VN: Do you see yourself as a Tour winner someday?
AT: I do believe under the right circumstances, it is a possibility. Look at Bradley Wiggins this year. He had the fitness, the course was perfect for him, he didn’t have any problems, and it all came together for him. Regardless of who you are, that’s what you need to win the Tour. First, I need to ride the race, to learn the race, then I can go back with the intention of riding the GC. We will see what’s possible. I really don’t know if I am capable of winning it. We will see.
VN: When you say “ideal,” what would be ideal for you?
AT: I would say, after watching this year’s Tour, it would have been a nice course for me. I wouldn’t mind a few longer climbs. Maybe a team time trial and one more hard uphill finish. A more balanced course is ideal for me.
VN: Some people said this year’s Tour was terribly boring…
AT: As a rider, I didn’t find it boring. I found it pretty incredible. To me it was really exciting to see what Wiggins did at the Tour. (Sky) did everything for that race. They did everything in a way that people laughed at the year before. Everyone said Wiggins cannot win the Tour. People said he couldn’t do it. People laughed at Sky and their methods. People said Wiggins peaked too early. I never thought that once. They knew what they were doing the entire time. It’s like a piece of art. They executed their plan to perfection. They made it their race. That is so difficult to do, to control what is seemingly uncontrollable. I really enjoyed seeing that. It’s like conquering some mythical monster. And they did it completely clean, something that hasn’t been seen in this sport in a long day. They did something that people thought was impossible.
VN: Do you believe Sky and Wiggins did it clean?
AT: I have no doubt that they did it clean. I know what went into their training. I know guys on that team. I know Richie Porte. I know Chris Froome. I’ve seen Wiggins all year. They have taken a different approach. They have left nothing to chance. There is no team in cycling that does things the way they do it. Fans do not understand what they put into it. They had four, five guys on Tenerife, doing intervals, suffering, away from their friends, and they did that a few times this year. They had the same guys racing from Algarve all the way to the Tour. I completely believe they did it clean. There is not a doubt in my mind.
VN: Do you, and some of your generation, feel a sense of responsibility to race clean?
AT: I cannot speak for the other guys. I can say that what Jonathan wrote in The New York Times is true. I cannot speak about what happened in this sport, I only know what everyone else knows. Maybe that casts some negative publicity on the sport and people want to doubt us. All I can say is I am never going to have to make the choice between following my dream and compromising my own moral values in order to do so. I am not going to judge the guys who did. I was not in their shoes. I do not have to face that decision. You see journalists and fans who say there was an easy choice, the choice was to not do anything. It’s really hard to say that. It’s easy for me to say that. I would never, never do drugs, but I will never be faced with that decision.
You can judge all you want; the reality is none of us were in Jonathan’s or David Millar’s shoes. If you read his book, when he started out he was 100-percent convinced he would never do drugs, and little by little, things changed and he made a decision that he has to live with for the rest of his life. There is nobody in this sport who has done more to be outspoken about it. Because of Millar and Jonathan, riders like myself, Taylor (Phinney), Tejay (van Garderen), Joe Dombrowski, Alex Howes, Peter Stetina, we never have to make that decision. What I will say is that we do have an obligation to do things the right way; now it’s a very easy thing to do. It’s not a choice for us. It’s the way things are done. We train, we recover, we race our bikes. There is nothing else. Our team takes that stance. The riders in the peloton take that stance. We know it’s our responsibility to show people what can be achieved completely clean.
VN: A lot of fans and media are incredulous. They simply do not believe the peloton has changed or that Wiggins could win the Tour clean. How do you deal with that skepticism?
AT: A second part of that is I also believe that fans and journalists owe it to us to believe in us, because we have never given them a reason not to. Every single day we race our bikes, we race clean. Taylor, winning the Giro prologue; Tejay, fifth in the Tour; me, second in Romandie to Wiggins, who won the Tour – every single result we get in this generation is proving that the sport is clean, proving that we are clean, and proving the majority of the peloton is clean.
What I feel is unfair is I do not feel like I owe it to a single person to show some proof that I am clean, because I do show it. I do get tested. I have a biological passport. I go out and work my ass off. I really wish sometimes that people could see how we live. Come take a look into my life for a week, to see what it takes to compete at this level. People think they know and understand, but until you live it at this level, it’s hard to truly understand. Even professional cyclists do not understand what it takes to compete at the top level clean. It’s more than anyone can imagine. It’s dedicating your entire life. I feel like some fans should believe in us. We are a completely new generation. Like Wiggins said in the Tour, he doesn’t have time for them. If you do not believe in me? More than passing doping controls, more than a blood passport, more than getting results? You cannot prove a negative. There is no more that we can do.
VN: That’s what everyone always said in the past, that they never failed a doping test. That is not proof that they were not doped to the gills…
AT: That’s fine. They can continue saying that. I am not going to try to convince them. That’s what people always say. Look at numbers. Vaughters posted it. What is the watts-per-kilogram now? With Rodríguez, it was 6.1. I was at 5.8. Those are doable numbers. That’s what winning races. It’s not 6.7, it’s not seven anymore. The numbers are there to prove it. It’s premised on assuming that we are clean. In my neo-pro year, I was getting results in time trials; that’s not possible if people are doping. I was close to Wiggins at Romandie; that’s not possible if Wiggins is doping. What I am seeing at this Vuelta is that people are winning because they are better riders. That is what I choose to believe. I have no reason to not believe that these people are exceptional. It’s hard to read the headlines; the reality is that the sport is changing. The riders in the peloton are changing. There is no tolerance for doping now. People who do are outcasts. They are looked at differently. When guys come back, it’s not the same.