Is Contador the most popular cyclist ever?

I was wondering about this while taking a look through the threads on here. Here are the reasons I think this might be the case.

First of all, he is clearly the most popular rider on here and its not close. You'll get more thread activity here from him posting some picture on instagram than you will from any other rider in the peloton announcing their retirment. You also have plenty of Contador nutters. And a large number of posters who aren't full out Contador fans but are sympathetic to him.
He also seems to me to be clearly the most popular rider on twitter, with all of the above and in particuar the nutters.

Secondly, what is most remarkable to me and what made me make the thread is that his fanbase totally transcends nationalism in a way no one else in the sport seems to have done. Its a difficult comparison since few have reached these heights to begin with but Armstrong I do think was more popular in US. Evans had legions of fans, but 99% of them were Australian. Valverde I feel clearly has a greater % of his fanbase in Spain. Froome and Wiggins fanbases are clearly heavily British. Nibali has fans outside of Italy but nowhere near as many as Contador. Quintana is liked but any diehards are from Colombia (apart from that one idiot).

Contador's fans are from everywhere. UK, US, Denmark, Netherlands.I can't even think of many Spanish ones. In fact the 2 most active Spanish posters on here dislike Contador.
For France, Bein sport actually had a tweet section the whole Giro of people who tweeted the network with some Giro hashtag and over the whole race I'd guess over half the tweets were praising Contador and the rest talking about sprints or weather or none gc ***. I think Contador fans alone made it a good investment for Bein to buy the race.

Thirdly Contador doesn't have massive media hype like say Armstrong did. Which makes it more remarkable. Global superstars like Armstrong or Bolt, Federer etc are almost always heavily hyped by the media in cringeworthy ways so become household names. Which creates a superficial fanbase of people who might watch a documentary or read a book but not guys who are going to watch things like Oman or Andalucia in desperate attempts to gauge his form 5 months out from the TDF.Which is my fourth point. The hype for any race Contador does no matter how small is really big on here and twitter. The Evans fans for example only ever turned up in July and one year a few of them turned up in May. I doubt but a tiny % of Bolts 50 billion twitter followers or whatever would watch the Jamaican nats to see his form or federer fans watch some intergrandslam minor tournaments.
Contador never had that. First they all prefered Armstrong and the media outright attacked him, tried to make him unpopular. Then they wanted to scapegoat him with the clenbuterol.
They were against him and despite that he is still the most popular.

In fact, looking back at the last 5 years I would even say he beat the media because, and this is my final point a lot of people who seemed to dislike him or wanted to use him as a pinata have backed off. I can think of quite a lot of examples of people I expected to criticise Contador, who criticised Contador before, praise him, or lay off. I remember Harmon only 1 month after Contador's return from the ban saying that even with the ban Contador is maybe the GOAT.
I think this is partly because of his riding style. Also becuase of the slightly less clear cut nature of his case they can get away with giving him less grief over the positive and they do. Other guys who tested positive get far worse. I saw at least 2 networks during the Giro take a compromise on the 7 vs 9 think saying - oficially its 7 but he also won 9 and its complicated bla bla bla, when I fully expected them to say - its 7 full stop.
 
couple of things. I like to see him do well because he races aggressively, with a nice style.
plus he seems to be a very modest and nice guy, when he really could be an arrogant douche.

plus the clinic issue, I tend to think he was specifically targeted, and that is not really treating everyone fairly.
 
Mar 9, 2013
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Hitch, Great Post. Very well thought out.

As a AC fan. And living in the US. What made me start following his career.

#1. His riding style is masterful. He animates every race he is in. That cannot be debated.

#2. The guy is humble. His first comment is to always praise the TEAM first. Ya gotta love that.

#3. His comments in the media are of IMHO. A true winner ex:" Yes for me the second place is as good as tenth"

I have my opinions on his ban. And I will keep those to myself. To me he has WON 9 GT's
 
Probably not. Although it is really extremely hard to judge since internet is so widespread now. Internet really skews things since it wasn't available to everyone in 90s and wasn't there at all prior to that.
He doesn't seem to be the most liked rider in the peleton, looking at relations with other Spanish riders for example.
Also, there is always a clinic issue. Some of the fans really don't like it, and his involvement in Puerto and then actual ban for doping didn't make him any more popular.
I got to say though that just by judging from this forum his fans are most die-hard.

Of course there is also a definition of 'popularity'. If you mean that he takes most space in the media then probably although Froome is slowly changing that (the book and everything), but if you define it as 'most liked and most respected' then definitely not
 
Jan 24, 2012
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I followed cycling for a few years only to all but forget about it. Then I started watching again early on in Contador's GT success and he makes following the sport much more enjoyable. I will continue to follow the sport after he retires (hopefully not following 2016, 2017 looks like a good year) and hope that there will be cyclists with an aggressive style to cheer for. I have a lot of hope for Majka, but we'll see.
 
Jun 22, 2009
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An excellent, thoughtful post, Hitch. Chapeau.

I have never been any kind of fanboy, but I will confess that the more I see him, the more I like him. I will be pulling for him to do the double, but won't be suicidal if he doesn't....as long as Froome doesn't win.
 
May 19, 2010
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#1 He's a winner. Whether you believe he's won 6/7/8/9 Grand Tours, that's a heck of a lot. People like to root for a winner.

#2 He has an entertaining racing style. He attacks! Specifically, he is not afraid to go on long-range and improbable attacks that others won't (e.g., Fuente De 2012, Alpe d'Huez 2011, Monte Olongo 2015). Even when they don't work out, they make the race exciting. This has led to some legendary stages that people will remember for years (Fuente De 2012, Etna 2011, Mortirolo 2015, etc.).

#3 He's a nice guy. On the road, he's a gentleman. In the media, he's humble. I think this is particularly appealing for many people after we had essentially the opposite from the leader of the peloton during the Armstrong era.
 
Mar 14, 2009
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While I'm not the biggest fan I do have a lot of respect for him. I guess that started when Astana brought back Armstrong. It was amazing how he went about it and pretty much showed Lance who the real boss is. These days, he is pure class and definitely the best GT rider around.

And I hope that he will win the Tour as we need others to attempt it more often.

... And the Contador signed jersey in my jersey collection will be more valuable too :)
 
Good thread, Hitch.

I agree that Contador is by far the most popular cyclist. His slaying of the Armstrong dragon was one of the most memorable moments for me. He handles adversity with aplomb, and race after race, he shows complete class.

Contador defines the term fuoriclasse.
 
On the other hand, his personality is pretty crap. As far as interviews go, the dialogue in sports video games are more varied than contadors responses to interviews. Same pre arranged answers from gt to gt to gt, from stage to stage to stage. You can summarizes 10 years worth of interviews in 3 or 4 sentences. Starting with an assessment of the etapa as "dura", (muy dura if it's an mtf) then something about sensations, and to conclude, an expression of hope/ contained happiness, depending on whether the stage has already taken place or not.

The closest he comes to expressing any emotion is the photos he posts for his fangirls on Twitter of him at a restuarant or in pre season trip. Even those don't express an emotion as much as imply that there might be one.
 
Mar 14, 2009
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Re:

The Hitch said:
On the other hand, his personality is pretty crap. As far as interviews go, the dialogue in sports video games are more varied than contadors responses to interviews. Same pre arranged answers from gt to gt to gt, from stage to stage to stage. You can summarizes 10 years worth of interviews in 3 or 4 sentences. Starting with an assessment of the etapa as "dura", (muy dura if it's an mtf) then something about sensations, and to conclude, an expression of hope/ contained happiness, depending on whether the stage has already taken place or not.

The closest he comes to expressing any emotion is the photos he posts for his fangirls on Twitter of him at a restuarant or in pre season trip.
He aint no Jensie or Horner when it comes to interviews, thats for sure :D
 
damian13ster said:
Probably not. Although it is really extremely hard to judge since internet is so widespread now. Internet really skews things since it wasn't available to everyone in 90s and wasn't there at all prior to that.
He doesn't seem to be the most liked rider in the peleton, looking at relations with other Spanish riders for example.
Also, there is always a clinic issue. Some of the fans really don't like it, and his involvement in Puerto and then actual ban for doping didn't make him any more popular.
I got to say though that just by judging from this forum his fans are most die-hard.

Of course there is also a definition of 'popularity'. If you mean that he takes most space in the media then probably although Froome is slowly changing that (the book and everything), but if you define it as 'most liked and most respected' then definitely not
froome doesn't come close to contador in popularity, and no present rider does. Someone like Cancellara is probably closer than froome but most canc fans are contador fans and it doesn't work the other way.

Froome released a book 1 year after winning the tour, which is the point I made about Armstrong and superficial fanbase. Not saying there aren't diehard froome fans but writing a book immediately after you win your first major race is milking it for every penny you can because you don't expect it to last.

One person who might come close is Pantani, but I don't think he was at the top long enough to build it.

Of course in the 40's 50's fausto and bartali were very popular and in the 60's anquitil and poulidor or later the Belgians but I don't k is to what extent that transcended France Italy and Belgium.
 
May 8, 2015
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This is a pretty interesting topic, but I think we'll be forced to wait for "legacy" readings since the web has changed the exposure cycling gets. I'm a Contador fan through and true, but hindsight only will provide us with proper perspective on his accomplishments. Great thread though!
 
Excellent post, but if we are looking for definite answer here I think we'll never know, and the definition of popular may varies.
I imagine he'll be up there among 'the riders with most fans' in the world today, it's too easy for him, though, he's been the most succesful GT rider for almost a decade. Other factors, his style, his personality, his struggles etc. also help, but success is the biggest factors.
But if we think about percentage only, 'fame to popularity ratio', then I'm not sure, he has a lot of haters, which may ruin the percentage if we compares him to some less contoversial big names. But he won't do too bad either, he's certainly ahead of Valverde or Wiggins, and certainly Armstrong, whose number of haters seem to overwhelm the number of fans.
And are we talking about active riders only? Because stars from the past have that mythical aura with them, and have been long (quickly or slowly) forgiven, which give them some popularity edge over active riders. However, among today's riders, I am sure Contador will get there first, I think he'll obtain the myth and the forgiveness before others from his generation. I imagine that when he has retired, he'll be remembered in a way between some Italian climbing legends and the likes of Indurain, between romantics and quietness, and not in the way we remember Merckx or Hinault, not that sense of domination or patronism.
Considering all those above, then...yes, I think he's an exceptionally popular rider, not sure about most popular, but certainly won't be far off.
 
May 2, 2010
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Ever? Hard to say really. Older top riders didn't have the chance to gain social media following when they were at the peak of their powers. Most popular of his generation? Probably.
 
Re:

thrawn said:
Older top riders didn't have the chance to gain social media following when they were at the peak of their powers.
In a way, yes. But they're rewarded with myth built around their greatness - which gain fans who never even see them race, without being scrutinized for their minute mistakes - which protect them from many haters. I think that's a plus.
 
Well, I grew up with Laurent Fignon, seeing him winning his first Tour in '83, just about to enter my teenage years. And I'm not French, I'm Danish.

Haven't seen any rider as popular as Fignon, globally, and the admiration didn't stop when he parked his bike, not at all.

Second most popular <in my time> has to be another frenchman and another Laurent: JaJa.

Contador is not even close.

Ofcourse he is enormous popular in his home country. Maybe even as much as Miguel Indurain. And he's popular in Italy, we see. But still Alberto is quite unpopular as a cyclist in other countries. And it has not solely to do with clinic stuff, but primarily I suppose.

Alberto is popular 'cause he ride with his heart. Unfortunately that has become a rarity in recent years.

One thing is the Cyclingnews fanboy forum, other thing is real life. Though I admit he has many fans, including me ;-)

Edit: Oh my smartphone cheatet me. Didn't see other answers than mine. This has become a great thread. Ofcourse one have to take Il Pirato in account, too!
 
Jul 29, 2012
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Re:

The Hitch said:
On the other hand, his personality is pretty crap. As far as interviews go, the dialogue in sports video games are more varied than contadors responses to interviews. Same pre arranged answers from gt to gt to gt, from stage to stage to stage. You can summarizes 10 years worth of interviews in 3 or 4 sentences. Starting with an assessment of the etapa as "dura", (muy dura if it's an mtf) then something about sensations, and to conclude, an expression of hope/ contained happiness, depending on whether the stage has already taken place or not.

The closest he comes to expressing any emotion is the photos he posts for his fangirls on Twitter of him at a restuarant or in pre season trip. Even those don't express an emotion as much as imply that there might be one.
His expression on the podium says it all.

Remember his face at the podium on verbier? That said it all, no interview necessary.

All i can tell about contador's popularity, is that whenever something happens with contador, no matter how small or big it is Sporza always puts it on the front page.
 
Jul 11, 2009
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Great thread, I'm a fan for the same reason most are

1) His style on a bike is majestic, by contrast look at Froome's style (And I'm from the UK)

2) His style of racing, aggressive, yet controlled and humble, shows respect to not only his team but other riders

3) Seems like a nice guy off the bike, again humble and not arrogant like many at the top of their sports

4) He's bloody amazing at climbing, everyone loves a good climber, even those who don't follow cycling heavily

I'll just add his TT performances, they really are exceptional for a relatively small guy, no one I can think of with his physical stature is anywhere near, either now or in the past.
 
damian13ster said:
He doesn't seem to be the most liked rider in the peleton, looking at relations with other Spanish riders for example.
Please watch the Mortirolo stage again. First he was helped by some random Bardiani rider, then Nocentini took a tough pull to help him and at last Anton rode very hard to get Contador back to Aru and Landa. I can't think of any other gc rider who would get the same treatment.
 
Yes I think he is the most popular current rider, I don't know about the past. And he is pretty well liked all over the world (just checking my twitter followers :D ) and he also seems popular and respected within the peloton.
 
Bushman said:
damian13ster said:
He doesn't seem to be the most liked rider in the peleton, looking at relations with other Spanish riders for example.
Please watch the Mortirolo stage again. First he was helped by some random Bardiani rider, then Nocentini took a tough pull to help him and at last Anton rode very hard to get Contador back to Aru and Landa. I can't think of any other gc rider who would get the same treatment.
The Bardiani was mythical Francesco Bongiorno :)
 

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