Contador to start Mallorca Challenge tomorrow

Contador will race tomorrow on the eve of the CAS decision in his ongoing clenbuterol case

February 4, 2012, Mallorca, Spain (VN) — Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) will race Sunday in the opening round of the Mallorca Challenge in what will be his final event ahead of the long-anticipated ruling in his ongoing doping case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Contador will race in Sunday’s Trofeo de Palma, a circuit course in central Palma de Mallorca, and then return to his home near Madrid on Monday to await the CAS ruling.

CAS officials said a decision will finally be released Monday in his long-running clenbuterol case dating back to the 2010 Tour de France.

The Mallorca Challenge could be Contador’s final race if CAS hands down a racing ban. He faces up to two years and the disqualification of his 2010 Tour victory if the three-member panel comes down against him.

Other victories he’s earned, such as the 2011 Giro d’Italia as well as the overall titles at the Murcia and Catalunya tours, could be stripped as well.

Contador, meanwhile, has insisted on his innocence and hopes to be cleared of charges, which would open the door for his participation in the 2012 Tour de France.

There have been innumerable delays in the CAS process, with the latest coming on the heels of accusations about the impartiality of the three-member panel set to decide Contador’s fate.

Word has it that the final ruling is being parsed by lawyers to assure that there is no room for an appeal in civil court. CAS officials have assured the media that a decision will be released by Monday.

Mallorca has seen several key chapters of Contador’s sporting life played out on the scenic Mediterranean island.

During the 2008 Mallorca Challenge, an angry Contador heard the news that his then-Astana team would be excluded from that year’s Tour, meaning he would not be able to defend his Tour crown that year.

Last year, Contador held an emotional press conference in the wake of hearing the news that the Spanish cycling federation would hand him a reduced, one-year sentence in his clenbuterol case. Contador angrily denied the allegations and said the only thing he was guilty of “was eating contaminated steaks.”

The Spanish federation later reversed its decision and cleared Contador of all charges, and Contador hurriedly started the Volta ao Algarve the following day in Portugal.

Contador’s presence will somewhat overshadow the start of the 2012 Spanish racing calendar with the Mallorca Challenge, reduced from five to four days.

Some 21 teams will participate in the series of one-day races (an unofficial overall champion is designated, but riders can start any of the four days during the week).

Several big names will open their respective racing seasons, including Tour champion Cadel Evans (BMC), the Schleck brothers (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) as well as Vuelta a España champion Juanjo Cobo and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

Frigid temperatures and snow on the higher-elevation roads could force organizers to reroute some of the races.