LEEDS, England (VN) — Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) said that he appears fitter than Tour de France defending champing Chris Froome (Sky) based on this year’s results.
“Froome is the one to beat because he has been the best rider for the last two years. This year, though, I’m in better shape so far,” Contador said. “I don’t know if it’s enough to beat him, but I’ll try it. There are others to consider, too.”
Contador’s results have shown that he is back to his best following a doping ban linked to his 2010 positive test for clenbuterol. This year, he won the Tirreno-Adriatico and País Vasco stage races, and placed second in all the others — Algarve, Catalunya and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“I like the Contador we have right now,” Tinkoff team manager Bjarne Riis said at the Dauphiné. “It’s a beautiful bike rider we have here in the Dauphiné. I’ve never seen him that good.”
The 31-year-old from Madrid’s outskirts followed all of Froome’s attacks in the first summit-finish stage and dropped him in the stage up the Col de la Gueulaz in Switzerland. He lost the race overall to Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), who made a brave attack early in the final stage.
“This season could be compared to 2009, I felt very good then,” Contador said, referring to the year that he won his second Tour title. “I felt very well the entire season, but after the Dauphiné, I felt that I was in the right shape for the Tour. Besides the race results, I’ve done my training at altitude and on the cobbles to be ready for the Tour de France.”
Contador and his team previewed the cobble sectors that form part of stage five to Arenberg once in April and again this week before boarding Oleg Tinkov’s private jet to Yorkshire.
He says that stage, the mini-Paris-Roubaix day, and Sunday’s stage two, which insiders call a mini-Liège-Bastogne-Liège, could shape the overall classification even before the race hits the high mountains starting with La Planche des Belles Filles.
“I’ve seen a video from stage two, but not have not ridden it yet,” Contador said. “It’ll be very tricky, there can already be differences in the classification on day two. There are many climbs and we will also have to consider the wind that day, it could play an important role. I have good legs and will do well, though.”
“El Pistolero” will fire when he has the opportunity, as he showed when he won the 2012 Vuelta a España following his doping ban. He may need to collect those extra seconds when he can because the Dauphiné showed that his only weakness appears to be his team. While Froome had four teammates alongside him in some instances, Contador was already isolated and without help in the mountains.
For the Tour, Riis brought in Rafal Majka, Nicolas Roche and Michael Rogers, who were not at the Dauphiné. Roman Kreuziger, who helped Contador last year and placed fifth overall, had to stay home at the last minute after the UCI announced problems with his anti-doping biological passport.
“The team is ready for the mountains even without Kreuziger,” Contador said. “Rafal is a good rider, a rider who could’ve been in the team anyway, regardless of this incident. He will be a good help for me in the mountains. I’ll have a strong team in the mountains, I can rely on them.
“The Dauphiné was a good test, staying with Froome and attacking him. I feel confident for the Tour de France.”