INTERVIEW: ALBERTO CONTADOR

“I had prepared for this Tour de France like no other before”

Spanish favorite to win French cycling race explains the heavy fall that forced him to withdraw

Alberto Contador after his fall in stage 10 of the Tour de France.
Alberto Contador after his fall in stage 10 of the Tour de France.K. L.

Life deals you blows, said the poet, and so says Alberto Contador.

“And I’m not sure that this isn’t the hardest one I have been ever dealt, because I’ve got a lot of experience under my belt, but this has been really tough,” says the two-time Tour champion after crashing out of this year’s competition on Monday.

Contador, a native of Pinto, Madrid, had been a favorite to win until his fall at stage 10.

If I don’t have surgery, the Vuelta is 100 percent ruled out”

“Although I’d lost time in the general race, I was happy with the way my legs were going and I was ready to fight for victory at the stage in which I fell,” he explains. “But in just one second everything was shot to hell. We were going down at 70-80km/h on a long stretch, I looked up and saw there was no danger ahead. I reached for my pocket, but the moment I lifted my hand from the handle the bike hit a bump and I went down.”

The 31-year-old rider explains that at first he tried to climb back on his bike and keep going, as though nothing had happened. “It was a reflex. But the knee wound was so deep that the articulation was not working. So we waited for the doctor and took it easy,” he says.

Despite the wound, which turned out to be a tibial plateau fracture, the Spanish cyclist still managed to pedal for another 18km and climb a category-one ascent while hardly falling back from the pack.

“I did it, I put up with the pain, because we invested so much work in the Tour that I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want all that work to go to waste, but a moment finally came when I realized that the Tour was over for me.”

At 10.48pm, Contador limped out of the car that took him back to the hotel in Besançon where he slept before flying back to Madrid on Tuesday for further medical tests that will determine whether he needs to undergo surgery.

“I wouldn’t know how to describe my feelings,” he told the four journalists waiting for him. “I am mostly sad over all the sacrifices that I made to reach the Tour in good shape. I worked really hard, and I think I can say that I had never prepared for a Tour the way I had prepared for this one.”

While Tinkoff-Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov and manager Bjarne Riis debated how to remain in a Tour that they had thought they could win, Contador was already thinking about the future.

“If I don’t undergo surgery, the Vuelta is 100-percent ruled out,” he said. “And if I do undergo surgery, we’ll have to analyze it carefully, because it’s not just about getting to the Vuelta, but about getting there in the right condition to fight for victory.”

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