PORTO VECCHIO, France (AFP) — Two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador on Thursday said that he was not fully fit going into this year’s race but was relishing the prospect of an exciting competition.
The Spanish rider, who won cycling’s greatest prize in 2007 and 2009, is viewed as the main challenger to Britain’s Chris Froome, who was runner-up last year behind Bradley Wiggins.
“Froome has been very good all season but if I didn’t think I could beat him I wouldn’t have any motivation to come here,” he said Thursday.
This year’s Tour is the 30-year-old Spaniard’s first since returning from a ban for a doping violation that saw him stripped of his win in 2010 and first place awarded to Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck.
Contador said he was happy to return to “the biggest race in the world” and was hoping to perform to the best of his abilities.
But there have been doubts about his fitness after he said during the traditional Tour warm-up, the Critérium du Dauphiné, that he was only at 75 percent of his capacity.
Contador admitted that he had not regained the full 25 percent difference going into the race.
“It’s difficult to say but I’m more or less at 90 percent of my form. That was the aim for the start of the Tour, especially when you see the route,” he added.
Contador has yet to register a win this season, trailing behind Froome in Oman, the Critérium International, Tour of Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
But he said not being a favorite did not change much — and if he did not believe he could challenge him he would not have entered the Tour.
“I’m the one who puts pressure on myself because I want to give the best of myself,” he told a news conference in Porto Vecchio, Corsica, where the 100th edition of the Tour starts on Saturday.
“That’s no different from other years. There’ll be more than two figures in the race. Tactically, we’ll decide after the second time trial.
“Depending on my position in the overall classification, we’ll choose whether to adopt an attacking or defensive strategy.
“In any event, there’ll be more action, more movement on this Tour than in previous years.”
Contador said that his Saxo-Tinkoff team was stronger than his last appearance in 2011, which was reassuring and could give him an advantage, particularly going into the mountain stages.
One secret weapon could be Michael Rogers, who formerly rode for Froome’s Team Sky and has the inside track about how the British outfit thinks and races, he added.