Contador won’t obsess about Froome’s form for Tour: “A three week race can’t be based on two riders”
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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Contador won’t obsess about Froome’s form for Tour: “A three week race can’t be based on two riders”

by Shane Stokes at 5:23 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Critérium du Dauphiné
Spanish Tour de France contender eager to test his legs in Critérium du Dauphiné

Alberto ContadorAlthough Chris Froome has marked himself out as a big rider to watch due to his success this year in races such as the Tour of Oman, the Tour de Romandie and Critérium International, Alberto Contador has said that he believes it would be a mistake for him – and others - to focus too much on the Briton for the Tour de France.

“A three-week race can’t be based on two riders. This year Froome is a reference due to his performance, and I may be because of my past, but there are many young riders who are consolidating,” he said in a press conference held prior to the start of the Critérium du Dauphiné tomorrow. “The clearest example is
Wiggins and what happened in the Giro. That started as a battle with Nibali, yet look what happened. The same can happen at the Tour. The Tour is more than two riders.”

Contador believes that there are a number of competitors who could fight for the final victory in the Tour de France, and gave examples of some of those. “I hate to say names because I always forget someone, but there are many candidates, such as Joaquim [Rodriguez], [Tejay] van Garderen, [Cadel] Evans, [Jurgen] Van den Broeck and many others.

“Joaquim has consolidated in the last two years when almost got the victory in the Giro and the Vuelta. Valverde always fights in the three weeks tours and Evans already knows how to win the Tour. You always have to keep him in mind.”

The Spaniard won the Tour de France in 2007, beating Evans and his then-Discovery Channel team-mate Levi Leipheimer, then repeated the feat two years later when he finished ahead of Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong. [The latter has since been disqualified, as has Leipheimer – ed.]

Contador was first in Paris in 2010, although he ultimately lost that title after a positive test for Clenbuterol. Schleck was later named winner of the race and while he has not been in the same form since the 2011 race due to a big crash in last year’s Dauphiné, Contador refuses to rule him out.

“We have to see,” he said, when asked if he should be considered a rival for the Tour. “I don’t know if he will race in Switzerland, but he is a great rider. I haven’t seen many with more class than him. In the last year and a half he has not been at his level, but this year he is competing a lot and each time is going a little better. I don’t know which level he will have, but he would be good for the race and for the spectacle.”

Asked about Jurgen van den Broeck’s potential, he stated that he considers the Belgian to be ‘a very strong adversary,’ and believes he will be amongst the favourites for the Tour.

One who will be missing from the 2013 Tour is last year’s winner, Bradley Wiggins. He has struggled to hit top form this year and withdrew ill from the Giro d’Italia. The Briton confirmed yesterday that he will not take part in this year’s race, saying that a knee problem has stopped him training to the level required to be in shape for the Tour.

Somewhat inevitably, Contador was asked about the Sky rider’s absence and whether it would be an advantage or disadvantage in the Tour de France. He said that he wasn’t spending time thinking about that aspect, but that Wiggins’ team-mate may well have been a bigger consideration anyway.

“The approach of the race does not change much for me. Of course, Wiggins is a good rider and has already won the Tour, but this year Froome was more of a favourite,” he said. “Honestly, my vision of the Tour would have been more changed without him [Froome].”

And what of Wiggins’ tough Giro; was he surprised by what had happened? “Not really,” he answered. “In the Giros I have been in, there has always has been rain, narrow roads, and a very crazy race where everything can change in a moment. I was not surprised the race went like that [this year] and it was also clear from the first moment that things were not going well for Wiggins.”

Dauphiné primarily about building up for the Tour:

Alberto ContadorContador was asked a lot about the Tour de France, but his more immediate appointment is the Critérium du Dauphiné, which begins with a hilly stage tomorrow in Switzerland. While some riders will doubtlessly try to win it and thus strike a psychological blow to their opponents prior to the start of the Tour, Contador sees things differently.

He’d like to go well, but sees the race more as a means than an end. He’s also only now getting back to racing after a long gap in competition, and that too will have an effect.

“After the Classics, I took a break that I really needed, as I had a very long early season. Then I returned to training by working in very hard blocks. It is still early for the Tour, because it will be decided in the third week and there is still a lot of time until then. In the Dauphiné I’ll see what my form is and if I have yet to give a nudge to the engine for the Tour, but I'm happy with my preparation.

“This is a race I always took a little more relaxed than the others, as it is mostly a set up for the Tour de France. It is not a race to take responsibility of and to think about winning.”

Still, even though it is not a prime objective, he’d still like to push himself at certain points and to check his form.

“Here the goal is to prepare for the Tour, but if you are a contender, you're always ahead in the Dauphiné. I do not remember exactly, but one year I finished second and I think in other years I have finished third and fifth. If the race situation is good and I can do a test at some point, I may do so, but I am always thinking about the Tour.”

Asked if there was a particular stage that he would like to test himself on, he played down such a suggestion. “I'm motivated to know how I am and I want to climb long mountains, but there is not a special stage that motivates me,” he said. “It will be nice to go to Alpe d'Huez and see how it is, because the descent last week was still very bad.

“There were sections of the road without asphalt and the descent was very dirty and with stones. I don’t know if they will have had time to prepare it now, but I hope it will be ready for the Tour.”

What’s clear from Contador is that he is conscious that there are still several weeks until the start of the bigger race and much can change in that time. His form, his rivals’ condition, the surface of the Tour route and also Team Saxo Tinkoff’s own lineup for the race.

The latter is still being finalised and the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse will play a part in determining the final lineup.

Still, even if the composition is not yet know, he’s feeling very upbeat about the quality of the riders he will have around him.

“Basically all the team here is in the selection for the Tour, plus some men that will be in Switzerland such as Kreuziger or Roche,” he said.

“We have one or two riders who have yet to be decided, but we have a group of ten or eleven riders for the Tour team. This year I am very happy, I have great confidence in the team and all riders are progressing well.”


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