'Can you imagine 30% grades in Indurain's time?': Retired Contador reflects on cycling's big changes

Alberto Contador says he 'can't believe' motor doping exists in the pro peloton

Alberto Contador attacks on the Angliru on stage 20 of the 2017 Vuelta a España (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Recently retired Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) says that cycling's technological leap forward is one of the biggest changes he saw since the time he turned professional 15 years ago.

The Spaniard from Madrid's outskirts retired this summer after finishing the Vuelta a España with a stage win at Angliru.

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"Can you imagine racing up 30 per cent grades in Miguel Indurain's time? You only have to see the changes in gearing that we use now. For the Angliru you can use a 34x32," Contador told AS newspaper.

"I remember the images of cyclists destroyed or who could not climb. And on the flat, the same, you have a gear of 53 and you see that you are unable to keep up. We are mounting 54 or 55 rings."

Contador conquered the Grand Tours and retired with seven titles. Two titles, one from the Giro d'Italia and one from the Tour de France, were stripped as part of a doping ban.

Alberto Contador wins stage 20 of the 2017 Vuelta a España. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada
(Image credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

Given cycling's difficulties, manufacturers must look at ever weight-saving or aerodynamic advantage. Bikes even weigh less than the minimum weight of 6.8 kilograms.

"So light that you have to add weights to reach the 6.8-kilogram limit. And in aerodynamics it's the same," Contador said.

"There is a lot of talk about motorbike racing and I notice sometimes that they overlook details, such as exposed cables. In cycling, they are tucked in. In this aspect, we are more advanced."

Contador won the Angliru summit finish and retired the next day when the Vuelta a España pulled into Madrid. Chris Froome (Sky) won the overall. The road on the famous climb reaches gradients of 23.5 per cent, prompted Contador to once say it was the hardest he faced.

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"Maybe it's the Monte Zoncolan [in Italy]. But that's evolution that we are talking about, these wild gradients. Before, 20 per cent seemed super-human."

Contador faced allegations of motorised cheating after the 2015 Giro d'Italia, where he switched wheels with his team-mate Ivan Basso ahead of the Mortirolo climb. He clawed back his rivals including Fabio Aru quickly after to save his overall lead.

Afterwards, L'Equipe newspaper reported Basso continued on the wheel even though Contador said he had punctured.

Video footage also emerged showing his mechanic after the stage adjusting his wristwatch and spinning the bike's wheel. Contador refutes claims cheating occurred in the professional races.

"I can't believe that they existed in the professional races," he said. "I'm not saying that in amateurs, for example, that type of cheating occurs. But in the Tour de France? It has not crossed my mind."

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