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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
10. Inspiration and Support
by Rebecca Bell

Thousands of cancer patients know that Lance Armstrong commemorates the date October 2nd, 1996. Armstrong, whose name symbolizes victory, received diagnosis that day, and his epic battle with testicular cancer began.

The corresponding date in Alberto Contador’s life is May 12th. On that Monday in 2004, Contador collapsed due to a congenital vascular condition. His journey through surgery, uncertainty, and recovery has shaped his character profoundly.

A month in the hospital and six months under the watchful eye of doctors, when he was forbidden to cycle, blessed him with a rare opportunity: time to think deeply about life, his career, and his prospects for the future.

During this time, he studied the example of Armstrong.

“He was my inspiration. He is a champion. I admire him tremendously. When I read his book for the first time, I didn’t pay attention to the details about cancer. The second time, it was in the hospital. There, I read it with great interest, and it gave me courage.”

Another source of support was Manolo Saiz. The former directeur sportif at ONCE and Liberty-Seguros has been in the hot seat since the spring of 2006, embroiled in the doping scandal that has preoccupied cycling’s headlines.

In typical tabloid fashion, Saiz’s character has been simplified and maligned in the press. Anyone who remembers his arms around Joseba Beloki, after that disastrous crash in the Tour 2003, knows there’s more to the man’s true nature than what has appeared lately in the rags.

Said Contador of Saiz’s behavior during his illness, “the accident made us much closer. My parents knew Manolo by what they read in the press, where sometimes he doesn’t have good critics. They found someone who was always there for their son, not knowing even if he could still race.”

“My parents were amazed. In a world where money prevails, Manolo did his utmost for me and my family. We will be grateful to him forever.”

On November 17, 2004, Contador took control of his own destiny. Protected by a loving family, inspired by a hero, and supported by a bulwark, he did something that astounded his doctors.

He climbed on a bicycle and started to train.

Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong
2004 Tour de France
Copyright © Pete Geyer

Manolo Saiz
Manolo Saiz
2004 Paris-Nice
Copyright © Pete Geyer

Race Report, Stage 10
Tallard-Marseille – 229.5km

Today’s stage ended uneventfully for Alberto Contador. Contador and the other GC leaders used the flat stage to get back to normal after the drama of the Alps.

“Today we were okay, even though the tempo at the start was violent, and the road was bad. Everybody wanted to get into the breakaway, so it was difficult. We rode very fast until kilometer 70, but later things calmed down, because the best rider in the breakaway was at 24 minutes,” Contador commented.

At the end of the day the pace changed again. “The last climb was aggressive, but not a problem. It’s been a boring stage, like all long stages,” he said.

Although it was dull, the stage wasn’t restful. “With the high temperatures we’ve had, the road in bad shape and so many kilometers, it’s impossible to talk about recovery, but we’ve certainly been more comfortable than in the last few days.”

Tomorrow is another one just like the other one, a transitional stage leading up to the time trial at Albi on Saturday.

Alberto’s results today:

Stage 10    42nd     10:36
Young rider    10th       9:35

GC        5th      3:08
Young rider    1st

Translations by Christine Kahane

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Alberto Contador banner design: Nicky Orr   Banner photo: Christine Kahane

Alberto Contador wallpaper
Alberto Contador Wallpaper

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