Cycling-Contador faces uncertain future despite Giro win

Reuters

Sun, 29 May 18:52:00 2011

Alberto Contador claimed his sixth successive Grand Tour title in the Giro d'Italia on Sunday with an assured performance against a backdrop of uncertainty over his sporting future.

The shadow of a doping case stalked the Spaniard during the race as he awaits an appeal by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after his federation cleared him of taking the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol.

The 27-year-old Saxo Bank rider returned a positive test for minute traces of the drug in last year's Tour de France with Contador saying it was present after he ate contaminated beef.

The appeal hearing, initially due to be held in June, has been postponed, with July or September the most likely dates.

While the case drags on, Contador continues his unbroken run of success in three-week stage races, which started when he took the Tour de France for the first time in 2007.

In 2008, despite receiving only a last-minute invitation to take part, Contador claimed his first Tour of Italy.

Contador was unable to take part in the Tour de France that year because of doping problems in his then team, Astana, before he had joined the squad.

He then became one of just five riders to complete the so-called 'Grand Slam' of victories in all three major stage races with a win in the Tour of Spain that year.

In 2009 he saw off his then team mate Lance Armstrong of the United States to claim victory in the Tour de France for a second time.

Last July despite illness, Contador took his third win in cycling's flagship event in a close battle against Luxembourg's Andy Schleck.

Contador's latest Grand Tour success comes after taking the lead and the stage win on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily on stage nine and steadily gaining time on each of the mountain stages that followed.

"I don't think I've ever been so strong in a Grand Tour," Contador told reporters on Saturday, and his latest triumph confirms him as the top stage racer of his generation.

Contador's next objective is widely expected to be to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year.

However, the issue of Contador's positive test, which could result in him being banned for up to two years, has steadily pursued the Spaniard on one of the toughest editions of the Giro d'Italia.

It may yet prove to be the toughest battle of his career.

 

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