MADRID (VN) — Alberto Contador received a hero’s welcome in his hometown of Pinto, Spain, on Monday following his nail-biting Vuelta a España victory.
It was an emotional homecoming for Contador, who received the full backing and support of his family, friends and neighbors during his long, controversial clenbuterol case, despite eventually serving a backdated, two-year ban.
For Contador, to win yet again in his first grand tour since his comeback is sweet redemption.
“It’s very special for me to come back here for the seventh time because it means that I’ve won another big race,” Contador said. “I had some complicated and difficult months, but it was important to win again just like before. It’s a special victory.”
Part of Contador’s ban included the disqualification of the 2010 Tour de France and all subsequent results through February this year, including his 2011 Giro d’Italia victory.
Officially, his Vuelta win on Sunday is the fifth of his career, but Contador suggested that he’s still counting the two that his clenbuterol ban erased from the history books.
“Seven, that’s how many grand tours I have won,” Contador told TVE. “What’s written down on paper could be another thing, but what counts is your own feeling and the memory that remains written in the eyes of the fans. What’s on paper is secondary.”
No matter how he counts it, there’s no denying that Contador proved yet again he is hard to break when it comes to racing over three weeks.
With less than a week of racing in his legs, Contador grew stronger as the race unfolded.
Joaquim Rodríguez pushed him to the limit. This year’s Vuelta course, with a string of steep, explosive uphill finales, was almost like a string of one-day classics, à la Flèche Wallonne, ideal for “Purito” and his efficient, punchy style of racing.
It took Contador’s best to snatch the red jersey in a daring raid last Wednesday on the road to Fuente Dé, ironically the easiest, at least on paper, of the major hilltop finales.
Contador’s season is not over yet. He will race the world championships next weekend, starting in both the road race and the time trial. He will also line up for the Giro di Lombardia next month and likely the world pro team time trial this weekend in the Netherlands.
Saxo Bank wanted to bring Contador to the Tour of Beijing, the race organized by the UCI’s commercial arm, Global Cycling Promotion, but Riis has decided not to send his star rider to China. The Dane is in conflict with the UCI over rules that exclude points earned by riders returning from racing bans for a two-year period. That means that all the points Contador earned during the Vuelta, and could have earned in Beijing, will not count going into 2013.
The issue is a major point of contention, especially for Riis, whose squad is built entirely around supporting Contador for most of the racing season.
“It makes no sense that Contador promotes their race if we do not get anything back,” Riis told Sporten.dk. “He would be a big draw, but he cannot earn points. Why should we go?”
Riis is considering challenging the points exclusion rule at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Contador, meanwhile, says he just want to race his bike.
“I do not race to shut people’s mouths,” Contador said. “I race because it’s what gives me pleasure.”
Obviously, what’s pleasing to Contador pretty much means pain for everyone else.