EXCLUSIVE: Alberto Contador talks Vuelta, Pogacar and Bahamontes

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EXCLUSIVE: Alberto Contador talks Vuelta, Pogacar and Bahamontes
Alberto Contador, after winning the 19th stage of the 2007 Tour, in which he won the general classification.
Alberto Contador, after winning the 19th stage of the 2007 Tour, in which he won the general classification.
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Alberto Contador (40), is one of the great figures of cycling in the modern era. The cyclist from Madrid, famous for his displays on mountain passes, achieved two victories in the general classification of the Tour de France (2007 and 2009), two at the Giro d'Italia (2008 and 2015) and three at the Vuelta a Espana (2008, 2012 and 2014). In the run-up to a new edition of La Vuelta, the legendary climber talks to Flashscore about cycling today, its stars and his prediction for the Spanish round that will start on Saturday in Barcelona and finish in Madrid on 17 September.

Q: What is your life and what do you do now?

A: I am still involved in cycling, which is my passion. I have my Foundation, with two branches: one dedicated to the dissemination and visibility of stroke, the disease I suffered in 2004, and cycling, in which we work with all age groups, from children to the professional team, Eolo Kometa, which has participated and won a stage in the last edition of the Giro d'Italia. 

We also have the under-23 team and the youth team. In addition, we pay special attention to the "Bikes for life" programme, repairing bicycles that people no longer use and giving them to people who need them or who might be interested in them. 

It doesn't stop... 

Luckily not. I also have a big project that I'm very excited about. I have created a bicycle brand called Aurum. We have created it from scratch between Ivan Basso and myself. It's a challenge and a great motivation for me. We both put all our experience in the hands of the designers and engineers to create a quality product.

And you are also a TV commentator.

Yes. I commentate the big rounds for Eurosport. On top of that, I have commitments, conferences, events and sponsor obligations. I travel even more than when I was a rider.

Contador, training on Monte di Lussari, in Italy
Alberto Contador

Now that a new edition of the Vuelta a Espana is coming up, what is your best memory of the most important race in your country? 

Without a doubt, the climb and victory on the Angliru in 2017. I had already climbed that mythical pass in 2008 and managed to win, but this time it was different. It was my last chance to win on such a legendary peak before my retirement, in my country and the day before I arrived home in Madrid.

That win is marked, along with the Tour Down Under in Australia when I came back after my stroke, as one of the great moments of my life. Even today it helps me to feel calm and calm because the athlete always stays with the last thing he has done and that climb that finished in an unbeatable way was something very big for me and I give thanks every day. 

P. I'm going to ask you for a quick definition of four current cycling phenomena. Let's start with Pogacar, to which historical figure would you compare him?

R. He's a superstar. I would compare him, even if it might seem a bit outrageous to some, to Eddy Merckx.

Vingegaard?

He's also a top-class rider. He's very meticulous in his race preparation. If he has won the last two Tours, it's not by chance. He prepares the races with care and dedication. He is very professional.

Contador with Vingegaard at the Tour de France
Alberto Contador

Evenepoel?

He's a talent. He is breaking records of precocity. World champion in line, in time trial, in the Vuelta a España, several Classics,... He has a very high level and we don't know where his limit is.

What can you tell us about Roglic?

His move to the pro ranks was late but he has tremendous strength. He can withstand the three-week races of the Grand Tours well, he flies against the clock and has a good speed.

Are Juan Ayuso and Carlos Rodriguez the future of Spanish cycling?

They are the future and the present. There are good riders like Enric Mas or Mikel Landa but they are younger and have already achieved important successes. There will be more Spanish cyclists with a lot of future but they are already there. 

In the near future, could they form part of the group of "the magnificent four" that we have just talked about? 

Why not? It's something they both have in their minds. They both dream of winning the Tour. I know it's on their minds. The future will tell if they achieve it.

As a cyclist, climbing the Tourmalet as leader of the Tour de France
Alberto Contador

Is Pogacar the cyclist who most resembles Alberto Contador in the way he rides, attacking and putting on a show?

Maybe in terms of the "madness" of going for bonuses and things like that, yes, but in terms of the obsession with the Tour de France, maybe Vingegaard is a bit more like me. Anyway, I don't like to compare too much. They're both great on their own. 

Be brave, like when you were racing. Who is your favourite for the Vuelta? 

I'm not going to say a rider but a team. Jumbo is the team to beat. Evenepoel is one of the candidates and we'll see how Ayuso or Mas are but I think the team to beat is Jumbo, not only because of Roglic or Vingegaard but because of the compact group they have. Beating them will be the big challenge for the rest of the participants. 

Who is the classiest rider you have seen on a bike? 

From what I have seen as a rider and commentator I would say Pogacar. His class is unbelievable. He is the only rider today who is capable of winning any race of the year, including Paris-Roubaix.

Tell us the best anecdote you have with the late Federico Bahamontes. 

I have spoken to Fede many times over many years. I remember we were in Paris, the Spanish winners of the Tour de France, and we were late arriving at the airport. We were going to miss our flight. We were all overwhelmed and in a hurry. We lost sight of Bahamontes.

By the time we got on the plane, Fede had already been sitting in his seat for 15 minutes. We didn't know how he had done it. He was just as fast as he was going up the mountain passes. We lost a great guy.

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