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Tuesday, July 17, 2007
9. Asturias 2004
by Rebecca Bell

“Our passage on earth is only transitional; we are nothing, but it’s okay this way.”

On May 12, 2004, an ambitious young man set out on the first stage of the Vuelta a Asturias. Although eager to complete important preparation for the Tour de France, he hadn’t felt well for several days, and was experiencing severe headaches. Facing 174 kilometers of cold and rain, he bundled up, got on the bike and started to pedal.

That day, somewhere between Oviedo and Llanes, an event occurred that would nearly end his life.

“On that day I was chatting with the sports manager and we didn’t know if I would do the stage or not.  I really wanted to start because the Vuelta a Asturias is just prior to the Tour de France, and I knew that it was fundamental to arrive there in good shape. 
I decided to leave and after 30 kilometers I started to feel bad, and after 40 kilometers—the whole team was leading the pack—I  suddenly started to fall, I was told that my eyes rolled upwards, and finally I started to have convulsions on the bike and soon fell to the ground.”

Alberto Contador was suffering from a congenital vascular disorder known as a cavernoma. Cavernomas cause bleeding in the brain and can lead to hemorraghic stroke. In the hands of a skillful neurosurgeon, they can be repaired.

In Alberto’s case, a dangerous surgery and hours of anesthesia couldn’t keep him from dreaming that he was riding in the Tour de France. Within three hours of awakening from surgery, he proved that even severe brain trauma hadn’t shaken his focus. His first words to his parents: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“My mother heard this many times. We quarreled on this subject. I know there are things that are impossible, but if you do everything you can to get them, you have a better chance to reach your goal.”

“The Asturias accident is not even a bad memory for me… when I saw the images on TV, I had the impression that our passage on earth is only transitional, that we are nothing, that it’s okay this way and that suddenly you can be struck with a fatal misfortune.

The experience made me mature a lot. You start to see things from another point of view. You realize that cycling as well as life depends on many things.”

Alberto Contador before Paris-Nice 2007
Alberto before Paris-Nice, 2007
Copyright © Christine Kahane

Race Report, Stage 9

"My attack was worth it, because big favorites lost several minutes today”

Alberto Contador earned the white jersey for best young rider today. He conquered the Galibier and took 5th place in the GC, a hefty reward for his spectacular attack 5 km from the summit.

He said the strategy of the day was foreseen in part. “It’s true that we were looking for a stage win with Gusev, Hincapie, or Popovych, but I was a little surprised that nobody moved on the Galibier. I expected to see Moreau and Mayo try it, and when that didn’t happen, I decided to attack with 5 km left. We ran into a headwind in the last 40 km, so it didn’t work out, but we put on a good show.”

Certainly, Contador would have preferred that “we weren’t caught by the leader’s group, but I’m convinced we profited by our maneuver. You never know what can happen in the Tour. Those that lost time today could force me to lose it later.”

Contador knew that his efforts were worthwhile. “Today there have been big favorites who lost several minutes in the GC, like Schleck, Kashechkin, Vinokourov, and Menchov. Also, I wanted to give it a go. Besides, among all of us, we have to try to create some excitement.”

The Alps are history now in the Tour 2007, so Contador is starting to think about what will happen in the Pyrenees. “The first thing is to see what’s left of the GC after the time trial, and who takes yellow, because if the new leader is Evans, for example, the race will change. Anyway, it’s certain that the Pyrenees will be action-packed, and every day different.”

About the race favorites, Alberto said that “now the group is more closed, with people who are separated by gaps. We will all meet again in the Pyrenees, which will be a different story from the Alps.”

Alberto’s results today:

Stage 9    4th     0:40
Young rider    2nd     0:40

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

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