Alberto Contador: A Soigneur’s-Eye View
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Astana Fans interview team soigneur Yuriy Kulishkin
Alberto Contador is now in his third season with Astana. A bright, talented, ambitious rider! Everyone always wants to know more about him, to see all facets of his image. For example, what kind of man is Alberto? Who is in his entourage? How does he behave when he’s not racing?
This is interesting to many people, so we asked our friend, Astana soigneur Yuriy Kulishkin, to share his impression of Alberto with us, because he has had the oppoturnity to keep close track of Alberto for two seasons.
Yura, Contador is probably surrounded by a whole retinue of people, so tell me: who are they?
Personal manager – his brother Fran Contador, personal trainer Pepe Martí, spokesman Pascal Schyns, spokesman Jacinto Vidarte, and his personal staff: mechanic Faustino Munoz and masseur Valentin Doronzoro.
Yes, that’s quite a few, so, in my opinion, Vinokourov might never have had so many…
The whole team was originally created for Vino!
And Pepe always travels with him?
Yes, to all training expeditions and competitions. But he also works with other young riders now, he writes the programs and tests.
Is his personal masseur involved in working with the team, too, or does he just work with Alberto individually?
Valentin Doronzoro, who’s from Basque Country in Spain, is 50. He also works with us. Take Astana’s second training camp, for instance – he drove the bus, fetched people from the airport, prepared the bidons, went to the grocery store…
Did you have to serve as Alberto’s masseur? What are his muscles like, flexible or rigid?
I’ve never done massage, but have often done the rubdowns before the start of the race. His muscles are elastic, it rather reminds me of Kashechkin. And Bazayev’s are roughly the same, but shorter in length – he’s a sprinter.
And is it better to have more flexible muscles?
If the muscles are more elastic, then recovery is faster, and at the races they’ll also be hurt less by the workload.
You’ve seen how Valentin works, are there differences in style?
Yes, he has his own technique, but the principles are the same.
They say that Alberto’s personal mechanic is also his bodyguard, is that true?
I’ve never seen Alberto with a bodyguard, and his mechanic does’t fit this role at all.
You also have to see Alberto in training. What’s the secret of a star’s success? Maybe he trains more than others, or somehow puts together his training in a special way?
I haven’t noticed anything special in the training. He’s always motivated! He never races just to race. Always going for the victory, always fighting. And lots of riders do many races just for training. Quite a disciplined rider, routine is never disturbed.
What do riders on the team call him? What’s Contador’s nickname?
The riders always call him Alberto. Conta – that’s just a nickname that the fans and the press use.
And what does his victory salute – the “pistol” gesture – mean?
Contador chose it for his own reasons, that’s all. Maybe he means “I’ve done it all, I killed this victory,” figuratively of course.
But his stardom, does it tell on him in any way?
No, he’s very modest, ordinary, not a celebrity nutcase. The star part comes from the reporters and the spectators.
Yes, almost everybody says so. But something I don’t understand about Armstrong—some of our riders write that he’s quite normal, that you can always approach him when he’s free to talk. And others say that he builds himself up like a movie star. How do you find him?
Lance everything has to have everything separate, only for him personally!
By the way, did you have to witness the public friction between Alberto and Lance? What do you think was the core reason for it? And why didn’t Bruyneel, who’s famous for his skill in building relationships within a team, want to put out the flames of dissent between the two stars?
No, I don’t know, and I wasn’t at the TdF. I only know what I heard from the riders and read in the press: Bruyneel wanted to promote Lance, including that Contador should be involved in it – maybe even wanted Lance to be the leader and to win. But Conta made his own way – that’s the whole conflict. Yes, I think, all this conflict is already known and understood – I can’t add anything new.
And what about Alberto as a man?
Good, open, calm. He really loves racing. Alberto is very friendly and pleasant. He doesn’t have a scrap of rudeness or arrogance about him, he doesn’t allow himself to be that way. There are always lots of fans and press around him, and he doesn’t say no to anyone who wants to be photographed with him or to get an autograph. Although perhaps he didn’t always really want to do this, especially just before the start when there’s no time to do it.
He probably has a lot of girl fans?
I think so, an entire ocean of them. But he already has a girlfriend.
Does Alberto talk a lot, maybe, like lots of the Italian and Spanish riders?
He talks non-stop at dinner, like all the Spanish guys, for example. But not at the races. He focuses on the race, not on talking.
And he probably hangs around with the Spanish riders all the time?
Yes, he sits mainly with the Spanish guys at the table, but at races he communicates with all the riders.
Is Alberto choosy about food? Does he order separately from you? Judging from the race photos, he really likes bananas.
Picky, he doesn’t order separately. And they all eat bananas - in general terms, whatever they want is no problem, they always get what they want.
And what does he do in his free time at competitions or training camps? Maybe he plays chess, computer games, or reads books?
I never saw him doing those things, he’s busy every second, there’s no free time.
Is he interesting to talk to about different topics? Is he well-read?
Well-read or not – I don’t know, but he’s an interesting conversationalist. I didn’t want to talk to him too much. Unlike other riders, who, after workouts or races, went to massage, then to eat and sleep, he still has to communicate with the media, with sponsors. In general, he’s a busy person!
Judging by your comments, Alberto is a very serious man for a 27-year-old?
Yes, Alberto is pretty serious for his age, man!
What should our young Kazakh riders learn from Alberto?
I think that all of our riders, other than Vino, have to learn about the desire to win and how to give 100% from him. Vino is also a motivated athlete and always works harder than anybody on a team!
Vino said once that he doesn’t fit the role of bad guy! The same can probably be said of Alberto, he always comes across as positive in all his interviews. Generally, the personalities of Alberto and Vino have quite a bit in common…don’t you think?
Vino’s a celebrity who’s an idol for boys, so he just needs to be positive. But even when he wasn’t a star, he was a normal friendly person. So it’s not always the case that glory and money spoil a person. And about the similarities…I think they have some similarites. Why did Alberto stay with the team? It couldn’t all be solved with money.
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