Alberto was late for dinner. It was quarter past seven at San Francisco's Café des Amis, and eight of us, including Specialized founder Mike Sinyard and a couple of other bigwigs from Contador's bike sponsor, were silently wondering if the biggest name in cycling was going to stand us up. Just then, Contador and his brother Fran walked in and greeted each of us with a firm handshake and an apology. The two had flown in from Spain in time for dinner, just a few hours earlier, but Alberto was required to hang around the hotel till 7 p.m. to fulfill the schedule he'd logged with the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA). Pro cyclists must submit a timetable of every day's agenda to WADA in advance, and if Contador isn't where he said he would be and an out-of-competition tester shows up, he could be sanctioned.
Minus his Saxo team kit and blaze yellow Terminator shades, it would be tough to peg Contador as a cyclist, much less one of the world's best. In trendy Euro jeans, a knit button-up with plaid collar, and gleaming white trainers, he looked like just another handsome kid from the Continent whom you wouldn't want to leave your girlfriend around alone for too long. He's thin but not withering like he sometimes appears in race footage. He didn't protest when someone poured him a glass of red wine; in fact, he seemed to savor it as he patiently entertained every cycling-related curiosity our table full of admirers could summon.