Contador on Froome: “His form is very strong but a lot of things can happen in the last week”
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Monday, July 08, 2013

Contador on Froome: “His form is very strong but a lot of things can happen in the last week”

by VeloNation Press at 12:38 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Spaniard explains inaction on yesterday’s stage; says he never doped

Alberto ContadorPointing out that he has previously felt stronger in the third week of some of the Grand Tours he has ridden, Alberto Contador continues to insist that he has a chance of winning this year’s Tour.

After a disappointing day for him on Saturday and then a quiet performance yesterday when he opted not to attack an isolated Chris Froome on the final climb, the Spaniard sits sixth overall, one minute 51 seconds behind the Briton.

However while he is clearly some way off where he needs to be, he maintains that he believes Froome’s victory is far from guaranteed.

“His form is very strong and mine is not extraordinary, but a lot of things can happen. Throughout my career the last week has always been the best in the big tours and although Froome is very strong, you could see in the last Vuelta a España [2012 – ed.] that the final week was very long for him.”

One difference between the two riders in that race was that Contador had only returned from his sanction a number of weeks prior to the Vuelta start, while Froome had earlier finished second overall in the Tour de France and third in the Olympic time trial.

Both are riding their first Grand Tour of the season at the Tour de France and so it doesn’t automatically follow that the pattern seen at the Vuelta will be seen in this year’s Tour.

However, Contador is a rider who doesn’t give up in his major targets, and he will continue to race hard all the way to Paris. In the same way as Froome gained the bulk of his time over him on one mountain stage, Contador will feel that it is also possible for him to turn things around if he has a good day and Froome does not.

That said, he also accepts that he may lose more time to the Briton in Wednesday’s time trial. “It will be difficult for me, because it is completely flat, suitable for specialists and in this sense is a disadvantage,” he said. “What is clear is that I’ll give hundred percent and we’ll see what happens.”

What’s apparent from yesterday’s stage, though, is that he and other GC contenders had a prime opportunity to attack Chris Froome, but didn’t take it. The Briton came under pressure early on after his Sky team were blown out, but although he was isolated this wasn’t followed up on the final climb.

Movistar’s Nairo Quintana did surge several times and was covered, and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Jakob Fuglsant (Astana) jumped away to finish first and second on the stage, but Contador and several other contenders never budged.

It may be a long time before they have Froome in such a vulnerable position again, and as a result many wondered why more aggression was not shown.

Former Tour winner Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) posed the same question, saying that he felt the tactics were inexplicable and that Froome’s rivals lost a prime chance.

Contador was asked about his inaction. Watching the stage, it appeared that he didn’t have the strength to try, but he insisted that the issue was one of logic, not legs. “I was looking at the race and at the end I thought it was a senseless attack, because there were thirty kilometres left,” he said. “There were still many riders in the group, because the previous climb was not very hard and I thought it was better to keep the strength to the next time trial.”

Instead, he is hoping that Sky will falter again. “It is always good to see that there may be weakness in his team, but it is not something usual. It was something that surprised us. If there is another chance I’ll try to take it,” he said.

In last year’s Vuelta a España Contador’s persistence paid off when he finally cracked Joaquim Rodriguez after several days of being able to do so. He soloed to victory on the Fuente Dé stage and seized a race lead he would keep to the end.

That will give him hope that he could do the same, but it is clear that his condition needs to improve greatly over the next six days before the race returns to the mountains. However he accepts that it is not guaranteed that Froome will weaken in this Tour.

“That the last week can be hard for Froome is only a possibility, because so far he has shown no weakness,” he accepted. “But I'm going to try, because everyone’s legs hurt and if you do not think you can get something, it is impossible to achieve it. Sometimes you have to take risks and you have to try something.”

The press conference also included a question about him being a pro for ten years and if he has always competed without doping in that period. His answer was a short one. “The only thing I can say is that I've always raced clean and always will,” Contador answered. “You can believe what you want.”

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