Road

Xavier Tondo: Spain’s reluctant source

Xavier Tondo is sleeping at 2,300 meters this week in Spain’s high-altitude training facility in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but he probably wishes he could even be further away from the spotlight after a wild week that saw him “outed” as the source in Spain’s latest doping investigation.

Xavier Tondo is sleeping at 2,300 meters this week in Spain’s high-altitude training facility in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but he probably wishes he could even be further away from the spotlight after a wild week that saw him “outed” as the source in Spain’s latest doping investigation.

2010 Vuelta a Espana, stage 11: Tondo paced himself and finished third on the stage.
Tondo, here at the 2010 Vuelta, now rides with Movistar.

The Movistar Team rider was named by the Spanish daily El País late last week as the anonymous tip for a low-level doping ring that was busted up by officials in his home region of Catalunya.

Tondo never expected his name to be broadcast all over the world when he contacted police last December via e-mail and he says he wasn’t looking for that kind of attention.

“Xavier doesn’t want to speak about what happened. He wasn’t looking for publicity. Quite the contrary, he was only doing his civic duty,” Movistar team spokesman David García told VeloNews. “Someone he doesn’t even know contacted him about some illicit products and he did what anyone would do – he contacted the police. He wrote an e-mail alerting them to what happened and nothing more. That was the end of the story, as far as he thought.”

If Tondo thought that would be the end of the story, he was wrong.

Spain has more leaks than the Titanic on a good day in the north Atlantic. News regularly is leaked to the Spanish media long before the interested parties even know what’s going on, so Tondo shouldn’t be too surprised to see his name is headlines.

Much of the news from Operación Puerto blood doping ring from 2006 was leaked from police sources via Spanish media long before the courts ever got their hands on the official documents.

The most recent example is Alberto Contador, who was incensed when he learned that he would be cleared of doping charges by the Spanish cycling federation only via leaks in the Spanish press rather than through official channels.

Tondo, who is preparing for a run at Paris-Nice next month, never expected his name to make headlines and it was the last thing he wanted when he contacted police, García said.

“Everyone in the world has been calling him, but (publicity) is not why he contacted officials,” García said. “He’s a little upset that his name came to light. Imagine if you called police and gave information about the mafia, you wouldn’t want that to be published in the newspaper. He just did what was right.”

The hubbub is putting Tondo’s name in headlines, whether he likes it or not, but perhaps not for the reasons he’d like.

At 32, Tondo is a hard-working Spanish rider who is finally making inroads into the elite peloton. He was forced to ride on smaller Spanish teams and raced in Portugal to find a contract before Cervélo offered him a contract last year.

He paid them back in spades, winning stages at Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya, where he also finished second overall, before finishing sixth overall at the 2010 Vuelta a España. Tondo is intent on making the most of his late calling to the bigs.

“I don’t know why it took me so long to get a team like this (Movistar). David Arroyo won the sub-23 Spanish championships in 1999 and signed a pro contract with ONCE the next day. I was second but I didn’t turn pro until 2003,” Tondo told VeloNews earlier this month. “I am just glad to get an opportunity like this.”

Tondo has seen an upside; he’s being hailed as a reluctant hero in many circles. Jonathan Vaughters, boss at Garmin-Cervélo, wrote in a diary on cyclingnews.com about how he had Tondo all wrong.

Tondo, however, doesn’t want to be seen as some sort of crusader. He simply is a man doing what he loves to do, says García.

“He’s not trying to wave the flag. He wants to get back to the business of racing his bike,” García said. “What’s good is that this is further proof that cycling is changing. Xavier feels good that he did the right thing.”