Blazin' Saddles

Receipt or conceit?

Blazin' Saddles

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Four months on and Alberto Contador has finally found the receipt for the alleged contaminated meat which clenbuterolled his blood during this summer's Tour de France.

Saddles isn't sure where this receipt was discovered - perhaps down the back of the Spaniard's sofa? - but Bertie's people have confirmed to the Spanish media that "the purchase (of the meat) is fully accredited", as if said beef was actually in possession of a Tour press pass.

Quite how this can form any cornerstone of Contador's defence remains unclear. Four years ago, would Floyd Landis have been let off the hook had he provided a receipt for that bottle of whisky he said he'd downed the night before his rampant ride to Morzine?

Surely the receipt proves nothing, except the fact that meat was bought from the butcher in question and on the day in question. But Saddles doubts the receipt was so precise as to include the levels of weight-loss drugs included in the purchase - this isn't a Hollywood delicatessen we're talking about, after all.

Regardless, with the UCI giving the Spanish Cycling Federation permission to open disciplinary proceedings, the investigation is finally gathering a bit of forward momentum - or at least, that is the official line being pedalled by the defendant.

"Bueno, I am happy that the case has reached the Federation because that means it is moving forward," said Contador in statement of trademark concision.

"It's good that the matter is now going forward," echoed Bjarne Riis, singing from the same Saxo Sunguard song sheet.

Indeed, it's not too hard to see why Contador is happy. His future is now in the hands of his compatriots, who have by and large come out in support of their man.

The Spanish media are portraying Contador as being on the receiving end of the biggest stitch up since the Bayeux Tapestry; some Spanish sporting officials, including the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, have publically defended the three-times Tour champion; Carlos Castano, president of the RFEC, has declared his wish that "everything goes well", clearly inferring a total clearance of any wrongdoing.

And Contador's hometown of Pinto have even made their son their first-ever honorary citizen, with the mayor attesting that "the victory of Alberto Contador is the triumph of honesty, sacrifice, effort and hard work every day".

Contador is said to be lying low in Pinto (which sounds a bit like the title of a catchy 80s track) where he is in training for two hours a day. Chapeau - that's a 14-hour week, which is probably more than French public sector workers manage before they retire at the age of 45 for a pleasant life of holidaying and eating offal.

Contador isn't just training though - he's also been escaping the escalating media attention by trying his hand at a spot of fishing.

"A few days ago, he sent me and Frank a message with a picture of an enormous fish that he caught near his house," Andy Schleck told Cyclingnews. "He challenged us to do better."

Well, it's nice to see the Contador-Schleck rivalry/camaraderie is still going strong despite all the nasty allegations in the press. If Saddles had found out that the guy who had pipped him to the Tour title by a mere 39 seconds after attacking him following a technical chain-slip may have had some illicit medical assistance, he'd be livid.

Not Andy. No, he's just brimming with compassion and understanding: "I just want to make it known that whatever happens to him, whether he's found guilty or not, Alberto will always be welcome in Luxembourg to go hunting with us."

What a relief that must be to Contador: his name might be sullied and his victories cruelly taken away from him - but there will always be Luxembourg's famed venery.

As for poor Andy, the whippet cannot comprehend why people lambast him so much for his relationship with his main rival. "I don't understand why my friendship with Alberto has been criticised so much," he told L'Equipe. "It doesn't change anything about our way of riding; I showed that on the Tour."

Wow. If that's the case, Saddles would love to see how close the couple would have been had they actually thrown off the fettles and shown some true friendship on the way up the Tourmalet. It wouldn't have just been hugs, hand-holding and winks - it could have been a full-on love-in, the kind of thing reserved for certain niche stages in Amsterdam or on pay-per-view in seedy hotel rooms.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that, for Andy, Alberto will always be the 2010 Tour champion, regardless of the outcome of the investigation. Which is just a little bit cosy to take at face value, isn't it?

Back to Riis and the 'Chaingate' episode - it emerged this week that Contador had contacted his future directeur sportif during last year's Tour after the incident which saw the Spaniard seize the yellow jersey from Schleck.

After receiving an apologetic text, Riis replied to his future rider (and then opponent) underlining that he had made a mistake before, in a phone call, advising Contador to go public with an apology, which the Astana rider did via YouTube.

A couple of days later, on the rest day, Riis's future contract with Contador had been finalised. With Contador having passed all doping controls prior to the second rest day in Pau, it was at this moment that the clenbuterol found its way into the race leader's blood stream.

With Riis's own past history with doping, a cynic would say that it was not the best of PR manoeuvres for the big Dane to admit that he had been advising Contador in the lead up to that fateful rest day.

Ho hum. This one has Alejandro Valverde written all over it and is bound to drag on for months and months. Plenty of time for Contador to go fishing - and Saddles hears there are plenty of red herrings swimming around the fresh waters of Pinto this time of year.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the off-season on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.

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