Alberto Contador has reconfirmed he will make a run at the Giro d’Italia and is taking a wait-and-see approach to the Tour de France for the time being.
Speaking to La Gazzetta della Sport, Contador repeated what he said two weeks ago, that the Giro would be his first major goal of the 2011 season. The story is significant in that La Gazzetta is owned by Giro operators RCS Sport and is seen as a clear blessing from Giro boss Angelo Zomegnan.
“It’s my first important objective of the season. I looked at the stages last week on a map. There’s not one ‘queen stage,’ there are six,” Contador told the Italian sports daily. “It’s the stage race that I enjoyed to the maximum. Along the roads, there is unequalled passion. The fans understand cycling and how it works.”
Zomegnan has already indicated that Contador would be welcomed back to the Giro, which he won in 2008 after a late-hour invitation was handed down to Astana. Contador “came off the beach” to beat back Riccardo Ricco to win the maglia rosa.
Contador was cleared two weeks ago by the Spanish cycling federation on his ongoing clenbuterol positive from the 2010 Tour in a stunning decision that lifted a temporary racing ban and cleared Contador to return to racing.
Less than 24 hours after hearing the news, Contador lined up for the Volta ao Algarve, riding to fourth overall in his first race in the Saxo Bank-Sungard jersey.
Contador is anxiously waiting to see if WADA and the UCI will mount an appeal to the Spanish federation’s ruling to drop doping charges against the three-time Tour winner. Even if an appeal is filed, Contador would technically be free to continue racing until a final decision would be taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a process that would likely drag on for months.
“Between the biological passport and the other anti-doping controls, they have tons of collected data throughout my career. I believe in the system, but they also ought to demonstrate that they believe in it,” Contador said. “I would like to be the same (person), but I believe that’s impossible. I have suffered a lot. Now I am more closed off, more reserved. And maybe I am a little less altruistic.”
Contador is plowing ahead with an aggressive racing schedule, in large part to ride into top shape following his winter of discontent when he admitted he hardly trained at all. He’s slated to race the three-day Vuelta a Murcia this weekend in Spain, followed by the Volta a Catalunya at the end of March. Later, he’ll race to defend his title at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon in April before heading to the Ardennes, with a likely run at Fleche Wallonne.
For the Tour, Contador is waiting to see what happens in the coming weeks: “It’s in my plans, if I am able to race it.”
The inclusion of the Giro and talk of the Tour also seems to be an indication that Saxo Bank-Sungard boss is still working on his plan to have Contador race all three grand tours in the same season. The idea was floated before Contador’s clenbuterol case erupted last fall. Now that Contador has a lifeline, Riis may well push forward the aggressive racing agenda.
And Riis says if Contador does race all three grand tours, “it will be to win, of course.”
WADA and the UCI still might have something to say about that.