In an unusual move among PR efforts, Specialized brought Alberto Contador to the U.S. for a brief (two day) whirlwind (rides in Mill Valley and Morgan Hill, Calif.) tour. Its rare that a U.S.-based sponsor brings a European athlete to the states for anything other Interbike appearances. They sit around and sign autographs for an hour and thats about it. Sometimes youll see them at a party or in some casino, but the poster signing is about it.
Instead, Twitter followers of Contador, Specialized or a few journalists found out at the proverbial eleventh hour that this years Giro dItalia winner would be doing a ride from Mikes Bikes in Sausalito.
Why Mikes Bikes? Easy. With nine locations around the Bay Area, they are one of the largest bike retailers in the U.S. and the biggest Specialized dealer in the Bay Area, perhaps their biggest dealer period.
The plan was to do a short ride with just the journalists up to the Marin Headlands to overlook the Golden Gate bridge. Some of Contadors fans were so excited, though, that they showed up for the noon ride by 10:30 and ended up following us out on our ride.
As we hit the first ramps coming out of Sausalito, someonenot Contadorlit it up at the front and what I thought would be pretty easygoing turned into a real group ride. I couldnt tell for sure, but I think Contadors mouth was still closed and he was breathing through his nose as I fell off the back.
By noon, an estimated 200 to 250 riders had shown up for the Twitter ride. Riders encircled the shop; as we were rolling out there were cyclists in attendance who really hadnt even had the opportunity to see their hero yet. We seemed to pick up riders as we rolled, causing the group to swell.
Theres a loop through Tiburon known as Paradise that we did for the ride. Honestly, riders were so excited to see Contador that some were taking awful risks. I saw plenty of overlapped wheels while they snapped away with their iPhones, guys riding over the yellow lines on blind curves with oncoming traffic. It got a bit sketchy. To his credit, Contador remained completely calm and never slipped out of the front dozen riders.
In the afternoon, we had a short press conference with him, while the Specialized European team liaison translated.
Q: Would you have planned your season any differently had your arbitration been set November all along?
AC: Im very happy with the results I achieved at the Giro. My intention was to tdo the Giro anyway. I wanted to use it for prep for the Tour. But I realized that the Giro was tough, very tough when I got there. I didnt expect the Giro to be so hard.
Q: How do you feel about doing the double in the future?
AC: I believe its possible. There are many factors that are very important. The course has to be perfect (for me). Same thing at the Tour. A super-strong team that can help me with the protection I need.
Q: Pat McQuaid has said hed like to move to an independent tribunal. Is that appropriate?
AC: If there is a high level of objectivity that would be really good. It could be faster but there would need to be the control of an external organization.
Q: No one beats CAS. Are you confident?
AC: Im very confident. Because of all the controls, the scientific facts support my case. Im confident because of all the experts who are supporting my case. I think there will be a favorable resolution.
Q: Does it affect you when you race?
AC: When I race I dont think about it.
Q: Does the decision by WADA not to impose limits on clenbuterol strike you as fair?
AC: I dont believe this decision will affect my case. I strongly believe there will be a change in the acceptable level of Clenbuterol in the future. Probably right after my case is resolved.
Q: Is it possible to win all year with the super teams like RS, BMC, etc?
AC: I believe it will be difficult, but I also believe its possible, because its all the same riders winning the other races.
Q: What races havent you won that youd most like to achieve a victory in?
AC: Id like to win some Classics. Fleche Wallonne or Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The problem is that its not the best training program for my larger objectives. Id like to win Tirreno-Adriatico. There arent many others, but the World Championship is one.
Q: Do you plan on racing in the U.S?
AC: I would love to race the Tour of California. I feel that cycling is getting bigger and bigger here. Right now the US is getting more and more important in world cycling. The reason I didnt come here the last two years is because of the new date and the fact it conflicted with the Giro. I believe the Tour of California could change my chances at the Tour de France for the worse. If I come to the Tour of California Im not coming to ride, Im coming to win.
Q: About the bikes: Having time on the Tarmac SL4, whats your feedback?
AC: Its less harsh than the SL3. So such a change in a bike at the last minute is very difficult to assimilate at the last minute. (Which is why he rode the SL3 at the Tour de France.)
Q: How much input did you have into the new bike?
AC: One of the reasons that I am here is because of the objective Specialized and I have for making things better. Specialized is a brand that is dedicated to making things better. I wanted a certain kind of time trial bike. Its very difficult to find a company that can give you the right equipment. There are many other brands that have tried to go other ways. No one has ever reached the level of Specialized.