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7. Alberto Contador

If you’ve been watching cycling for the past decade, you’ve seen two versions of Alberto Contador. Both versions love to take flight in the mountains, but only one has been able to so freely soar above all others.

In the days when, it is safe to assume, he was battling against a peloton of dopers, against those who were using artificial means to enhance natural abilities, Contador was virtually unrivaled when the road slanted skyward. Searing accelerations were followed by consistent, nearly incomprehensible speed. If anyone — think Michael Rasmussen at the 2007 Tour de France — was capable of clinging to the Spaniard’s rear wheel, a subsequent barrage of lightning would surely follow. Of course, it’s possible that this ability was not just a function of natural talent but also a result of what coursed through his blood. Nevertheless, “El Pistolero’s” physique, his mentality, his penchant for climbing made him unstoppable. He is one of only six riders to have claimed each of the three grand tours, often using his superior climbing skills to distance all comers. He has won on the feared Anglirú. He has taken victory atop Plateau de Beille. He crushed the competition on Mount Etna.

Since his suspension for testing positive for clenbuterol, Contador is a different rider. There is no better example of that than the 2013 Tour de France. Still, for years now, his status as the untouchable man of the mountains has been tarnished. No longer can he bolt from the remains of the world’s best climbers; still, he tries. No longer do his attacks have the same pop; yet, he gives it a go. His victories are fewer and farther between; nevertheless, he is feared and respected as one of the most dangerous riders in the world. Photo: Joel Saget | AFP