Contador: If I ride the Giro, it’s to win the race
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Monday, January 21, 2013

Contador: If I ride the Giro, it’s to win the race

by VeloNation Press at 8:10 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Spaniard says the route and a stronger team could make a Giro/Tour double possible

Alberto ContadorRepeating his earlier statement that he is considering riding the Giro d’Italia this year, Alberto Contador has said that if he does the double, it’s with the firm aim of winning both the Giro and the Tour de France. It’s not a question of preparing for the French race by riding the earlier event; instead, it will be guns blazing in both. “With the prestige of this race, I can’t think of anything else,” he insisted.

Unable to achieve the feat two years ago, with first in the Giro being finished by a quiet fifth in the Tour [note: he was ultimately stripped of both results], Contador has outlined the reasons why he believes it might be possible to win both this time round.

“This year's Giro fits better, it is more compatible than other years when it was harder,” he said, explaining that he is only likely to do the Vuelta if he misses the Italian race or has problems in the Tour.

“I've always prepared differently for the Tour when I wanted to win it, but they [the 2013 Giro and Tour] are compatible. We must take into account several factors. The first are the courses. This year's Giro is less demanding than in 2011, when there were stages of more than 6000 meters uphill. The second is the team. If you have a strong team that doesn’t require your efforts every day it’s easier.

“The third is to know that you are going to the Tour from the beginning. In 2011 I didn’t know until fifteen days before, when the team asked me to go, but without a good preparation. I was also influenced by several adverse circumstances, such as the crash that made me lose more than a minute at the very beginning. That forced me to attack in the first week, when normally you take it calmly. Then I had two crashes, one of them really hard on my knee. I almost abandoned, but eventually continued. Without all these adverse factors, I would have been very close.”

Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins (Sky) has already said that he is planning on trying to win the Giro. Other team leaders such as Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) are also targeting the race. If Contador also heads there, it will ratchet up the interest in the event, which has made considerable progress in that regard in recent years.

Before then, Contador will ride a variety of events as preparation and also as targets in themselves. The first on his calendar is the Tour de San Luis, which begins today, but he played down his chances at yesterday’s pre-race press conference.

“I’m eager, but my physical condition is not really good,” he admitted. “I'm much more delayed than other years, but I want it that way. I want to take the Tour de San Luis differently…at least that's the goal, to go more smoothly.”

Asked if that meant he was going to hold back, he confirmed he would. “Yes, but that’s mostly because some peope will go better than me here. I’ll feel better after a week here, but it’s not enough to dispute the victory. I don’t think it is possible to fight with people with more kilometres in the legs and with the local favourites, for whom this race is the main goal.”

Last year Contador took a stage and finished second overall, although his sanction from the Court of Arbitration for Sport in relation to the 2010 Clenbuterol positive meant that he ultimately lost those placings.

This time round, he doesn’t have the stress of that case hanging over his head, but an improved mental situation won’t be reflected in better physical shape.

“My situation is different, much more quiet,” he explained. “In 2012 I did not know what would happen. I've been training since late November and could already be in shape, but with age it costs a little more. But what makes the performance difficult are the commitments I have at this time with travels, sponsors or media.

“In recent months I have to do all of this and its represents a big effort that prevents me from having adequate preparation. While I feel better every day, training in warm weather, it is not enough to fight for the win.”

Initial uncertainty, but much stronger lineup:

Alberto ContadorAlthough it doesn’t compare at all to the stresses of last winter when he was trying to fight the Clenbuterol case, Contador also faced considerable uncertainty during the off season over Team Saxo Tinkoff’s battle to be a WorldTour team in 2013.

Because the points of a rider returning from a long ban are not allowed to be considered, the team was ranked only twentieth in the UCI’s hierarchy of squads. It meant that it was not guaranteed to be given a WorldTour licence but, on December 10th, Team Saxo Tinkoff finally got a green light.

That takes a weight off the minds of Contador, team owner Bjarne Riis and the others working for the team, as otherwise they would have had to rely on a wildcard invitation to the biggest races.

While Contador’s presence would likely have got them into most events he wanted to compete in, there still would have been uncertainty in planning schedules as those wildcard slots are handed out closer to each race start. In addition to that, the team would have faced a question mark over those WorldTour events that he was not due to ride. Would organisers have wanted the team in Paris-Roubaix or Paris-Nice, for example?

Getting the licence makes things a lot more straightforward and means that he can map out exactly what races he wants to do.

After the Tour de San Luis, he will do the Tour of Oman, Tirreno Adriatico, the Criterium International and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. He’d like to be going well in the latter three races, and will probably then dispute the Ardennes Classics. He doesn’t feel an obligation to shine in the latter, though, saying that he has the peace of mind that others on the team will have a chance of winning and thus take the pressure off himself.

That said, he does like the idea of winning his first spring Classic. It’s a question of metering out his energy, though, with the specific demands of the one day races meaning that he would have to aim to be at a peak. If he’s also trying to do the same for the Giro and the Tour, it’s difficult for the body to be able to raise itself each time.

“I think I could win a Classic if I completely prepared to get one, but you have to consider what you would be risking,” he said. “To do that, I’d need to have more training that for stage races; they [the Classics] don’t rely on recovery, which is my best quality. There’s also the issue of spring allergies.

“The only year that I was well trained I rode at a good level, but the effort is very large and are not entirely compatible with the Tour de France.”

However unlike other years, the team has a much better line-up than before. The addition of Tinkoff Bank as co-sponsor gave the team extra budget and enabled it to sign up a number of very strong riders. While Contador had his own dedicated helpers before, those who are coming on board have the ability to win races in their own right, taking pressure off him, helping the team to build points and also giving him better support in the big races.

“There are no words for describing them,” he enthused. “We have strengthened much for big tours with Rogers, Roche, Kreuziger and Bennati, but also with men for Classics as Breschel. This year the team will be competitive wherever it is racing.

“I have no obligation to win every race…that gives me more peace of mind, because a team need wins and it always needs to have more alternatives in case you have an injury or mishap.”

What that means is that Contador can pick and choose the events he wants to shine in and, once he is there, knows that he will have support which will rival or exceed that of his rivals. It should in theory improve his prospects for his top events and if things go to plan, he’ll be the first to take the Giro/Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998.

However he plays down his chances of riding the world road race championships in Florence, an event which would likely suit him due to the hilly course. That comes at the end of a long season and if he rides both the Giro and the Tour, he doesn’t think he will be in a position to chase the rainbow jersey.

The only way he thinks he will be racing for gold in the worlds is if he is riding the Vuelta a España and thus gets that platform for peak condition.

Somewhat inevitably, given the scale of the Oprah Winfrey interview, Contador was also asked his thoughts on the Armstrong situation. The two were team-mates in 2009, the year the Texan returned, but clashed in that year’s Tour and had a difficult relationship from that point on.

“People have already talked a lot about that interview, but nobody was surprised with what he said,” he responded. “It's hard for the image of cycling, but I look at what can be good about it: maybe we can close this chapter of that decade and focus on the present and the future of this beautiful sport.”


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