Alberto Contador is quietly growing confident that the re-fitted Astana team will be up to the task of defending his Tour de France title come July.
The Spanish champ likes what he sees in his new Astana teammates during training sessions along Spain’s Mediterranean Coast ahead of his season debut at the Volta a Algarve next month.
“Every day I am convinced that we will have a great team in the Tour,” Contador said in a press conference. “I am very happy with the work we are doing here. We’re riding 160km to 170km per day and the team is responding incredibly.”
Contador is trying to make the best of a complicated situation. Most of the team’s best riders left Astana for RadioShack, the leaving behind for Contador just a husk of what was the best team in last year’s Tour.
Following training camps in Pisa, Italy and now in Calpe, Spain, however, Contador says he has more reason to be optimistic.
“I’m happy with the work we’re doing here,” he said. “There’s a big attitude difference compared to last year for the riders that were already on the team, with the Kazakhs a lot more involved and you can see they’ve improved their level. As far as I am concerned, I have good sensations. I still have to hone my form a little more, but the data is looking good.”
New arrivals, such as Oscar Pereiro, David de la Fuente and Enrico Gasparotto, are quietly filling Contador with confidence that he will have a solid team for the Tour. Alexander Vinokourov, back from a two-year ban for blood doping, is also pledging his support for Contador.
“I see Vino with a lot of motivation and he’s working very hard. He wants to demonstrate that he’s a big champion,” he said. “Pereiro is also making a good impression. I don’t know what kind of motivation he’s had the past few years, but from what I’ve seen in Pisa and before he went to Australia, he’s showing that he has things very clear and has a big opportunity to shine.”
Speaking to journalists at a break during a training camp in Calpe, Contador deflected questions about nemesis Lance Armstrong and tried to remain focused on the positive.
“I have huge respect for Lance as a rider and a competitor. The Tour is over and I don’t want to judge that anymore,” he said. “I am not the only favorite for the Tour, there are many, even though Andy Schleck was the one that challenged me most in the mountains (last) Tour.”
The two-time Tour champ said he will also train on the cobblestones to hone his skills ahead of stages in Belgium where the pavé could prove decisive.
Contador also said he has not ruled out racing the Vuelta a España in September, adding that its challenging route makes it appealing, but that he won’t make a decision until after the Tour.
Finally, Contador said he’s satisfied with work with new bike sponsor Specialized to improve his position over the bike.
Working with the Specialized BG Fit system, Andy Pruitt and Scot Holz traveled to Spain to help Contador get the best fit possible on his new ride.
“There was a study done by Specialized and I’m happy with it, because they are people with a lot of experience and we studied my position to improve the efficiency of the pedal stroke,” he said. “My sensation is that when it comes time to transfer power to the bike is better now.”