As the 2017 Tour de France winds its way through the French countryside, our eyes this year are fixed on a familiar bobbing figure, wondering whether we are watching him for the last time. Alberto Contador is riding what may be his last Tour. This year is already a comeback for him after he announced his retirement last year. There is talk that he may ride for one more year but that may not come to pass.
Bertie has been a fixture on our television screens since we first saw him riding (and almost winning) the Tour of the Basque Country in 2005. Over the years his out of the saddle climbing style and attacking flair have made him one of the most distinctive and exciting riders in the peloton to watch. We were lucky enough to see him up close at the Vuelta a España in 2008 when we were on a walking holiday in the Pyrenees (hence the photo).
We have always been suckers for the swashbuckling climbing types. Our blood does not race for someone climbing seated, staring at their power meter and scientifically measuring their effort. Bertie has, of course, always been more than just a pure climber. Success first came to him at a young age and in his career he has won too many big races to be seen as a one trick pony.
He is now 34 years old, and as with many others riders we have followed over the years (Gilberto Simoni was another big favourite) we have become more fond of him the older he gets and the more he is seen to rage against the dying of the light. Some of his most exciting moments have come from apparently suicidal long range mountain attacks, such as Fuente Dé, Formigal, and in the last two editions of Paris Nice.
More often than not these days the attacks end in failure, but there is something noble in watching the older sportsman refuse to give up and keep trying to make the attack which will turn things around for them.
We are not holding out high hopes for a Contador win in the Tour this year. We know though that he will try to do something in the mountains to make a difference. When he does, we will be watching and hoping that he puts on a show for us just one last time.