Although he wanted to continue, the results just were not there it seems. For many riders, most actually, podium performances in races like the Tour of Catalonia, Tour of the Basque Country or Paris-Nice, as well as a top-10 performance at the Tour de France would constitute a solid season, but not when you are Alberto Contador, not when you have won every grand tour several times and not when winning is your raison d’être. Alberto Contador never lined up for a race he did not think he could win. Training through racing was simply a foreign concept for one of Spain’s greatest modern champions. When he realized that winning was no longer possible, he opted simply to exit the sport.
AFP and James Startt | Images by James Startt
Alberto Contador announced on Monday that he will bring his illustrious career to an end next month after racing in the Vuelta a Espana on home soil. “I would like to inform you about two things,” the 34-year old announced in a video on his Instagram account this Monday. “One is that I will participate in the next Vuelta a Espana from August 19 and the second is that it will be my last race as a professional cyclist.”
Contador is one of the most-decorated cyclists of all-time with seven Grand Tour victories in total to his name. In addition, he is one of only six riders in the history of the sport to win all three – the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana. “It’s a decision that I have thought through and I don’t think there is a better farewell than in the home race and in my country,” Contador added. “I’m sure they will be three wonderful weeks, enjoying all your affection, and I can’t wait to get started.”
He first shot to fame with victory in the 2007 Tour de France, after coming back from a severe crash related to what doctors described as the beginning of a brain aneurism in 2004. But while his early career was his most illustrious, it was also his most chaotic. He won the 2007 Tour after the yellow jersey, Danish rider Michael Rasmussen, was expelled on doping-related charges. Moving to the Astana team in 2008, he was then not allowed to defend his title when his own team was not allowed in the race for a series of doping incidents unrelated to him. He returned to win the 2009 race, but only after an exhausting internal battle with his own teammate Lance Armstrong. In 2010 Contador first won the Tour in the heat of controversy, accused of attacking Andy Schleck—who was wearing the yellow jersey—while Scheck suffered a mechanical problem in the Pyrénées. But although he wore the yellow jersey into Paris, Contador was later stripped of his third Tour title after traces of Clenbuterol, an illicit substance, were revealed during anti-doping controls.
Contador claimed his failed test had come about from eating contaminated meat, but he was nevertheless stripped of his Tour title, along with that of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.
More Grand Tour success followed his return at the Vuelta in 2012 and 2014 and the Giro in 2015, but Contador failed to rekindle his success in the Tour de France with a fourth-placed finish in 2013, his best result after the doping ban. But he never stopped trying, and his aggressive, ever-attacking style won him as many, if not more fans, then at the height of his career.
Having initially announced his intention to retire at the end of 2016, his impressive form last season encouraged Contador to continue for 2017 as he joined Trek-Segafredo after the Tinkoff team disbanded.
However, he endured a disappointing Tour de France in July, as he finished in ninth place, nearly nine minutes behind race winner Chris Froome. “It has been an honor to work with such a great champion,” Trek-Segafredo general manager Luca Guercilena said today. “Alberto Contador has been showing his fighting spirit and his professionalism all year long. It was great to have him in the team, even it was only for one season, and we will keep giving it our all to help him to achieve a big result in his last Vuelta a Espana.”