The other day I read an article from an old Bicycling magazine.The article's author wrote of testing with a physiologist, Dr.Inigo San Millan, who has worked with several pro teams and a few private clients. As the difficulty of the workout increased the subject's blood was tested through small pricks in the ear. And a mask over the nose and mouth broke down oxygen use. With a heart monitor the test was able to give a rider an idea of where he was, physically, when he thought he couldn't go any further. The author wrote that one rider stood out in all the riders the doctor had worked with.
When the test got really hard, this rider stood up on the pedals, desperate. "Most of the time, that means the guy's done, like in a minute or two," San Millan says. This kid kept going out of the saddle for a full 25 minutes longer. His name was Alberto Contador, and his signature is on a yellow jersey in a frame behind San Millan's desk.
Bicycling, August 2012
I've long admired Contador's talent. Watching him dance on the pedals is watching an artist at work. But I've never liked him, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because when I was cheering for a successful comeback for Lance, he stood in the way. Or, when I was pulling for Andy Schleck to fulfill his promise and finally wear yellow in Paris, Alberto seemed to take advantage of a dropped chain to attack Andy on the climb.
But I need a hero, someone to cheer for. I don't know if Andy will threaten to win the Tour de France again. Cadel Evans' run was fun while it lasted. Bradley Wiggins and Sky was a good story, but I don't know if I can get excited about cheering for him. I do know that I'm disappointed with Lance, but I still loved watching him do what he did. Watching him give Jan Ullrich "the look" and take off up the mountain was awesome! Watching Floyd Landis break away on his own in the mountains, epic! Tyler Hamilton breaking his collarbone, and finishing the race, amazing!
I need a hero to cheer for. I don't condone cheating, but I think as flawed human beings, we also need to be able to forgive. Maybe Lance doesn't deserve that, because it didn't seem like he ever apologized. But I need to move on. The near decade of cheering for Lance was important to me. Now I'm hooked, and I want to have someone to cheer for in France, in Italy and Spain. I want to have a favorite in California and Colorado.
Maybe Jonathan Vaughters and his Garmin-Sharp team, trying to prove that you can win clean, deserve my support. Maybe Levi, Davie Z, or Tejay will give me something to cheer about. Or maybe I'll come around to cheering for Alberto Contador, who sure is fun to watch. But whatever way I go, I know this: I need a hero.