Alberto Contador is less than a day away from winning his second Tour de France – and fourth grand tour – in three years.
During the past three weeks, the Spanish climber has withstood intrigue within the Astana camp, attacks from the Schleck brothers and hints that his victory was something a little bit too extraordinary.
Through it all, Contador remained tranquilo.
VeloNews listened in on the post-stage press conference with the winner apparent. Here’s what Contador had to say:
Question: Was the tension within the team a major factor?
Alberto Contador: It’s been a hard Tour. I knew before coming that I had to be prepared both mentally and physically. Every day was one day less. Every day there was a certain amount of tension and now I can think of the victory and forget about all the other stuff.
Q: What are your first impressions now that it appears you will win the Tour for a second time?
AC: I feel very happy. I have worked so hard, thinking only about the Tour, trying to do everything perfectly for the Tour. Now to be able to finally win the Tour, knowing that everyone was betting on me as the maximum favorite, of course, I am very satisfied.
Q: Why did you refuse to answer the question the other day about your VO2 Max?
AC: I didn’t give it a lot of importance. I’ve been available for all the anti-doping controls during the entire year, and there’s been a lot. I think that’s great, because it’s good for cycling. I will keep doing so long as I am still a racer.
Q: What was more important during this Tour, your physical or mental strength?
AC: Physically, of course, I had to have the legs to be able to respond on the road. The mental aspect played a big role as well, but physically, of course, was a little bit more percentage wise.
Q: How do you react to the suggestion that Johan Bruyneel wanted Lance Armstrong to win before you?
AC: Well (laughs), it’s a good question. I don’t know. I really don’t know if Johan wanted one rider to win before another, that’s a question you have to ask him.
Q: Which was harder fought, 2007 or 2009?
AC: Both were very difficult, as you say, 2007 was very close, it all came down to the last time trial. This year I had a little more margin of victory. This has been a combination of both physical and mental, whereas in 2007, it was more physical. I cannot say which cost me more of the two victories.
Q: How difficult was the relation between you and Armstrong?
AC: It didn’t cause me to lose motivation. Quite the opposite, it gave me even more motivation to train that much harder so that I could end up in this press conference today.
Q: Have you decided what you will do in 2010?
AC: What’s sure is that I will have a lot of hassle to see what will be my future. For sure, it will be on a different team than Lance. We’ll see what we can do, whether it’s a new team or find a team that is 100 percent behind me to confront this race to win it again.
Q: Did you ever consider racing for another team than Astana this year?
AC: Last year, I didn’t renew with Astana, I already had a contract. When Lance decided to come back, I already had a contract, I didn’t have any other option. It was obvious that the team that I am on is very strong in the grand tours. It’s too bad that we had these problems. I couldn’t change because I had a contract.
Q: Did you treat Armstrong special as an adversary?
AC: I knew that he would be a rider to beat in the GC. If I wanted to win, he wanted to win, it’s not compatible if two riders try to win. I knew that he would be a rival. I had trained a lot thinking about how hard this Tour was going to be. I arrived in this Tour in the best possible condition that I could be in and I didn’t really worry about what kind of condition that Lance was in.
Q: Will Armstrong be one of your top rivals next year?
AC: Of course, next year he’ll have another important role to play like he did this year. He’ll be one of the clear candidates for the overall and he will be a tough rival.
Q: How will it feel to stand above Armstrong on the podium, the rider who dominated the Tour?
AC: When you win, you like that the ones who are behind you that they are good riders with a big name, so I’m sure that the photo we take tomorrow in Paris will be historic.
Q: Are you putting a number in your mind of how many Tours you want to win?
AC: I don’t worry too much about that. I’m 26 and the victories keep coming, I don’t set a goal with any specific number of victories. The Tour will remain my objective principal during the years, but that doesn’t mean that I will not race other events during the season.
Q: When was the most difficult day psychologically?
AC: (Thinks … ) Perhaps the moment most complicated was the day after Ordino (Arcalis).
Q: Can you tell us you’ve won clean and can you make a strong stand against doping?
AC: Like I’ve said, I am available 365 days to doping control. I am never with an excuse. I am always in favor of the anti-doping controls. It’s good for the sport, for cycling, which I love so much. I always pass the controls with a happy face and I will keep undergoing them.
Q: Did the Schlecks make you suffer?
AC: Of course, they caused me to suffer, I didn’t make any errors, I had to be attentive in the race, in the time trials, that’s where the real big differences were made, from Monaco was very important. They raced in a manner very smart and very brave.
Q: There hasn’t been a doping scandal in this Tour, how do you feel about that?
AC: I am very content for all this. That’s what we’re all working for. The mentality of the riders has completely changed. Now we’re seeing the fruit of these anti-doping efforts. We’re seeing it now in this Tour de France and I believe that this is also a great victory.