Alberto Contador plans on racing full-bore as he enters a nervous waiting game to see if international governing bodies will appeal the Spanish cycling federation’s dramatic decision to clear him of doping charges.
Contador didn’t waste any time upon hearing news that the disciplinary commission made a dramatic U-turn on his doping case and lined up Wednesday morning in Portugal to race less than 24 hours after official confirmation that he was his temporary racing ban was lifted.
“It’s important for my teammates and for my sponsors, who have shown complete faith in me,” Contador said in a televised interview Tuesday evening in Spain. “I am really motivated to get back on the bike.”
Contador flew to Lisbon Tuesday evening, but missed a connection to the Algarve coast and he was forced to make the trip by car, arriving at 2 a.m.
Contador was scheduled to line up in Faro for the 11 a.m. start of the first stage of the five-day Volta a Algarve. As defending champion, Contador lined up with the No. 1 start bib, though he downplayed his chances of taking the overall victory.
“I’ve been training, but I am not in the same shape as I was this time last year,” he said. “I’m excited to race again, but winning will be difficult.”
Contador’s presence at the start line of the Algarve tour reflected the extraordinary change of fortunes for the 28-year-old Spanish rider.
Just days ago, he was looking at a one-year ban and the loss of his 2010 Tour de France crown, but the four-member disciplinary panel reversed its proposed ban and cleared Contador of any doping allegations.
Contador’s temporary ban from August 23 was lifted with the Spanish cycling federation’s decision and he’ll be free to race even if there’s an appeal filed to CAS, though he might decide to step to the sidelines during a second round of legal wrangling.
The big question now is whether or not the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency will appeal the surprise decision. Contador is holding out hope there won’t be.
“It’s important that the UCI and WADA analyze all the documentation as well as look at the resolution, which is a decision based on fairness and a decision based on important legal foundation,” Contador said. “It’s impossible to have more proof in my case.”
For now, Contador plans to focus on returning to competition with his Saxo Bank-Sungard team and let this legal team prepare for the next round of courtroom battles.
After Algarve, Contador said he’ll likely race at the Vuelta a Murcia (March 4-6), the Volta a Catalunya (March 21-27), the Vuelta a Castilla y León (April 13-17) and perhaps the Ardennes classics before the Giro d’Italia (May 7-29), which Contador won in 2008.
“I will plan my season up until the Giro, then we’ll see how events unfold,” Contador said. “There’s a chance the Tour would keep me out, it happened in 2008, but they’ve treated me with respect and they’ve been an example where not everyone has acted like that during this case.”