Alberto Contador won't win Tour de France & life bans for motor dopers
Last Updated: 25/02/16 4:10pm
You shouldn’t read too much into early-season form, but I can’t help feel that Alberto Contador’s results at the Volta ao Algarve last week may well be indicative of his year to come.
On the first of the race's two summit finishes, he was 24 seconds down on stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez in 21st place, but then on the second summit finish, he won by 20 seconds.
Granted, the Volta ao Algarve is only a five-day race and can't be compared to a Grand Tour, but I can see him being just as inconsistent at the Tour de France in July.
Contador's problem is he is 33 years old now and will struggle to string together race-winning performances day after day for three weeks against younger rivals such as Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Fabio Aru.
Older men than him have won the Tour, of course - even as recently as then 34-year-old Cadel Evans in 2011 - but Contador has been competing at the pinnacle of the sport for such a long time that he has more miles on the clock than most other riders his age and, in cycling terms, his legs are a lot older than 33.
He is still an incredible competitor and his ability to produce an outstanding performance on any given day will make him a contender at the Tour, but I only think he will be a contender for the podium, and not for the yellow jersey.
Another rider who I can't see winning the Tour is Geraint Thomas. He is set to start the race as Team Sky's No 2 behind Froome, but he is aiming for a high overall placing and will step up to No 1 should anything happen to his leader.
Similar to Contador, he has all the attributes needed to win the Tour and proved as much by winning the Volta ao Algarve, but I fear that he too will struggle to sustain a challenge for three weeks.
Where Contador's problem is too much experience, Thomas' problem is he doesn't have enough. Not yet, anyway.
It takes several attempts to win a Grand Tour before you can actually pull the feat off. Contador, Froome, Quintana, Aru and Vincenzo Nibali have all been through that learning process and Thomas will have to as well.
That said, I think the fact that there are two time trials totalling 54km on this year's Tour plays into Thomas' hands, so I don't think a place on the podium is out of the question.
Other than the racing, one of the biggest stories of the year so far has unfortunately been the discovery of a motor in a Belgian rider's bike at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Belgium.
It was a huge setback to the sport after the multitude of cheating scandals it has already been through and I personally think that the International Cycling Union's (UCI) only option is to impose lifetime bans on not just the rider, but also members of their support team.
Motor doping isn't like blood doping, which you can do in your hotel room without a soul knowing.
Someone has to buy that motor, take the bike apart, put the motor in, put the bike back together. A 19-year-old girl can't do that on her own. Multiple people are involved in that process and so multiple people have to be banned.
If the UCI doesn't stamp this out now with lifetime suspensions, fans and sponsors will lose faith in the sport all over again and they won't forgive it for a second time.
Do you agree with Stephen? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below or by tweeting @SkyCycling.