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.
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.
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.