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Back where he started: Contador set for Paris-Nice

Paris-Nice was the first major stage race Alberto Contador won in 2007, setting the stage for his first Tour de France victory later that summer.

Nearly a decade later, and for the first time since 2010, Contador returns to Paris-Nice (March 6-13) hoping that history repeats itself. In what could be his final season in the pro ranks, Contador is counting on a strong showing at the “Race to the Sun” to catapult him toward a successful Tour.

“I return to the race that revealed me as a rider, in 2007, and which in some aspect was the springboard for the Tour de France,” Contador said a team release. “It is a special race where I have always performed well. In addition, it is a very important one in terms of preparation because it gives you pace and provides a good base for the rest of the year.”

Contador, 33, debuted at the Volta ao Algarve, and took an emotional mountaintop stage victory at Malhao last month in the final stage. After Paris-Nice, he will race the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) as early season targets.

“I’d like this first part of the season to be as good as possible, but it’s certain Paris-Nice is a top-level race in which everybody wants to win,” he said. “It’s demanding due to the level of the rivals and the difficulty in controlling it. Tinkoff heads to Paris-Nice with the intention to race well and fight for victory.”

Contador won Paris-Nice a second time, in 2010, and later went on to win what was his third Tour de France, only to have that title stripped due to his clenbuterol case. He’s hoping that part of the story doesn’t repeat itself.

Contador will be joined by Sergio Paulihno, Rafa Majka, Yuri Trofimov, and Matteo Tossato. The team is motivated to give exiting owner Oleg Tinkov a proper sendoff, and winning a third Paris-Nice title fits the bill.

“We started getting results early on a very special year for us, as it is the last one for Tinkov as owner and for Tinkoff Bank as sponsor,” Contador said. “For that reason as well, we have been working very well, with the team split in various groups. Some riders went to Australia and Tour de San Luis, and we had high-altitude training camps on Teide and in Sierra Nevada. We all are very satisfied with the way we got off and, in my case, I’m happy with the squad that will flank me in Paris-Nice.”