If you tune into any of the remaining stages of Le Tour de France (daily on the Versus channel) this year, likely you will find the current leader of the race, Michael Rasmussen, battling head-to-head with a little known Spanish rider from Team Discovery--Alberto Contador. At 24, he is one of the youngest riders in this year's race. And, until now, has quietly cycled in the background behind more popularly known Team Discovery teammates like Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie. But, Levi and George are not Team Discovery's best chance for a podium finish at this year's Tour...Contador is; but, that's not why he's a person you should know and cheer.
During a small stage tour in 2004 (not the Tour de France), Contador's eyes rolled upwards and his body began to convulse in the middle of a race, causing him to fall off of his bike and crash. He had suffered a serious brain hemorrhage. He survived, but 10 days later the same thing happened while sitting on his couch at home. Doctors performed extensive surgery for a congenital vascular disorder known as cavernoma. After inheriting a metal plate to permanently reside in his head, Contador spent a month in the hospital and six more months resting at home--no riding allowed.
With the disorder appearing to be resolved, Contador got back on his bike in November of 2004 (6 months after his crash) and began training again. He credits Lance Armstrong's books as a motivating force during his recovery as well as inspiration from his own younger brother who lives with Cerebral Palsy.
The motivators have worked well. Contador won a stage in Australia's Tour Down Under in January 2005--only two months after returning to his bike. And now, after winning a stage in the Tour de France and wearing the white jersey (which signifies the Tour's best young rider), Contador is the only Team Discovery rider (and possibly the only rider from any team) who has a chance to knock off the current leader, Michael Rasmussen. Good luck Alberto!