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Sunday, July 29, 2007
20. Amadeus
by Rebecca Bell

On Sunday, July 29, 2007, Alberto Contador won the Tour de France.

Speaking as someone who just a few months ago was lying in a hospital bed, with a bandaged head, wondering if I would recover enough to live a normal life, coping with the fear that I would never be able to function as a musician again, my reaction to Alberto’s success has been stunned silence.

Yes, yes, laughter and many tears, too. I know that my feelings on this subject are personal and very subjective. But I won’t withhold them. I’m crazy, okay? I had brain surgery.

Life is precious, also strange. Answers to the most deeply disturbing problems come from unexpected sources.

I know now that when I came out from under anesthesia after surgery, it was Alberto Contador’s birthday. When my husband read to me that Alberto had signed with Discovery Channel in January, I gasped, and drew in the first deep and healing breath of life in many months.

Contador has been an uncanny beacon to me in 2007. He has drawn me up, off the sickbed. There has consistently been a divine sense of timing throughout illness and recovery. Part of it has been the number of times I’ve tuned into a live broadcast seconds before Alberto attacked, put down the hammer, and won a race.

Fate had it that Alberto Contador’s example would bring me back to life. I’ve been strangely blessed to draft him up one hell of a mountain. The process has drummed out a tattoo in my fragile head: Get up, Rebecca. Go on. Try again. It feels good to fight. Illness is a gift that gives you a special edge, unique perspective, hors catégorie capacities.

And now, post-Champs Élysées, those words are—in my mind—pulsating with light, indelible.

I was in Vienna last week, catching up on the Tour between duties accompanying  student opera performances. Following in the footsteps of Mozart in the city, I knew there was a parallel here, and emailed my husband Er ist so wie ein junger Mozart. He’s like young Mozart.

Alberto is now a superstar. Mixed with the sweetness of his success are slings and arrows to be endured—crushes of people, bodyguards, suspicion and rank nastiness from the press.

The press, a seething flashing school of piranha fish. A question the young hero can’t escape is “Did he do this under his own power? Did he have ‘help’ going up the Plateau de Beille, over the Galibier?”

To this, I just laugh, and revert to the angle Peter Shaffer took in his play Amadeus. Contador is deeply blessed, divinely touched. A mortal, of course, nevertheless God’s own creature.

Of course he had help.

Race Report, Stage 20
Marcoussis - Paris Champs-Élysées, 146km

Alberto Contador on the Champs Élysées, arms raised in victory salute: “It’s a dream come true.”

Alberto finished the final lap of the Champs Élysées today, and was proclaimed winner of the Tour de France 2007. Clad in yellow from head to toe—save for patches of white in honor of his Best Young Rider status—he celebrated his epic victory with the rest of the team. “It’s an incredible sensation, to feel in your skin the sound of the Spanish national anthem while on the podium. It’s a dream come true.”

Contador went from the suffering of the time trial to the immense happiness of the podium in Paris. “In the TT, I had checks on my rivals,” he remembered, “but I did’t know if they were giving me the good or bad times. The stage was a heart attack, but that way you savored it more,” said the maillot jaune, who admitted he didn’t expect to win this Tour. “When I took the start I was anticipating a fight for the white jersey, but I didn’t know that the yellow one would come, too.”

Contador refused comparisons with his predecessor on Discovery Channel, the legendary Lance Armstrong. “I already know that comparisions can’t be made. At the moment I have won one Tour and next year I will come with a lot of motivation, certainly, but the most important thing now is the party that we’ll have tonight. Nobody can take that away from us.”

Alberto’s results

Final Top Ten Overall

1. Alberto Contador (Sp), Discovery Channel,  91:00:26
2. Cadel Evans (Aus), Predictor-Lotto, at 00:23
3. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Discovery Channel , at 00:31
4. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, at 07:08
5. Haimar Zubeldia (Esp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 08:17
6. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 11:37
7. Kim Kirchen (Lux), T-Mobile, at 12:18
8. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Discovery Channel, at 12:25
9. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 14:14
10. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 14:25

New Palmarès

Champion, 2007 Tour de France
Best Young Rider
Member of Discovery Channel Team, winner of Team Competition
1st, Stage 14
2nd, King of the Mountains


Translations by Christine Kahane

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