Contador’s jersey giveaway

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Trofeo Senza Fine

It might sound strange at first but right now Alberto Contador is desperate to unload the Giro’s pink jersey and try as he might, it’s not happening. During today’s stage he was seen on TV talking to Garmin-Cervélo riders Murilo Fischer and David Millar whilst Christophe Le Mevel was up the road in the breakaway, presumably saying he’d be perfectly happy to see Le Mevel stay away if the Frenchman could only take the lead on the GC. This isn’t a secret either, much of the media are reporting this, for example cyclingnews.com.

Why?
Well the jersey comes with prize money and publicity each day but Contador and his team have eyes on the bigger prize: the overall win and the Trofeo Senza Fine, the “trophy without end” pictured above that goes to the winner in Milan.

Right now everyone wants a moment with the leader. Contador skipped the post-race press conference yesterday and copped a fine for this. But he wants to get back to his hotel and put his feet up instead of answer often repetitive questions every day, like “how did you get on today?” and “how is morale on the team?

It’s an honour to lead the race but a fact that the jersey is not without its burdens. You have to be “available” for everyone, the face of the race and ready with a word for the cameras before and after, not to mention fans wanting signatures and pictures. It means the time on the bike during the race is often the most peaceful part of the day.

Contador podium

Apparently leading a stage race is too much of a burden

What’s most interesting is that everybody else on the race probably wants Contador to lose the jersey for now:

  • Every other rider in the race would be delighted with the glory and prestige, not to mention ranking points and prize money
  • The race organisers want the race to have drama and seeing the lead change often is very much part of this
  • Above all the media probably want someone else. Contador is very dynamic on the bike but he’s not the life and soul of the press conference or TV interview to put it politely. His media appearances are decent but bland. Plus despite speaking good English, he insists on using Spanish in front of the media, few of whom speak Spanish.

Personally I find it a shame that the lead in this race is considered a pesky burden. It might be a long term strategy to avoid media duties and additional pressure but it’s not without its risks and it can devalue the race and the jersey if it’s not seen as desirable.

Let’s also remember there’s a Swiss clock ticking in the background and Contador might get a ban in June from the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration in Sport. If this is the case then both he and his team need every bit of good publicity possible. And it wouldn’t hurt to keep the media sweet either.

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{ 29 comments }

Sal Ruibal May 18, 2011 at 11:19 pm

I think its because pink doesn’t go well with his complexion.

Gary May 18, 2011 at 11:34 pm

And here I thought it was going to be another contest ;)

beev May 19, 2011 at 12:02 am

Contador is now 5-1 on! Nibali 12-1, scarponi 50-1, kreuziger 70-1, 100-1 bar!!!! (I even got 500-1 on menchov the 2 days ago)

Quite frankly, unless there is a concerted effort amongst the big teams to unseat him, or bad luck befalls him, it’s hard to see where the threat to AC comes from. He really is rather good on the bike….

Shags May 19, 2011 at 12:17 am

any chance of a decision before the end of this race? Fuck Conta

Damien May 19, 2011 at 12:55 am

The Giro is a sweaty mess, he needs to pull a Roche and collapse every now and then. Once after loosing time on a stage in Paris Nice Sean Kelly blamed not eating enough spuds the evening before at din dins. I dont blame Berto wanting to get back to his 3 star hotel so he can kick it with cereal and watch or post on youtube. Every minute counts and as they say, one bad day…. he might well cringe at how much time he wasted in the cage behind the podium, debating whether he will be bigger than Merckx.

Champs May 19, 2011 at 2:13 am

I know plenty of native Spanish speakers, and none could fake just how badly Contador speaks English, no matter how much every first world European child has it drilled in. Frankly I would rather hear his translator. Menchov, I’m not sure if he’s ever even attempted it.

El Tejan May 19, 2011 at 3:31 am

@shag: chill out, mmkay?

@inrng: not every other rider wants the jersey now. Indeed, many teams want contador and therefore saxo bank to carry the burden of the jersey during this second week. The late chase by lampre, liquigas et al was evidence of this strategy.

Champs May 19, 2011 at 3:54 am

Gentleman’s rules: you don’t attack the leader in the final stage of a grand tour (time trials excepted), and you always honor the jersey. There was quite a bit of anger some weeks ago when Euskaltel, of all teams, declined to defend the leader’s jersey after one of their riders earned it in a time trial, of all things.

As a Contador supporter, I thought it rather classless when he said that his team would not carry the maglia rosa all the way to Milan.

Don May 19, 2011 at 4:03 am

I don’t think any of the teams care about Contador. Watch the race for 2nd place, that’s where all the action is. Too bad Saxo Bank is getting all the publicity, while all the 2nd place rider is going to get is his name in the record books as the winner.

Chris May 19, 2011 at 5:03 am

Isn’t this why they have team captains to do the on the road negotiating ? It would have been far less obvious if one of the other saxo bank boys were having the discussions with Millar I think.

JustJoshinYa May 19, 2011 at 5:04 am

I hate to pile it on (to the above comments), but the contador “giveaway” will eventually yield to the CAS takeaway. I, for one, find that sad. The process (assuming he loses the appeal to CAS) needs to be sped up so I can enjoy his brilliance on the bike, instead of thinking all of this is a race for 2nd…

Guadzilla May 19, 2011 at 6:49 am

I love all the “gentleman’s rules” about the need to honor the jersey being parroted by people who will never even participate in the race, let alone ever wear the maglia rosa. Bike racing is as much about tactics as anything else and I for one find the whole defend/don’t defend decision-making fascinating. Any of the top 10 guys would make the same decision in a heartbeat if it meant that they would win the jersey.

I guess haters need some reason to hate. When that Texan Hero was doing it, it was a strategy masterclass. When that dark, non-English-speaking Spaniard does it, he’s dishonoring the jersey. GMAFB.

Owen May 19, 2011 at 8:04 am

It is Contador’s fault he has the jersey; he’s the one who attacked on Etna after all. As soon as he got it though, I said to my wife, who wasn’t listening or interested, that he’d want to get rid of it.
The trouble is, he can’t help himself, he’s a competitor, and if he’s got the legs he’ll go.
(And I’m not a fan, I hate what he had in his blood, however it got there, but I do respect him.)

Jay Taylor May 19, 2011 at 8:05 am

Shags…dude, really? This isn’t Cyclingnews.com, this is a place for thoughtful, interesting comments. You are totally entitled to your opinion on Contador, but everyone on here does an awesome job of keeping it respectful and you should too. Thanks.

Jay Taylor May 19, 2011 at 8:09 am

And Champs, I would say to you, would you feel comfortable giving a press conference to the assembled global press in Spanish? or Russian? English is not innately easier to learn than other languages; it’s just the lingua franca of our time that non-English speakers are compelled to communicate in for a wide audience. I think a little compassion and understanding are in order. You and I are incredibly privileged to speak English as our native language (I assume). If riders wanna use a translator, I say go for it. Better to get your thoughts out accurately and have a pro translate them for you.

The Inner Ring May 19, 2011 at 8:13 am

His English isn’t great… but he’s not using big words in Spanish either, just “the team did a good job” and so on. Of course the French want him to speak a few words of French and the Italians want some Italian but a few words of English would help a bit.

One more thought is that several team managers over the years have had trouble holding him back, they have tried to get him to attack later or to watch his rivals more. But he’s often ignored the ideas. It’s something Radioshack DS Alain Gallopin mentioned a while back.

Take the move on Etna, is was relatively early to attack solo like that and he’s said it’s impulsive. But we’ve seen other moves, for example in Andorra during the 2009 Tour de France. As much as he doesn’t want the jersey, he went looking for it and probably against the wishes of Bjarne Riis.

Jay Taylor May 19, 2011 at 8:24 am

Good point; he must have known darn well what he was getting into with that kind of attack on Etna. It does seem a bit odd to make such a bold attack that would obviously result in the pink jersey and then backpedal to get another team to take it off his shoulders the next day. Although, trying to put Le Mevel in the pink jersey would seem to be smart as though Le Mevel may be close to Contador right now on GC, he is not a serious long-term threat. I doubt Contador would have been as eager if Nibali or Scarponi had been up the road, for example.

Still, I agree with you that the comments and negotiations do undermine the prestige of the jersey and seem a bit disrespectful towards the race. Contador’s free to have those opinions, but maybe he could be a bit cagier when discussing his plans with the eager media.

Stefan May 19, 2011 at 9:46 am

Don, inrng, could you shortly explain: If Contador wins but is later banned, then I assume the 2nd is listed as the “winner” in the history books? Does the same go for stage wins? Is the prize money redistributed, do sponsors reconsider their bonus payments? Thx.

The Inner Ring May 19, 2011 at 9:52 am

Stefan: if the ban is, say, a year and this period includes the Giro then yes the winner will be whoever finishes second. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Tour_de_Romandie where Valverde was banned and the win awarded to Simon Špilak. The same goes for stage wins and supposedly prize money.

It’s a farce and means many results are uncertain although I believe he has the right to ride as his case is not under hearing, but appeal.

Ironman May 19, 2011 at 10:22 am

Mevel was to dangerous to have in the break which is why Saxo kept the distance around 2 min until other teams took over. Had someone who would have lost 30 min+ on the next mountainstage taken the jersey then fine, but with Mevel in the break it was to dangerous.

I personally think that AC and the team had the attack on Etna planned. It worked and now AC can ride defensive for the rest of the Giro. Liquigas and Lampre will help on the upcoming mountain stages as Scarponi and Nibali will not aim for the podium and stage wins.

All this because the “real prize” is the TdF! AC will want to be able to win the Giro with as little effort as possible in the rest of the Giro. He will win the mountain TT and ride defensive on the rest of the mountain stages …

And; the whole setup on the Etna stage with the bike-change and going away on the big ring (was it a 50-34 he rode??) reminded me of what Riis did on Hautacam in 1996!?

Finally – not wanting to defend the jersey for 2 weeks is nothing new – I think I’ve heard Armstrong argue that they would not mind loosing the jersey 6 out of the 7 times he won the TdF, so stop the AC bashing plz!

Champs May 19, 2011 at 10:55 am

@Jay Taylor: the post states “despite speaking good English” and I must disagree with that. His English is not good, and I really don’t care what language, sign, or semaphore any rider chooses to express his feelings about the race, as long as it’s done well.

On a related note, it’s hilarious to watch Peter Sagan look completely helpless on the podium at the Tour of California. I know German, but it would be hard to understand a native speaker on a loud stage. Fake it ’til you make it!

craa22uk May 19, 2011 at 11:41 am

Speaking of good english:
“And it wouldn’t help to keep the media sweet either.”

Mix up of:
“And it wouldn’t *hurt* to keep the media sweet either.”
&
“And it *would* help to keep the media sweet *too*.”

?

The Inner Ring May 19, 2011 at 11:42 am

craa22uk: thanks. This blog is a collaborative effort.

Jay Taylor May 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm

@champs,Yeah, Contador’s English not very pleasant to listen to, I agree. Interviews just aren’t the poor guy’s forte.

bikecellar May 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Anyone got any comments on Cav’s Italian?

The Inner Ring May 19, 2011 at 6:37 pm

bikecellar: it’s “conversational” and improving. He lives in Italy and the Italian media seem pleased to see him make the effort to speak in Italian after the stage.

Damien May 19, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Remember and dont ever forget before drawing any conclusions and spiraling into endless debate, that we really dont know half the story and the half we know is probably what they want us to know. Andorra was a strike of genius, perfectly timed aggression to put the ball in the other court. Etna gave him a nice minute, you need space and the right grade to ride a minute gap on the best climbers in the World. He may be stressed having to give more of the half story every day than normal but nothing compared to the damage a week of self doubt will do to his rivals as they ride up the coast.

Damien May 19, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Cav’s Italian is friggin brilliant at 185 bpm!

bikecellar May 21, 2011 at 8:39 am

Point taken Damien, His legs are multi lingual!!!!

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