Alberto Contador will be riding again for Bjarne Riis and Saxo Bank, after having served a retroactively dated 2-year suspension for clenbuterol. He was stripped of both his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro D'Italia titles, a total and complete bullshit move if ever there was one. CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) set the dates of actual suspension from February 2012 to August 6th. After having his initial contract with Riis nullified, he has signed on again with Saxo Bank. He will now be eligible to ride the Vuelta a España this year, and the way this race has gone the last 10-15 years or so, an in-form Contador will be no match for the type of B-list riders who target this race.
This once proud race, which has a rich history and heritage in it's own right, has devolved, due to it's place on the cycling calendar, into a last-chance saloon for the hobos and desperadoes of professional cycling looking to hang on for at least one more year in the peloton. These cats go to Spain to impress potential team sponsors who are looking for team workers to round out their squads for the following year. Unless a Tour contender couldn't finish the race for whatever reason and needs the Vuelta for redemption, the competition is always second-rate.
But there is still prestige in this grand tour, and Contador will be able to win it convincingly on one leg. Here is the irony of this man's career-if it wasn't for the suspension, which robbed him of a Tour and a Giro title, and the time Astana were barred from the race in 2008, he would have two Giros, three Tours (possibly four with this year's edition) and one Vuelta under his belt. That would make him the most prolific grand tour rider of the last 25 years. As it is he is still the best there is, and with this upcoming chance to redeem himself it should make him once again the all-out favorite for next year's Tour.
Rumor had it that Contador was going to re-sign with Radio Shack and Johan Bruyneel, while the Schleck brothers were going back to Saxo Bank. This turned out to be complete speculative rubbish, and Alberto has singed with Riis for the next three years. Hopefully this will put an the end to the bullshit and he can begin racing at an elite level again. Let's face it-if the Tour is looking at Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans as favorites to ignite the race and make it memorable, then you are either not a cycling fan or you need to re-calibrate your excitement meter.
Guaranteed this is going to be the most boring Tour ever. I plan on not watching for the first time since I became a fan of the sport. There are no compelling characters to root for, no interesting plot lines, no nothing. Just two time trial specialists who hedge their bets and limit their losses in the mountains while waiting to attack 500 meters from every mountaintop finish. As for Andy Schleck, he's had a horrible run-up, abandoning the Dauphine Libere race while losing time in the mountains and time trials. He looks more pathetic and unmotivated than usual, so aside from some magic potion Bruyneel can concoct, Andy Schleck will be a non-factor.
Someone wake me up when Contador is once again in his rightful place at the starting line of the Tour. Then I'll watch.
Saxo Bank team owner Bjarne Riis with his star rider, Alberto Contador-