The Return of Alberto Contador
El Pistolero is back and do we care?
continued to race because his cycling federation, the RFEC, cleared him of all the charges. And boy did he race! He won the Giro d'Italia, but could only finish in fifth place overall at the Tour de France. Hell, Thomas Voeckler beat him that year - wrap your head around that fact for a minute! Didn't I tell you that winning the Tour de France back to back was harder than it looks?
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) wasn't going to take that and appealed. Long story short, in February of 2012 the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled kinda in favor of WADA. Why "kinda?"
Contador's 2011 Giro d'Italia and 2010 Tour de France victories were taken away. However, instead of a two year ban, Contador could return to racing in August 2012 - in time for his national tour, the 2012 Vuelta a España.
This week Contador dipped his toes back into professional cycling at the Eneco Tour. This seven-day stage race in the Netherlands is the tune-up race before the Vuelta, and Alberto's suspension ended just the day before it was to start. Now that's convenient! Barring an accident Al should get through his race with no problems and line up in Pamplona on August 18.
If there was ever a stage race designed to suit Contador's abilities it's the 2012 edition of La Vuelta a Espana. There will be 13 medium or high mountain stages with ten hill or summit finishes. A team time trial opens up the Vuelta and there's only one other race against the clock - a 40 kilometer test at about the halfway point of the Vuelta.
Second place Tour de France finisher Chris Froome of Team Sky is returning to the Vuelta and must be looking to improve on his second place to Jose Cobo. Another favorite is Joaquim Rodriguez who must have been salivating when he saw the number of climbs listed. But for me the main favorite has to be Contador.
To say he'll be motivated is the understatement of the year. He'll be out to prove that he was unjustly sanctioned. In an interview with the Spanish website Marca.com he said he's been using the suspension to do reconnaissance of the entire Vuelta. Sure he won't have the race days in his legs like his competitors, but he'll be fired up and fresh. But here's the question I ask of you - do you care that Alberto Contador has returned?
On Twitter I see people passionate both ways about Contador - from fans thinking he was screwed by the system that didn't give him a chance to defend himself properly to others that believe the clenbuterol and plasticizers found in his sample were all we needed to prove guilt. Or are you tired of the whole thing, wishing that we'd just return to the racing and let the past be the past? I've discovered that much like the Armstrong/USADA battle going on, it's pretty much a waste of both sides' time to try to convince the other.