Specialized brought Alberto Contador to the U.S. for a truly whirlwind tour. We did a ride on Tuesday out of Mike’s Bikes in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco in Marin County. Afterward, we attended a press conference with him. These posts are slightly out of order; I’m doing the interview first because, well, it’s ready and the post on the ride needs more work.
Q: Would you have planned your season any differently had your arbitration been set November all along?
AC: I’m very happy with the results I achieved at the Giro. My intention was to tdo the Giro anyway. I wanted to use it for prep for the Tour. But I realized that the Giro was tough, very tough when I got there. I didn’t expect the Giro to be so hard.
Q: How do you feel about doing the Giro-Tour double in the future?
AC: I believe it’s possible. There are many factors that are very important. The course has to be perfect (for me). Same thing at the Tour. A super-strong team that can help me with the protection I need.
Q: Are you doing anything to beef up the team for next year?
AC: I am speaking daily with Bjarne. He’s working pretty hard to improve the level of the team. It’s clear that Bjarne has the responsibility to sign the riders, but before signing a rider, he talks to me.
Q: Pat McQuaid has said he’d like to move to an independent tribunal. Is that appropriate?
AC: If there is a high level of objectivity that would be really good. It could be faster but there would need to be the control of an external organization.
Q: (to Fran, Contador’s brother) What do you remember of Alberto as a teenager riding bikes?
FC: I remember one day when he was young where we did 60-70km, and Alberto was wearing a lightweight trainer jacket and it filled up with air like the Michelin Man. When we got back the other riders were surprised he was able to stay with us despite his jacket. They realized, ‘Wow, he must really be strong.’
Q: No one beats CAS. Are you confident?
AC: I’m very confident. Because of all the controls, the scientific facts support my case. I’m confident because of all the experts who are supporting my case. I think there will be a favorable resolution.
Q: Does it affect you when you race?
AC: When I race I don’t think about it.
Q: Does the decision by WADA not to impose limits on clenbuterol strike you as fair?
AC: I don’t believe this decision will affect my case. I strongly believe there will be a change in the acceptable level of Clenbuterol in the future. Probably right after my case is resolved.
Q: The way you rode at the Tour, you may have captured the hearts of Americans more?
AC: Even though I live far away from here I have received a lot of support from people here.
Q: Is it possible to win all year with the super teams like Radio Shack, BMC, etc?
AC: I believe it will be difficult, but I also believe it’s possible, because it’s all the same riders winning the other races.
Q: What races haven’t you won that you’d most like to achieve a victory in?
AC: I’d like to win some Classics. Fleche Wallonne or Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The problem is that it’s not the best training program for my larger objectives. I’d like to win Tirreno-Adriatico. There aren’t many others, but the World Championship is one.
Simoni (translator) added, “He wants to win all year. He wanted to win at the Tour of Algarve.”
Q: Do you plan on racing in the U.S?
AC: I would love to race the Tour of California. I feel that cycling is getting bigger and bigger here. Right now the US is getting more and more important in world cycling. The reason I didn’t come here the last two years is because of the new date and the fact it conflicted with the Giro. I believe the Tour of California could change my chances at the Tour de France for the worse. If I come to the Tour of California I’m not coming to ride, I’m coming to win.
Q: And Colorado?
AC: This year was the first year, but in the future I’ll have to look at the dates to see if it conflicts with the Vuelta a Espana. If the Tour of California moves back to February, then I’ll come, for sure.
Q: Will you compete in the Olympics in 2012?
AC: I’m not sure the course is difficult enough. I would like to ride the TT.
Q: About the bikes: Having time on the Tarmac SL4, what’s your feedback?
AC: It’s less harsh than the SL3. So such a change in a bike at the last minute is very difficult to assimilate at the last minute. (Which is why he rode the SL3 at the Tour de France.)
Q: How much input did you have into the new bike?
AC: One of the reasons that I am here is because of the objective Specialized and I have for making things better. Specialized is a brand that is dedicated to making things better. I wanted a certain kind of time trial bike. It’s very difficult to find a company that can give you the right equipment. There are many other brands that have tried to go other ways. No one has ever reached the level of Specialized.
Q: On vacation where would you like to ride?
AC: If it’s a real vacation the bike will stay at home.
Once the interview was over, the subject of the pistolero salute came up. Rather than Simoni translating, Alberto made the effort to respond himself. What he told us (and his accent is thick, so I couldn’t be certain of every word he uttered) is that the salute is meant as an expression to his family, that he carries his family in his heart when he rides, and that the salute isn’t so much about firing a gun. Rather, it is a reminder that he is thinking of his family.