at the hour record, all of his equipment was by the book, save for the SRMs on both bikes.

      Mick: With the exception of your statement about the trueness of the H3 wheels, your suggestions are far enough off base I won’t bother to refute them. The photos speak for themselves.

      Randomactsofcycling: Can you explain a bit? I’m not sure what you mean by you are “with Alberto on this one”? In my reading, there’s really nothing to suggest this is a Lance/Alberto issue. He made a claim that he had to buy wheels to race on; some of the Spanish reports don’t specify TT wheels, so it’s open to some interpretation. So either he bought wheels and raced them, or he raced his team-supplied wheels. The photos state unequivocally that he did the latter.

  6. Sophrosune

    Oh dear, Padraig. Has your lavish service to the image of Lance Armstrong really devolved to this? You have been provided with a number of explanations of how Contador would dare such a thing and you can’t bring yourself to see any of it. Instead you hold to the scurrilous accusations of Bruyneel and Armstrong that Contador is just some ego maniac that continues some verbal war with the two of them. Are you kidding? Bruyneel and Armstrong have been at it non-stop. And who can blame them? Their entire project is one of image–a false one, but an image nonetheless and Contador has openly challenged it. PR of the most aggressive kind needed to be adopted and thankfully they have you to help them. I know you will never see this situation any other way even if you were provided with conclusive forensic evidence, i.e. video tape, receipts, photos, whatever. Your mind is made up. We get it. But when faced with all the explanations provided for you here that you decide to blithely ignore, could you perhaps give a second thought to continuing on this crusade of yours and apply your significant talents to other areas of cycling beside the defense of those two?

  7. randomactsofcycling

    Regardless of the equipment situation, I think this is clearly a Lance/Alberto thing! Bruyneel is just the lucky one that had Armstrong fall back into his lap when he announced the comeback. Bruyneel is a puppet. Quite a canny one I will admit, but he’ll do whatever he can to ensure his gravy train runs smoothly.
    I think it’s fairly obvious when you have the standout favourite to win the race (Contador), the only current rider to have won all three Grand Tours, and his ‘team-mate’ exacerbates a split in the race and leaves him behind???? Every other D.S. would be screaming into their radio telling their men to sit-up, wait for the Team Leader and tow him back to the front.
    It’s clearly a Lance(with Bruyneel in pocket)/Alberto thing.

  8. Jason

    I know it doesn’t dispute Contador’s claim, but he was one of three Asana riders on the Trek Speed Concept TT bike (the other two being Lance and Levi). I have a hard time believing that Astana/Trek set Alberto up with this bike but then denied him other equipment.

  9. George

    Just as a comment, since I am no Landis supporter and have never read his book, but I belive that Landis claims to have been denied equipment while in service of Armstrong.

    To my memory, he claims to have bought his own TT equipment (for training).

    A quick search however, reveals no such comments online.

    Anyone read the book?

    1. Author

      George: Landis requested a second TT bike to train on. Lance was the only rider who got a TT bike to train on. The book was an interesting read. I know for a while you could find it in .99 Cent stores.

  10. PitStopFix

    Astana has never used HED disc wheels.
    They have used Lightweights since JB took over the team, & Trek gave them the OK to use them. They paint them & re decal them.
    BTW, do you need proof (since you claim the pic’s don’t lie)

    You are correct, a HED JetDisc does not look like a Lightweight disc, but you can’t seem to tell the difference regardless. I laugh at your assertion they even use these wheels.

    A correction Lance did use Lightweight disc wheels this past Tour. So study your pic’s a bit more, maybe in better light.

    They have never rebranded the H3 wheel (going back to Postal days) the closest they’ve come is Lance did have a dual branded H3 during the final ITT.

    Your dismissal of Papp’s scenario is laughable & certainly shows a very selective memory. Lance has ridden Lightweights during his career (in the Tour. Yup! he’s a company man that is certain, but he will also not hesitate to use what he perceives as the BEST. Remember he refused to use early Rolf wheels, instead opting for Mavic. Just because you see him training in SoCal on sponsor gear…so What? I’ll ride anything given to me during training too.
    You certainly have very selective memory on issue dealing with Lance

    It is not too hard to conceive a scenerio where Alberto was given less than optimal wheels, Twisted, through translation into no wheels.

    Wheels that could be out of true (H3 or Lightweight disc) Incorrectly adjusted (hubs), and on. I doubt Contador had to race on sub par wheels, but I could see him having to swap out wheels before a given stage because “something” wasn’t right. He may have bought his “own” wheels to guarantee proper working order, (& that would cover a lightweight disc & H3 which he used in the individual time trials)

    I can totally conceive the Gruesome twosome messing with their Rider. There’s a track record for that.


  11. Scottrs


    Well said, I think Padraig is suffering from some selective memory here.. The pics of LA on LW wheels in the Tour are very common; it was the Alpe D’Huez TT after all..

    To your point; at that level, less than the best wheels is about the same as no wheels. IMHO, if you undestand cycling, you understand the relevance of wheels.. Think about it; back stage warfair in a way that the vast majority of the public won’t recognize. Brilliant in a crafty sort of way; sounds pretty typical from what I have read.


  12. souleur

    Its an interesting ‘after the fact’ discussion, that will continue to eek out information here and there until july arrives, and it is going to be interesting on stage 1 and following, I for one wouldn’t be surprised to see a hand pump through the ole front wheel to settle this one out.

    What we continue to see in my mind represents a Ménage à trois of a relationship between Bruyneel/Lance and Contador. Its well established the undying faithfulness of Bruyneel has for Lance, and likewise Lance has for Bruyneel. The fact that Contador fell out of loving favor with Bruyneel/Armstrong, and that Contador impotently could not fit in, really isn’t remarkable. Everyone knows three’s a crowd, especially in that circle, all puns intended. The fact that he continues to declare his impotence and victimization in such, perhaps vicariously reliving the concept that he was entitled to something more and that he deserved better than a win in the Tour of 09, only will add to the humility and possible utter depression he will partake in when the Prom swings around that last turn on the Champs-Élysées IF HE does not win. Contador would do well to just shut his mouth and train with the rage that is within himself, like his honorable predecessor Big Mig.

    There is absolutely no matching Bruyneels PR machine, this simply reveals that for us all. Interesting to me that Bruyneel has not really denied nor refuted nor acknowledged much of this at all, so Lance does?

    Oh, and the wheels, good eye Padraig;-)

  13. velomonkey


    I think you need to eat some crow on this one. Lance has been on LW wheels and Lance has been on equipment other than Trek. He is a company man in as much as he needs to be, but let’s be clear, he will use whatever he feels he needs.

    Here is my issue. Strategy and Tactics – Strategy being macro and tactics being micro. You just penned an entire article on one specific accused tactic against Conti – namely buying his own wheels. To buttress the article you do some pseudo forensic photo examination. Why? Are you really going to argue that on a strategic level Conti wasn’t, at the least, having little to no support from Lance AND from the team DS AND from the majority of the team. Are you really going to say this didn’t happen? If not, then why pen an article on some small tactic levied against the DS? It isn’t logical to say “well, they worked in collusion against the guy, but in this case they didn’t.” Let me take that back, you could say that, only if you penned an article on the strategy, but you didn’t.

    I would also point out that all this is consistent with Landis and his claims – that is, you get sub par support on all levels if you go outside Lance. The fact that his book is 99 cents doesn’t mean it’s no true – typical attack the messenger and all eyes with be off the message.

    Chalk this one up to yet another supportive article on Lance, Bruyneel and Trek. I’ll give you this, I know where you’re going to come out before I even read word one.

  14. OnTheRivet

    Oh my god. The “what could have happened” scenario by Joe Papp is so ridiculous that I can’t believe anybody with an ounce of brain would take it seriously. I’m no Lance sycophant….the guys a dick, but Papps conspiracy theory would make any semi-intelligent persons head hurt. Who needs facts anyways?

  15. dacrizzow

    first off let me say that watching lance is what got me into road racing. but watching his interviews during the tour last year was really uncomfortable for me. there was lot’s of odd body language and such that just made me not trust his persona any more. as far as these accusations from each side goes i’m sure there’s some truth to both sides. i’m sure contidor is somewhat of an overconfident punk, and i’m sure that lance by now get’s really offended by anyone who doesn’t respect his legend. go back to the early lance interviews and see how cocky lance was before he became the PR puppet he seems to potray these days. bottom line for me is that lance seems to be more about winning and less about biking. representing such a typical U.S. attitude that i think alot of people are just done with.

  16. Sophrosune

    Ontherivet: I don’t think there is anything ridiculous about the different scenarios Joe Papp has proposed as explanations for Contador’s statement. I suppose that means I have less than an ounce of brain, which I can live with. But I wonder if you could perhaps address exactly how his scenarios are “ridiculous”? I thought not.

  17. OnTheRivet

    @Sophrosune….Well for starters the whole thing was completely made up in Papps head…not one single fact, zero, nada, it’s no different than me stating that Contador won the Tour because he threatened the other contenders with death by Ninjas.

  18. Sophrosune

    Yes, there’s a difference and I think the difference is pretty obvious to everyone, including you. There have been some facts provided here about the history of wheel use by Astana and other Armstrong teams that add a great deal of credence to these different scenarios along with just common sense. But neither history nor common sense can be used to account for ninja’s and Contador’s win. Stop. Take a breath. Have a think. Don’t get angry and explain what is ridiculous about Joe Papp’s proposed explanations, otherwise there’s a number of people in this thread you have just accused of not having an ounce of brain. Of course, if what you really wanted to do was to call someone names, well then just nevermind.

  19. OnTheRivet

    “otherwise there’s a number of people in this thread you have just accused of not having an ounce of brain”.

    If the shoe fits, wear it.

    1. Author

      Everyone: I’m amazed (and a little disappointed) that if I even mention Lance in a post, the comments get completely hijacked by a discussion pro/con of him. And because he is, at least with this readership, such a polarizing figure, things can get a little less than cordial.

      I have a request: You’re a bright bunch and I’m sure we’d have a great time riding together. Let’s keep this friendly. Please.

      Now, I’m not going to discuss each other assertions about who rode what where, but a lot of things have been suggested that are just plain wrong, such as Lance riding Lightweights at the Alpe d’Huez time trial. I was there that day and he was on Bontragers. Period. Now, I will concede that the Postal team abandoned the Rolf wheels because the rims cracked under the strain of an actual PRO pedaling. I was one of the first to report on this on the old Bicycle Guide web site after attending a training camp they had in Ramona, Calif. in 1998. I don’t see that as a Lance issue; it was a team-wide need and not exactly relevant to the conversation.

      The real issue here (and what I’d really like comments to address) is Contador. A simple check of the photos provided will show he’s not on Lightweights.

  20. velomonkey

    Padraig is right, keep it civil. Calling people names, accusing people of not having a brain. If you really feel so inclined to do that go take yourself to the myriad of other sites that condone such behavior. If this were a group ride some people would be getting pulled out of the group and would get a stern tongue lashing.

  21. velomonkey

    Padraig, I can say this, doing a simple search yields a good amount of sites that list LA as someone who has purchased lightweights. Lance also has a history of suing people/companies who use his name. Remember pearl in 2000 even though they were a 1999 sponsor. That was well before he was the name brand he is now. Not that this has anything to do with LA cheating Conti out of some wheels, but it’s still something.

  22. velomonkey

    I see Lance, I see a pair of Lightweights and I see a yellow jersey. No helmet means 2004 or less, without berry floor on the bibs I think it’s 2002 and the frame seems to suggest that, too. Bontrager wheels the 2003 official sponsor, but I can’t find 2002, though I do see their red strip on the front hub from DT swiss wheels. I agree, though, Conti, it appears, wasn’t on Lightweights, at least not this year, still, you can’t discount his DS not supporting. Did you not see versus where the camera was in the car and LA catches up and Johan yells for everyone to stop and do nothing. I doubt the same would have happened if that were, say, Landis back in the day.

  23. Mick

    I only see claims that he had to buy TT wheels. Here’s one example:

    That would hold truth regarding buying a Lightweight disc wheel . Factor in misinterpretation through translation, his story certainly holds water.

    Here’s a picture showing him definitively on a Lightweight disc in Monaco

    The custom graphics, to me, would indicate an outside job (ie: not team issue)

    Now, you typed this above…
    “It begins with Contador statement he didn’t get top quality wheels and had to go buy wheels for the prologue in Monaco”

    So you could have saved some time pouring over pictures… His claim (not 3rd party) have been, he felt it necessary to source his own TT wheel (not road stage)

    I have not seen any article claiming he had to buy wheels other than TT wheels.

    It’s rather conceivable that Lightweight wheel, was translated & misrepresented as “wheels” in translation or second hand.

  24. Sophrosune

    Ouch! Hit with a “if a shoe fits wear it”. Anyway, moving on. Padraig, the point of your original post was that you had seen some photos of Contador’s wheel and had conclusively determined that he was racing on standard issue Astana wheels. So, where are the wheels he supposedly bought under duress is the implied question and one of the implied answers is that he made up a bogus story to make his hardships under Armstrong and Bruyneel seem even more extreme. Or do I paint in an inaccurate picture? It seems that your readers have provided you with plausible explanations, photographs, various histories of wheel use by USP, Discovery and Astana. So, where do you stand now? Is Contador an ego-maniacal liar dreaming up stories to make Lance and Johan look bad, or is he telling the truth along with the other stories of not having a team car to bring him to the ITT start line, or down the mountain at Ventoux or his seat on the bus?

    1. Author

      Sophrosune: To address your questions directly, yes, I do think you’ve read the post correctly. Beyond that, I don’t know what to tell you. Any number of readers insist they see Lightweights under riders. I’m not seeing it and I’ve checked archives beyond what I’m allowed to print. As for the team vehicle stuff, we’ll never know; there’s no objective way to register that. But Contador claimed he bought his own wheels to race; I should add, he doesn’t say he wasn’t permitted race them, which would indicate a claim that he raced them. That’s how I read it, anyway. So where are those wheels? Who knows? We don’t know he even bought them; there’s no objective evidence he did, just a claim on one Spanish blog. I’m not in a position to pass judgement on the guy, but I can say the statements don’t add up when the photographic evidence is considered.

      So was Contador cheated? I don’t think this particular claim stands up. Does that mean I don’t think Armstrong played head games with him? Not by a longshot, but the question it gets me to thinking is just how much Armstrong got inside his head. Obviously it wasn’t enough for him to win the race (the 2009 Tour was 1985 in replay, but with LeMond not sitting up for Hinault this time) but you have to wonder if maybe Contador wouldn’t have raced so aggressively if Armstrong hadn’t been on so with the head games.

  25. Da Robot

    I am concerned. About ninjas. As cited earlier in this thread. Now, my ancient Moser sports ancient SunTour rims. How to account for that? Sure, those rims are historically accurate for that bike, but I think ninjas are a more likely explanation. Ocham’s razor and all.

    The only other extremely substantive thing I’d add to this debate is that facts, put in service of a pre-conceived notion, can be just as slippery as lies. For example, my wheels have actually been modified by ninjas (I saw them do it), but I used the fact of their historical accuracy (the wheels, not the ninjas) to distract from the idea that both Contador and Armstrong behaved like a couple of jackholes this summer. The preconceived notion is that I, not they, should be the world’s most famous cyclist.

  26. velomonkey

    Those do look like a set of lightweights on Lance going up Ventoux. I think given all of these we have a winner. Can we all at least agree that the guy rides Lightweights and he has, on several occasions, gone outside sponsors? I mean we’re talking someone who wears a different TT helmet from everyone else and the rest of the team because his researched spawned such a design. Not exactly sharing now is it? The post on Conti and saying he purchased TT wheels specifically seems to have merit – though I don’t know if that is or isn’t a LW on the rear wheel in the provided pic.

    Nothing wrong with saying you stand corrected, Padraig. Da Robot, I know you feel the need to defend your boy, and while some of the posts are silly, most of them are inline. Your last post just added to the noise and given you have a part on the site, you just also added to the issue or rather demise of the site. Too bad.

  27. jza

    Wow, this one is going off the deep end fast.

    True, Lance has used LW’s, but not for years. 2002? Maybe ’03 at the latest. Back when Lightweight’s technology was head-and-shoulders above anything else. Brands like Zipp and Bontrager have dramatically improved since than and LW’s really haven’t changed much. So he doesn’t ride them anymore, they’re not an advantage anymore. Except for disc wheels, apparently.

    My guess is that Contador was getting nitpicky about his wheels and the team just said ‘Nope, this is what we’ve got.’ So Contador got mad and got his own.

    I can’t imagine for a minute that there was any question of who was going to win the ’09 Tour. Not in Armstrong, Bruyneel’s mind, or anyone else. Maybe the team wasn’t going to bend over backward to help Contador, but it would be ridiculous to suggest they tried to sabotage him.

    You want sabotage? This is sabotage (and dreadful bike handling!):

  28. Sophrosune

    Yikes! Is this it? When challenged the arguments lean on the absurd? This is sort of what I was afraid of. But hey, it’s your site, Padraig and Da Robot. You win pick up the marbles.

  29. Alex

    Very interesting reading here, from pretty much everyone! Excelent perspectives from both… hmmm… “sides” 😉 Food for off-season thought, certainly.

    Whatever the outcome, whatever the case of who´s right, wrong, saint or devil, one thing Lance can be accused of and no one would argue is, the guy DOES make cycling more exciting!!! LOL

  30. Da Robot

    @ Sophrosune I have no argument here. I was merely trying to lighten things up a little. It seemed folks were getting into a heated argument about a set of wheels in a race that took place last summer. It just didn’t seem worth the heat, so I was trying to take it down a notch.

    I wasn’t trying to defend Padraig, cause I’m not entirely sure what he thinks. I know that he’s big on proof, so I think he was trying to say that Contador’s contention didn’t hold water, given the available evidence. Other’s took issue with that.

    I have no opinion. What’s interesting to me is that the elite, though they seem superhuman in many regards, revert always to their human frailties. Armstrong seems like a bully. Contador seems insecure.

    I’m never going to know the whole truth, so these are only my impressions. No dark conspiracies. No stonewalling. No BS.

    I apologize if my attempt at humor was misconstrued.

  31. Da Robot

    @ ALL I would only add that when you get passionate people together, whether they’re elite riders or armchair DSs like ourselves, friction usually ensues. So, perhaps it’s also interesting that those we would criticize for being petty, immature and petulant, are only behaving as we ourselves do in discussing their pettiness, immaturity and petulance. It’s very meta of us, isn’t it?

  32. Sophrosune

    @Da Robot. I am often over sensitive to these matters, but I always try to take a high road. But I plead guilty to being too serious about the whole matter. In my defense, this was and is a contentious blog entry. It starts with the rather suggestive headline “Contador, Cheated?” I suppose we need to use that pause of the comma to interpret it as “Contador was cheated” rather than “Contador cheated”. Then it lays out some careful inspection of a few photographs as irrefutable fact that Contador was not riding wheels that were not standard team issue and suggest that Contador is engaged in some kind of negative PR campaign. My point of view: Contador did go out and buy wheels that he felt as though he needed to compete at the highest level and probably thought he shouldn’t have to do that. And can you blame him? Now does this make him an ego-maniac, insecure, a crybaby or whatever deragtory comment you want to apply to him? To me, no.

  33. Da Robot

    @Sophrosune I’m a big Contador fan myself. I’m glad he won, because I think he was the strongest in the race, and I’m ready for a new generation of stars myself. Was he mistreated by LA and JB? Maybe. I don’t know for sure. I just don’t have enough facts. That’s not a defense of LA and JB, nor is it an indictment of Contador. For me, there’s no black and white here, only gray.

    From that gray, I can see that Contador won the race. He doesn’t need to say anything else. All he really has to say is, “I’m happy to have won the race.” It costs him nothing. Opening his mouth to level accusations of whatever stripe, and regardless of their merit, doesn’t really help him.

    So while I understand, he’s a champion, and he feels he was hard done by, I only wish that he’d have sworn himself to the high road and let his riding do the talking. It has a lot to say. But there again, I’m only wishing something for him that I’m probably not capable of myself.

  34. velomonkey

    Oh my Gawd, did I just read a claim by you that perhaps Armstrong is the reason why Contador won the tour. I know you said he might not have raced as aggressively due to Armstrong, but come on, what the heck is this?

    One thing you said prior, which I fully agree with, was that Contador would have won on Skill Shimano. The guy beat Armstrong – story done. If you want to make noise, and you are, then one could say Armsrong benefited by sitting on Wiggins wheel – which he did. One then as to wonder if 3rd would have gone to LA were it not for Garmin and Wiggo.

    Dude. You. Are. Off. Your. Rocker. When it comes to LA.

  35. Scottrs


    So are you saying you don’t see LW/ADA wheels under LA in the Graham Watson picture? Not trying to drag this out but I really don’t see how you can deny those wheels being there as they are pretty distinctive in appearance. IIRC, at the time the story was even going around about how JB called Lightweight and was stunned that they would not give LA a pair of their wheels. His using them brought the uphill only(minimal braking track) version a lot press..

    Another pic:

    1. Author

      The subject at hand is 2009 and the use of Lightweights during the 2009 Tour. That’s all I am addressing with the post.

      Velomonkey: There’s a big difference between what I mused and what you extrapolated it into. Easy there.

  36. Mick

    Once more for good measure
    see this photo…

    You can clearly see the carbon webbing of a Lightweight disc under the full wheel decal of Contador’s disc wheel.
    (a feature of LW’s disc, something you even made mention of in the body of your article)

    The issue at hand is Lightweight wheels…
    & whether Contador bought his own (TIME TRIAL) wheel(s)

    That’s a Lighweight (disc) wheel…
    That’s Contador
    It’s during the 2009 TDF (specifically during the Prologue)

    It (the wheel) obviously has non team issue graphics applied…
    if he purchased this wheel, the non team issue graphics make even more sense.

    I’ve only seen claims Contador had to buy TT wheel(s)
    You even wrote that in the body of your own article

    You seem to be off on a tangent thinking he has to be on a set of deep rim Lightweights during a road stage for his story to be plausible,
    but again,
    I’ve yet to see any claims that extend beyond TT wheels. (specifically wheels he uses in TIME TRIALS… since you keep going back to wheels on his road bike)

    So you can stop wasting your time searching pictures of Contador during road stages. That has nothing do do with this
    I don’t recall anyone (including AC) saying he used anything other than Team issued Bontrager’s during the road stages.

    I’m neither a fan of AC or LA…but his story is completely plausible.
    At his level, he needs to have 100% confidence in his equipment.
    For some reason he did not trust or have confidence in the wheels supplied

    That could be because his disc & HED trispoke where not within his required tolerance…maybe some other performance characteristic was lacking…
    who cares…
    He didn’t like what he saw or felt with the team issued wheels
    He felt it necessary to source his own wheel(s) for the time trials.

    Did the Team Management refuse to provide him with his requested wheels?
    and by requested, that simply could mean a better set than was provided.
    I guess the answer is No,
    (or we wouldn’t be pissing our days away with this thread would we).

    Is there evidence that head games were being played on AC within the Team & possibly management?…
    quite possibly.
    This story may be evidence of such… but whether you or I deem it one way or another doesn’t doesn’t have any bearing on the root of the story.
    Did he or didn’t he buy his own TT wheels, you have presented zero evidence to prove he didn’t. (mostly because you’ve been wasting your time looking at pictures of his road bike)

    Since a disc wheel is easy to disguise (obviously very easy, since you can’t identify the disc he used) no sponsor’s feeling were hurt… especially since his disc was still branded with the Bontrager logo, albeit, the fact that Bontrager has never has manufactured a disc notwithstanding (but did sell rebranded disc sourced from Zipp for a short while, but not in 2008/2009)

    but I digress…

    I don’t think he (AC) needs to justify his reason to yourself or RKP.
    The team didn’t react to what seems to be a pretty modest request from a superstar rider

    (I will take it to the bank that LA would’ve had a truckload of wheels delivered within the hour if the tables were reversed)

    But based on the evidence that you obviously can’t see
    I choose to believe him until evidence to the contrary presents itself.

    Now on to more important stuff
    like did LA really bang an Olsen Twin…

    1. Author

      That rear disc does look a lot more like a Lightweight than what I’ve seen in other shots. As Alberto is in the yellow jersey, the shot must be from the Annecy TT, not the prologue. I only looked at road stages in an effort to be thorough. And while this may clarify one wheel, he did use plural and I still don’t see how anyone could suggest that front wheel was made by anyone other than HED.

  37. Sophrosune

    You’re almost there, Padraig. Just give up on the singular & plural argument for “wheel” vs. “wheels” and you’ve just about come around. The argument that he said he bought the wheels in Monaco before the Prologue just doesn’t preclude him from using that “wheel” in the ITT, does it? I am not sure who has made the claim that Contador was cheated, as far as I know it has only been you. Contador simply pointed out that the basics that you would expect to be provided to a team leader were not provided, cars to and from race start and finish lines and providing him a wheel he wanted to use. If you think it unseemly of him to reveal these matters, I suggest you consider Da Robot’s admission that perhaps he is only wishing for beheavior from Contador that he is not capable of himself.

  38. velomonkey

    Dude, give it up – eat the crow, it tastes like chicken. Take a deep breath, look at the long road and look with a clean vision – you are now arguing singular versus plural. You are a half step away from saying “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Actually, that might be ahead of you, not sure.

    The guy said TT wheels, yet you looked at road wheels. You have now been presented with hard evidence and in the face of such evidence, which you agree is consistent with a lightweight wheel on a TT bike, you still argue that your point is valid. Come on, man, I simply can not take you seriously anymore – I’m not calling names, or resorting to a low bar, but, jeez, your writing had me go out and buy assos summer gloves – and I never fall for reviews. oh, and why did you look at pictures of road stages to be “thorough” if the guy said TT wheels. That’s not thorough, that’s a fool’s errands.

    Repeat after me: “I padraig stand corrected.” Trust me, you will be doing yourself and RKP a favor.

  39. Adam

    Velomonkey, your rudeness astounds me.

    Read this article, Levis is also on a LW disc
    reason given was that:
    Leipheimer’s rear wheel isn’t actually a Bontrager product in spite of the decal camouflaging; rather, it’s a Lightweight model from German outfit CarbonSports. According to Trek team liaison Ben Coates, the Wisconsin-based company gave Team Director Johan Bruyneel the freedom to choose which disc wheels Astana used in competition as Bontrager wasn’t able to produce enough of its own Aeolus TT discs for all of the riders. As it is, the Lightweight’s sub-900g weight offers a 200g advantage over the Aeolus anyway and its stiff feel made for a worthy substitute (albeit an expensive one as the team has to pay for them).

    You can also see in pictures that Levis is riding a LW disc in the 2009 ToC.

    I thought this was common knowledge, not fodder for conspiracies.

  40. jza


    I think the point of the article is that whether Contador had to buy his own bike, wheels, get his own ride to stages, cook his own dinner or whatever. It reflects poorly that he continues to publicly dwell on it.

    As the ‘undisputed best bike rider in the world by a country mile’, Contador seems to have a curious preoccupation with gossiping with tabloid reporters.

    Armstrong used his second tour win to prove it was no fluke and lined up the team, sponsors and business that would completely dominate the sport for years to come. Contador could be doing the same but seems more interested in feeding the gossip mill.

    Really, this post is not about wheels.

  41. jza

    This post isn’t about wheels.

    Whether Contador had to find his own ride to stages, buy his own wheels, carry his own bottles or fix his own dinner, it’s all just gossip. The point is that it is beneath the ‘best bike rider on the planet by a country mile’ to be rehashing it in tabloids 6 months later.

    What was the last best rider ever doing after his second tour win? Oh, just lining up some sponsors, building a solid business on the bike and off, starting a little organization called Livestrong. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

    While Contador can obviously win races, he is not convincing anyone that he is too savvy off the bike.

    1. Author

      Regardless, yours is the only comment to make me laugh since all this started.

      I’ve encountered some other stuff since all this started and am waiting for responses from some folks. I’ll update you all when I’ve heard back.

  42. velomonkey

    Here is the deal, and I don’t think it’s rude (and it that astounds you?!?), this post was all about Contador being cheated and, yes, like it or not it was about wheels and it was all about wheels. The author pointed to looking at a myriad of photographic evidence and the evidence showed that in fact Contador didn’t ride Lightweight wheels, he rode the distinct Bontrager wheels. Why would he lie about such a thing?

    Then it became pretty damn obvious that the guy did in fact ride lightweight wheels. Then it was plural versus singular. Now it’s not about the wheels – it’s about how he acts and now it’s “common knowledge” that everyone on Astana rides lightweights. Grow up, people.

    Look, defending Contador makes me ill. He’s a bore, he’s too skinny, he looks like the character from the Jim Carey movie “The Mask” and he’s part of a generation of riders I clearly don’t care for. With all that said, he was diminished by his own DS and Lance Armstrong who worked in collusion against the guy. No one ever said sabotage, I said collusion. Maybe you need to go look it up. Maybe Contador is crying cause he had to buy the wheels at an actual bike shop himself and Lance had a male slave boy go and do it. I don’t know the minutia on the situation, but it does ring true given all else that the guy got short changed. When Lance bitches about Cofidis, he’s a man out for revenge, when Contador bitches about his own DS not supporting him he’s a baby. Whatever.

    The point is, is the author of the article going to let it be known that on this issue he was wrong? Or is this going to be another case of some jackass with a blog spreading misinformation? black and white? Maybe, but in this case it fits.

    1. Author

      Velomonkey: So far, I’ve seen exactly one photo that has indicated he may have ridden one Lightweight wheel. No plural here. I wrote a post based on the best information I can get my hands on. I am doing what I can to dig further and as I get more information I can stand by, I’ll publish it.

      Thank you for reading,
      Your Jackass

  43. rich_mutt

    fyi, myriad is used incorrectly in your post velomonkey. it’s quite a common mistake, and a pet peeve of mine as i frequently see journalists and other media types make this mistake. correct usage of myriad in your sentence should have been like this: “The author pointed to looking at myriad photographs and the evidence showed that in fact Contador didn’t ride Lightweight wheels, he rode the distinct Bontrager wheels”.

  44. Sophrosune

    @Velomonkey I agree with everything you say except for two things: I am a fan of Contador (and I was even once a fan of Armstrong…a long, long time ago) and there are no “jackasses” here. I am afraid though there may be something more insidious at work here which couldn’t possibly be the work of a jackass. Instead I think there may be something like a philosophy behind these naked distortions.

  45. Henry

    Without a detailed explanation from Contador about what exactly he was referring to this is all just baseless speculation. Contador had a winning strategy in the Tour. Stay laser focused on the racing and concede the media circus to Armstrong. It worked brilliantly then and he should just stick with that winning strategy. LA would like nothing more then to draw Contador into anything that would get his head out of race mode. The twiiter trashtalk has already begun and the season has barely started.

  46. Henry

    I’d also add that considering that Astana forgot their race radios for the Tour down Under Contador has got much more pressing concerns then setting the record straight about who did what to whom last season.

  47. Alex Torres

    Henry, you hit the nail. That also relates to what jza said about both guys´ off-bike capacities and focuses. I was thinking exactly that when I saw Astana blowing Adam´s chances at TDU yesterday. It may be that LA doesn´t need to build his mind game strategy much further, looks to me that Contador´s team is handling that part with great eficiency.

    Just my 2c, now back to the topic…

  48. Sophrosune

    It’s fascinating to me that everyone is so ready to prescribe the appropriate behavior for Contador at this time, which apparently is to stay quiet, while it is perfectly acceptable that LA & JB can continue on their little PR war. It doesn’t seem as though their little head games dating back to Armstrong commenting that Contador had “a lot to learn” after Paris-Nice stood them in particular good stead. Armstrong finished more than five minutes back in the TdF and didn’t do anything else in any other races for the year. Contador doesn’t have a Twitter account and has refused to answer JB’s statement that Contador got egotistical after his grand tour wins. He answered some questions for a Spanish sports publication. Some want to dismiss his assertions simply because those bastions of truth and justice LA & JB say it didn’t happen…that way. Fine. But in my estimation, JB stabbed the rider in the back that got him a TdF win and then a Giro & Vuelta when the team was prohibited from the TdF just so he wouldn’t have to be a regular old DS but instead a glorified chauffer for movie stars. I don’t know any of these men personally, I only know them from their public personas and actions. But based on that, I think Contador is a worthy champion and Armstrong and his personal DS Bruyneel have shown themselves to be ugly champions. I don’t think I am alone on this,6802,s1-7-123-20581-1,00.html.

  49. velomonkey

    @ Rich – correct, myriad should have been used as an adjective and it wasn’t. Thanks for pointing out, needless to say, countless photos weren’t looked at.

    Nobody is the jackass, except maybe me if I keep reading this site. I am still laughing out loud that singular versus plural is used a point. It’s really rather comical and sad.

    @ Henry – forgetting radios at a spring training race which is also the first race of year and his little to no significance isn’t a sign of things to come. Who knows, maybe they were practicing for racing without radios – doesn’t matter it’s freakin’ January people.

    I might also add that we’re all just of slow ass riders who play fantasy cycling and I’m sure most of spend way too much money. With that said, the one guy who is/was a pro, i.e., Joe Papp, gets dissed. We’re all just a bunch of armchair observers who have never even had the chance to step up to the plate (again, except for one person). Myself personally, I agree with what Sophrosune said. We’re giving all this attention to something the guy said six months after the fact and further more it may prove completely true. Meanwhile you have LA dismantling the team, saying “there is no i in TEAM” and then skipping the victory dinner. Lying about taking no pay, but then treating donations to Livestrong as income. The list goes on. The guy is not a company man, he is the company and to me that is a very dangerous slope and by his actions I don’t see it as good for the sport.

    No, there are no jackasses here, but there might be some shills and that’s worse. I guess we’ll wait and see.

  50. Sophrosune

    @Velomonkey. This time I agree with everything you’ve said, including me being a fatass rider who spends way too much money on cycling. 🙂 Cheers!

  51. lachlan

    two observations here… OK three :o)

    1) the whole thing is a bit petty and ridiculous… armstrong v contador + above.

    2) I find it very very hard to see anything other than a vastly higher volume of petty PR and snipping from Lance & Bruyneel towards ALberto than the otherway round… Alberto has kept a far more dignified silence on the whole thing in general.

    3) on equpment. I have to agree with the *basics* of Padraig’s analysis that the team on the surface all rode the same sponsored kit in the tour… HOWEVER we all know that in every past tour Lance has had a constant stream of special edition, tweaked, prototype / one off specials rushed to him on the slightest whim by all his main sponsors. That is to his credit and the relationship he has built with them… yet it is quite easy to imagine that alberto as clearly the rightful team leader and clearly stronger rider on the team could be miffed to be on the standard kit and offered nothing more, while specials arrived by personal courier for lance day after day.

    In that case he’s sort of right, but also sort of silly not to see that thats bound to be the case given Lance’s longstanding relationships and interest in getting the latest and greatest.

  52. Henry

    It would seem the Marca article supplies the sort of detail that was missing about what exactly Contador was referring to. It’s consistent with the head games that we witnessed leading up to and during the tour that were obviously intended to throw Contador off his game just enough to get Armstrong into yellow. No wonder Contador went off the reservation.

  53. Da Robot

    So, what the article is saying is that Trek provided Lance with a pair of wheels for the time trials that weighed something like 150 grams less than the ones Contador was issued, and that when Contador asked the mechanic for the same wheels he was told, “No, these are for Lance.” Contador still won the first time trial, beating Armstrong by 22 seconds.

    The article then says that Armstrong went back to the team issue wheels for the Annecy time trial and this time lost to Contador by 1:30.

    According to the article, Lance even told Contador directly that the wheels he was getting were better, though it also says that Trek supplied Contador with special equipment, just not the same as Lance’s.

    My Spanish isn’t fluent, so perhaps someone else can elucidate the finer points.

  54. fausto

    Your ability to toe the party line is impressive.

    You neglect to mention that Armstrong and Buryneel went on a PR offensive with multiple interviews calling Contador a liar. Saying that Marca “Licks his ass” (Armstrong’s words, not mine) Accusing Marca of publishing false stories. In the end it is clear that it was Armstrong and Bruyneel were lying, not Contador.

    Unlike what Johann and Lance claim Contador WAS given inferior equipment and had to buy his own disk from Lightweight. Armstrong’s wheel was not only 15% lighter but also 30% more ridged and had Ceramic bearings.

    It is clear from multiple photos that both Armstrong and Contador used Lightweght disc’s in the Monaco TT, the difference is Contador paid for his.

    You are making a mistake if you think echoing Armstrong’s lies is a wise journalistic choice. If you continue to misrepresent the facts you will only lose creditability

  55. velomonkey


    You hear back from those people yet? Is there ever going to be an update on this story and your claims? Time is running and my hope is running out.

  56. Sophrosune

    @Da Robot I am nowhere near fluent as my friends here in Spain can attest to. But there’s a couple of finer points you seemed to have misunderstood. After Contador bought the lighter wheels he used them in the prologue as did Armstrong and he was faster by 22 over 15k. Then in the team time trial, Contador elected to go with the old heavier wheel while Armstrong continued to use the lighter wheel. Then in the ITT they both used the lighter wheel. I am sorry that Padraig feels it necessary to go out and find some sources that will corroborate his assertions. We all know this is about TT wheels not road wheels and we have all seen the photos of the TT wheels and they are Lightweights. I think if he could just bring himself to say, “I misunderstood which lead me to make a mistake,” it would be a step in the right direction.

  57. Da Robot

    @Sophrosune, Fausto & Velomonkey

    I see now how I have misinterpreted some of the article. Personally, I find Contador’s claims plausible, though, just as I wouldn’t take LA’s or JB’s word for any of what went on, I have a hard time accepting entirely AC’s account. Misunderstandings (or subterfuge) between hyper-competitive people who speak different languages are almost unavoidable.

    I do believe there probably was some difference between what Lance was provided by Trek and what Contador was offered. Was it fair? Was it understood? Was it malicious? Was it petty? Yes. No. Maybe. Of course.

    My takeaway from the incident as well as this ongoing discussion (such as it is) is that the people involved are displaying their capacity for small-mindedness. Support for one side doesn’t necessarily translate as opposition to the other, and I very much believe that, just as my perception of characters in the Astana drama has been formed by not only their actions, but also their words, so has my perception of the players in this debate.

    What you say matters, and how you say it does too. No one of us holds a monopoly on the truth. We come here to, hopefully, find it together. Humbly.

  58. Adam

    You’re my hero. Listen, if you’ve got some free time could you broker a peace deal tomorrow with Israel and Palestine? You’re diplomacy is epic.

  59. fausto

    FYI, Lightweight confirm Contadors version of events to Marca.

    Johann and lance have been very vocal in their attempts to smear Contador but the facts support Alberto. They appear to think that nobody will actually check into the story, or think people can’t read Spanish or look at pictures.

    Sounds like the old man is worried

    1. Author

      All: I’ve got a request for information in with Lightweight; we’ll see if they’ll say anything off the record. There’s been a great deal of mudslinging since Bruyneel and Armstrong parted ways with Astana. It goes both ways; I can’t find fault with Contador and not also find it with Armstrong. The trouble is that Marca, by their own admission, has been very partisan. What Armstrong was saying was that they “kiss his ass.” In that regard, it’s kind of hard to disagree with him.

      My goal in writing the piece was to see if it might be possible to bring some objective fact to a curious situation.

      As I see it, here’s where things stand: Armstrong and Contador both rode Hed trispoke front wheels and Lightweight rear discs. That’s all we can be reasonably sure of. There are claims that Contador’s wheels were purchased for him by the team and that he purchased his wheels himself. There are claims Armstrong’s wheels were stiffer, lighter, had ceramic bearings … in short, better. I’m waiting to see if the folks at Lightweight will say anything, but all that is definitive is that the facts behind the equipment seem to have become irrelevant in the war of words between the two camps.

      This one was a can of worms that got weirder the more I dug. Go figure. Thanks for reading everyone.

  60. Alex

    I´m fluent in spanish and what I could draw from this article is that the whole thing started at the team mechnic´s level, and only aftwerwards it went up the surface thanks to the ongoing war of words between JB/LA and Conti. If that was indeed the case (as it seems), it´s also clear that there were way too many people involved in the said-this-said-that during this early stage of the… hmmm… affair…, enough to cause a lot of confusion and misinterpretation that built and built.

    It all happened the day before the start of the Tour, and if I remember the tension between them wasn´t all that ugly by then, or at least not as bad as it is now. Still, Lance has tremendous influence over Trek and everyone around him, thus the theory of conspiracy is perfectly plausible rather than just a crazy theory. I mean, I wouldn´t be surprised if indeed he was up to something well ahead of the Tour.

    But to me, it´s equally plausible that maybe he was just looking for an edge, being aware of the new LWs while others weren´t. The article states that not only Contador´s mechanic was eagle-eyed (to spot the difference between the wheels), but also up-to-date about new equipments and relases (to bring the matter up to Contador´s attention, and also provide him with the new LWs). Yet he did nothing untill he felt that maybe Contador was perhaps getting different treatment.

    Riders care for equipment in different levels, just like F-1 racers. Some are extremely picky, others leave the details to his mechanics or just don´t care. Armstrong had better support in this regard, otherwise the wheels affair would have surfaced earlier. The article makes clear that it was Contador´s mechanic who spoted the difference and brought up the matter to his attention, but what exactly led to this may never be clear. Of course, Contador is top level so he may not wish to compromise at any level, but initially it was a small matter.

    My opinion.

  61. fausto

    How does the mudslinging go “Both ways”?

    We have seen a year long media campaign to paint Contador as stupid, arrogant, tacticly inept…..on and on it goes. Like most of what Team Dopestrong says their claims to not stand up to scrutiny.

    It is not hard to see why Contador, like many others, respects Armstrong achievement as a rider but does not like him personally.

    Armstrong does not have friends, he has employees.

  62. velomonkey

    One word for this posting (cause let’s be clear, it’s not an article, it’s a blog posting) “EPIC.”

    @DA ROBOT – I want to hug you, and then I want to ask you “what the hell was that?” Did it make me feel warm? Sure. Did it make any sense to the issue at hand? No. Which leads me to my next point.

    @ Padraig – I think with what I am about to say I speak not only for myself, but for others, just a theory though: You need to come clean and come clean now. Re-read your article, you went on about how you looked at all these pictures and Contador couldn’t have possibly been on lightweight wheels. Fast forward a ton of posts and now you are waiting for light weight to get back to you on micro details of ceramic bearings and other matters. Back up, buddy, you need to recant your entire argument and, please, spare me the plural versus singular – you look like an idiot when you go there (sorry to call names, but come on).

    This situation is so simple – Lance left the sport and let a team die when he left. Then under the cover of saving the world and hope riding again he came back. He went to a team with a DS he knew all too well and some of the riders – it’s what I would do, too. However, that team had a new player and that guy was crushing in grand tours. The guy, I’m talking LA, doesn’t play well with other alpha males and Contador was the new kid on Lance’s playground – namely the tour. Is anyone, including you padraig, going to argue that doesn’t Lance use anything he can to beat people including but not limited to mental games. If this is still a question for anyone, then you don’t know jack. It’s all fair, which is fine, but it’s also tasteless, but, hey, we’re talking about a guy who brought Sheryl Crow to tour of flanders – that act alone kicks him out of my book, but I digress.

    As a college adjunct professor (yea I know I have a ton of grammar and spelling mistakes – get over it I don’t teach English, I teach in a MBA program) this is getting me worried that some people here just wont see facts when they sit right there in front of them. It’s like arguing the sky isn’t blue – it’s really rather pathetic. Grade thus far – F minus.

  63. Souleur

    more drama than my 14 y/o girls first date, and less impressive to me as her Father, is the way this thread has dwindled down to this: personality clashes, he said that she said and the who cares of what the ethereal plains have emitted into the stratosphere cause tis ripe.

    velomonkey, whereas I can appreciate your fervor, yet I am not so sure your open to allowing someone to reconcile this, as Robot has evidently graciously offered, and you refer to it as a meaningless gesture. I actually share in these tendancies you have as well, having a firm conviction and holding to it. And whereas I find it best to be confident in what I hold near and dear, I sometimes find it most fruitful after such discussions to move on, allowing all to work on those things that are beneficial. Afterall, if one who holds the truth could just beat it into someone else, we would all agree then, now wouldn’t we? But we can’t, the mind must be won, convinced, persuaded. Sometimes its best to make allowances for one another, as we all move around in this fast paced ride together. Afterall, no matter what the subject matter, there will and is room for an opinion, take hard and fast facts and mathematical equations, there are opinions in numbers and quantities. There is room for the truth to not be known, there is room for the truth to be purposely hidden from us and thus conjecture to fly about the room like a rubber bouncy ball. Just hope that nobody gets hit by it or hurt, but sometimes it does.

    Just my passing thoughts, your pull.

  64. Sophrosune

    We can all have a group hug. That’s fine with me. But when I am wrong I face it and admit it. Carrying on with half-truths and it’s all how you define “is” type of arguments is pathetic. But I suppose you can’t teach people principles.

  65. Sophrosune

    @Padraig Aside from your attempts to denigrate Contador’s character with the very first sentence of your blog, let’s look at some of the assertions you made that are from photographs and first-hand accounts, shall we say…innaccurate. First: “Well purchase them he may have, but race them he never did.” Incorrect. He did race them (yes, plural because he bought two rear disk wheels, according to accounts) And there are photos that corroborate it. We also know he used them in the prologue and ITT. Second: Your entire line of argument that dismisses the possibility that it could not have been Lightweight disk wheels so we need only examine photographs from the mountain stages is completely and utterly wrong. I trust you have abandoned this useful fiction of yours. Have you? Now some assertions that you made recently such as “The trouble is that Marca, by their own admission, has been very partisan.” Really? Where do they admit to this partisanship? You say your goal in writing this piece “was to see if it might be possible to bring some objective fact to a curious situation.” On the contrary, it seems you made every effort to obscure the facts with faulty reasoning (couldn’t be Lightweight disc wheels so it must be mountain stage wheels) and make just boldly wrong assertions (those were not Lightweight disc wheels when they most certainly were by first-hand accounts, photographic evidence and even Armstrong’s admission). Now, regarding your character assassination of Contador, it seems that this story was known by the press at the time but Contador would not comment on it for the record, at least to the Spanish press. In an Italian magazine article, Contador addressed it. At which time, Armstong and Bruyneel both vigorously denied and it seems now told little white lies in their denials that they are trying to correct. Now who is contesting the 2009 TdF in their head? Armstrong? Bruyneel? Contador? I would like to see you, or anyone who has commented on this blog, remain quiet in the face of these circumstances.

  66. Henry

    If this wheel business was an isolated incident it would be insignificant but in the context of what went on before and during the tour it fits a pattern that lends credence to Contador’s complaints. We will never know who said what to whom in private but it’s clear Contador bought the wheels because he felt he was being short changed and when the fact was published Armstrong and Bruyneel lied about it.

    I think the tone of the article attacks Contador on the basis of pure speculation and what little “objective” information their is verifies Contador’s claim about purchasing the wheels. I can’t see Leightweight or any other manufacturer wanting to get in the middle of this LA vs. AC shit storm so I doubt there will be any comments. It looks like we will get a year long build up to the Tour that will make the trash talking leading up to the rumble in the jungle absolutely tame (looks like Wiggins wants to join in the fun as well). A good old fashioned sporting blood feud should drive viewership so maybe it’s all good for cycling.

  67. Henry

    I might add it might be fun for spectators but maybe not so much for commentators and journalists who by even touching the subject are sure to piss off the tifosi of one side or another 🙂

  68. Sophrosune

    @Henry I agree with much of what you say, especially that the tone of Padraig’s post was inquisitorial against Contador. It attempted to establish itself as an objective relating of the facts when in actuality it was quite the opposite (false assertions, wild goose chases, and little fact that would shed any light on the issue). So, if someone wants to write an article that challenges Contador (I am an admitted fan) but does not distort the situation with odd omissions, strange rationalizations and awkward reasoning, I am ready to listen.

    1. Author

      As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve asked the folks at Lightweight for information that pertains to this post. What I’ve gotten from them so far is inconclusive. What my contact there had to say was, ” If you saw those successful sportsmen using our rear disc we can’t answer in the negative…”

      Had I been a mouthpiece for Armstrong, Trek or someone else, this post would been a puff piece about how great Bontrager’s carbon wheels are. Rather, my purpose was to see if some light could be shed on the Armstrong/Contador conflict by a means that is actually verifiable. There’s no way to know what took place with team vehicles and whatnot. Armstrong could be lying about what took place and/or Contador could have misread the situation. Or maybe it’s all he said and worse. We won’t know that. Ever.

      I decided to look at the wheels because the photos won’t lie. After looking through dozens of images by multiple photographers, I believed I had a factual answer. Many of you readers forwarded additional images that shed no new light on what was used. A single image forwarded showed the signature Lightweight diamond pattern. I bothered checking stages that weren’t TTs as well as the TTs just to be thorough.

      I’d hoped we’d learn something that would tell us something more about the conflict between Armstrong and Contador. With one Lightweight wheel in use, not two (the front is a HED), the result is pretty inconclusive. We can’t know if Contador bought the wheel himself. We can’t know if the wheel is any different from what Armstrong used. We can’t know what was said behind closed doors.

      I respect that some of you see an Armstrong conspiracy in all this, him aided and abetted by Bruyneel. Maybe it happened. My post was written with the goal of shedding some light on that, and I really didn’t care who came off looking worse. Reader input resulted in the one image to reveal a Lightweight in use and while I’m chagrined I couldn’t see that before writing the post, I’m grateful I got it. While in one way that image clarified matters in one regard—that he did use a rear Lightweight—it made them murkier in another regard. I just don’t think there’s enough evidence here to conclude anything, which makes this post a failure based on my stated goal.

    2. Author

      An interesting final postscript to this post. A source I have at Lightweight says that while no one could forbid Contador from buying any wheels he wanted, the team bought rear discs for each of the riders to use. He wouldn’t say anything more detailed than that.

  69. Francis Chapman

    I really don’t know what exactly happened, but am following this. What equipment did his teammates use? Did they use Trek or other bike brands like Morpheus?

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