Monday, April 14, 2008

61 kilos of dynamite


Kepa Zelaia, Astana’s physician, formerly of Discovery Channel team, is one of the people who best knows the physical machine of Alberto Contador, “a privileged constitution,” according to him.

“I got to know him in 2003, five years ago. I was surprised by the effort test performed by Dr. Alberto Garai. The result was spectacular, far above the norm for a young man of only 21.”

How was Contador different? “What stood out is the extremely resistant quality of his fine muscular cells. He eliminated lactates very rapidly. And he recuperated extremely fast.” These are qualities that the leader of the Vuelta al País Vasco has enhanced by training.

Dr. Zalaia ranks him “at the level of the greatest climbers of all time, like Lucho Herrera or Marco Pantani. He weighs 61 kilos and he has a resting pulse rate of between 38 and 41 beats minute.” Of course, seeing him climbing the slopes with such a high pedal cadence, another of his characteristics, one can unequivocally state that it’s 61 kilos of dynamite.

Kepa Zelaia understands that Alberto Contador “has plenty of margin left to improve in the coming two years, especially in the time trial. He’s 25 and has not yet reached physical maturity. He eats moderately. I would even say that he eats little.”

“Self-control”

The Astana physician also emphasizes another aptitude which stands out in the effort tests. “Self-control. The cavernoma did not diminish him physically. On the contrary, I would say that it strengthened his character, level-headedness, and maturity.”

He demonstrated those qualities recently, since his grandmother Maria passed away last Tuesday. She lived in Badajoz, Barcarrota, and had been hospitalized for several days. On Monday Alberto dedicated his victory in the Legazpi stage to her.

In the past few weeks, speculation has been that Contador was diversifying his preparation and his training plans after learning that his team, Astana, had not been invited to the Tour de France. Zelaia denies this alleged change.

“Normally, he had to be well-prepared for Paris-Nice. ASO didn’t invite the team to this race, so he then aimed to be in the best possible form for the Vuelta al País Vasco, occurring one month later in the pro cycling calendar. We limited ourselves to delay his fine-tuning. From this point of view, the preparation has been the same as last year’s. In any case, Alberto's not at 100% yet. He’s still capable of improving on the bike.”

The Vuelta al País Vasco ends the first part of Contador’s season. Zelaia realises that “a race like this one demands an important effort every day.”

"In addition, in his racing style he plays offense: he attacks a lot, and this uses more energy, so much so that Alberto could pay the price next Saturday in Orio. For example, during last year’s Tour de France he attacked in five out of the six mountain stages, and paid for his efforts in the Aubisque. We’ll see how he feels after the Vuelta al País Vasco, and decide about the follow-up. There’s the option of a training camp in the Pyrenees or the Alps, as previously planned. But for the moment we must wait. There could well be a change of schedule. We’ll see.”

A reminder: Contador will not be at the departure of the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, two classics lead by the ASO, the same entity that organizes the Tour, where Astana has not been invited either. The only possibility offered would be to take part in the Dutch Amstel Gold Race, but this race is not included in Contador’s schedule.

Alberto’s next objective will will be focused on the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré.

To read more updates on Alberto click on the title link.

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