Contador rules out breaking Saxo Tinkoff contract before end of agreed term
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Sunday, December 01, 2013

Contador rules out breaking Saxo Tinkoff contract before end of agreed term

by VeloNation Press at 10:54 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Tinkoff takeover of team expected, but he says he’s staying put despite past disagreements

Alberto ContadorAlthough his relations with Oleg Tinkov have been strained at times since this year’s Tour, particularly as the Russian publicly blasted him about a lack of professionalism, Alberto Contador has ruled out moving away from the Saxo Tinkoff team.

It is widely expected that the press conference called for tomorrow in London will see Tinkoff confirmed as the new owner of the team, following indications that he has purchased the squad from Bjarne Riis.

Given the strained relationship between the rider and Tinkov, as well as the likelihood that the Spaniard’s friend Fernando Alonso will set up his own squad in advance of the 2015 season, Contador was asked by Spanish paper Marca if 2014 could be his final one with the team.

He dismissed the suggestion. “I don’t plan to not continue with Riis. I have signed for this year and next,” he said, warning against believing rumours. “Ignore what is said or written out there.”

Asked about the Alonso project plus the plans to have a team on the road in just over twelve months time, Contador accepts that the option could be a good one, but again repeats that he will see out his agreed term.

“Fernando Alonso’s project is interest and somehow is something that motivates me as well. Teams need to be formed and you never know what will happen. But I have a contract and I don’t plan anything else.

“It would be good that the project goes ahead. And then, after some time, everything could happen.”

Contador has already made clear that he sees the Alonso project as something that he could become part of in the future. However he has stated before and is now reiterating that he intends to honour the agreement he currently has with Riis.

However it remains to be seen if that could change if Riis is no longer involved with the team; he is under investigation by Anti Doping Denmark (ADD), which said this week that a change in nationality of the squad – as could happen with Tinkov in charge – would not impact on any sanctions that it might decide to hand down.

If it does find against him, it is conceivable that the Dane could be forced out of the sport, despite any agreement he may have with Tinkov.

“It is irrelevant if he continues to operate in another country,” ADD told BT. “For a sports director, the penalty applies to all work, no matter where the licence belongs. It’s the same as applies for athletes.

“During a sanction period, a cyclist may not switch to a team with the licence of another country and keep racing for it.”

It is anticipated that a decision from ADD will fall in January.

Asked if he had spoken with Formula One driver Alonso, Contador said that they had spoken of late. “We met casually, but nothing more. We agree that he feels admiration for cycling and for cars and speed. That's it,” he said.

Contador was once seen as a rider who could challenge Lance Armstrong’s Tour record of seven wins; two things have made that target an unattainable one. The first is that Armstrong no longer holds the distinction. He was stripped of each of those wins by the US Anti Doping Agency last year. The second is Contador’s age. At one point he held three Tour titles, but lost one of them after he tested positive for Clenbuterol. He finished seventh in the 2011 Tour [a result he lost anyway after his results were stripped in relation to the 2010 positive], missed the 2012 race altogether and was only fourth this year.

He’ll turn 31 years of age in five days’ time and the likelihood of him taking another five Tours appears very remote. He’ll try, of course, but with Chris Froome in winning form and other rivals emerging, few would bet on a quintet of future wins before he retires.

Asked about when the decision to walk away might happen, Contador said that he considers the day when he hangs up his wheels to be a long way off.

“We are all ageing and in the distance I can see a time when I will have to leave it [cycling],” he accepted. “It will be when I can’t reach the level that I want to, when I can see that I can no longer meet the targets. You should get off the bike then. But I see that as being a long way away.”

Before then, he wants to clock up at least one more Tour win, if not many more than that. He fell well short this year, but has said that his preparation was wrong, with not enough base-building before starting to race.

One of his intentions now is to delay the beginning of his racing programme. The other is something he has already been working on.

“There will be two major changes from the last two years in particular,” he explained recently to ESPN Deportes, talking about the modified approach. “I'm going to start training before - I've already started - and to compete a little after the second or third week of February, whereas the last two years had begun in January at the Tour de San Luis.

“This year we 'll delay things until February in order to have a good base and to build slowly to reach the big goal, which is the Tour de France.”

In addition to training earlier and starting to race later, he’ll also aim to peak before the Tour, to back off and then to come back for July at hopefully a higher level again.

After likely starting in the Volta ao Algarve on February 19th, his early programme will likely see him do one of Paris-Nice or Tirreno Adriatico, then the Volta a Catalunya, the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Critérium du Dauphiné.

He is set to speak at Monday’s press conference in London, and will likely elaborate on the details then. Tinkov is expected to be there and, if he does indeed announce new ownership of the team, tomorrow will be the first chance to gauge if relations remain frosty between the Russian and the Spaniard, or if their own cold war has thawed.

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