It is often said that you can’t make a race horse out of a Donkey . Talent will always shine through . Yesterday one Astana rider showed that he was no Donkey .
Alberto Contador or ‘Bertie’ as he is known , laid down a marker for the upcoming season . By winning the opening time trial of Paris – Nice seven seconds ahead of Bradley Wiggins he has shown that he means business . The triple Grand Tour winner is probably the best climber in the World at present . He can time trial with the best of them , and he can recover well enough to win multiple three week tours . He is physically the best Tour rider in the world at present .
Cycling is not all just physical however , the psychological aspect is just as important and this is where ‘Bertie’ has some serious opposition . Mainly from wthin his own team . He is the quiet , unassuming country boy whereas his team-mate and former seven time Tour champion Lance Armstrong is a one man publicity machine.
Lance is from Texas , and I once sat between two engineers who were talking about boilers . One was from rural Ireland whilst the other was from Texas . The Irish guy was telling the Texan about a great big huge boiler that he had worked on that was almost as big as a small house when the Texan replied that they would use that for heating a chicken coop . He worked on boilers back home so big that they used to drive a JCB around inside of them and they were six storeys high .
Bertie is like the Irish guy when it comes to his off the bike persona . Lance is Texan , and he has that big boiler profile . He is bigger than any bike race or even cycling itself . He is a global political and celebrity figure . Eurosport have a programme called ‘Planet Lance ‘ and it is pretty close to the mark in it’s title .
The season long battle of will’s between both team-mates will be an interesting one to watch . Lance will be psyching Bertie out of it and how Bertie responds will decide who will wear yellow in Paris in July .
During yesterday’s time trial Bradley Wiggins held the lead until Bertie crossed the line . Afterwards he was inconsolable at the loss . At one point during the TT Wiggins began gesticulating at a TV helicopter that he felt was flying too close to him . As soon as he raised his hand from the bars he was playing with fire . For the helicopter to annoy him that much meant that he was not fully focused on the job in hand . Time trials are just about pain and suffering . You have to get into a zone where you concentrate on the pain and only the pain . Everything else around you has to be blocked out . The physical act of waving at the helicopter did not cost him seven seconds , but the break in his concentration easily did .
Bertie held his nerve when the helicoptors decended upon him , lets hope he can do the same with planet lance !