Alberto Contador is impressed with Astana, says it's an open Tour de France in 2010
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Contador impressed with Astana, says it's an open Tour

by Steve Jones at 5:09 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de France
 

At a press conference today during team Astana's training camp in Calpe, Spain, defending Tour de France Champion Alberto Contador discussed the "new look" Astana for 2010, and what he thinks of the changes that have been made since the 2009 Tour de France team made a mass exodus to Team RadioShack. Even since last month's camp in Pisa, Italy Contador said he sees a positive difference in Team Astana.

"I'm very happy with the work we are doing here [at the training camp]. We're riding about 160 or 170 kilometers on average, and the team is responding in an incredible way. There is a difference in attitude from last year in riders who were on the team, with the Kazakhs much more involved, and they have also shown that they have improved their level. As for me, I'm feeling very good. I still have to tune my fitness a little more, but the data is still very good," he explained.

The Spaniard said he has seen the team evolve since last month's camp in Italy. "I have noticed a big difference [since Pisa]," he explained, "but not in motivation. What I wanted was to see the team in hard training and we have done some rides of over 200 km and there were riders who have done even more. Every day I become more convinced that we will have a great team in the Tour."

Contador confirmed that he would kick off his 2010 season on February 17th at the Tour of Algarve. Then, he will take a similar path to last year and participate in Paris-Nice, a race he says he "really likes", and will then take the start in the Tours of Catalonia and the Basque Country.

He is still unsure of whether he will ride in the Spring Classics, explaining that his participation will depend on his condition. Even if he rides, he admitted that he would only be there to gain experience. When asked if he will train on the cobbles to prepare for the first week of this year's Tour de France he answered, "Yes, because it is a area which in theory is not in my favor, but I also haven't had bad experiences on them, so maybe I could take advantage."

According to Contador, the Astana team has made a transition for the good in 2010. Now with Lance Armstrong out of the picture, he credits team manager Yvon Sanquer and director Giuseppe Martinelli for building what he feels will be a Tour winning squad around him. "Last year there were many more riders to ride for the big tours and this year there are not too many," he said.

The additions of Alexandre Vinokourov and Oscar Pereiro are something that Contador thinks will be a big factor come July. "[They bring] great experience," he said of his teammates. "I see Vino doing great, working incredibly hard. He wants to prove what a great champion he is. Pereiro has given me a very good impression. I do not know how he was the past few years, but what I've seen in Pisa and before he left for Australia is that he has proved he has very clear goals and that knows he has a great chance to shine." There is still a big question mark as to weather race organizers will welcome Vinokourov back to the Tour, but the Spaniard is optimistic.

With the change in bike sponsor to Specialized, he continues to have the advantage of a company that is willing to innovate and explore any advantage that can be had by their equipment during the races. Recently, the American company sent their bike fit team to Spain and sized up Contador's position on the bike. "It was a examination by Specialized and I was very happy," he explained. "They brought over someone with a lot of experience to adapt my position to improve pedaling efficiency." He said he noticed the difference: "[with the changes] I now feel that I am transmitting more power to the pedals."

When asked if he was the favorite for this year's Tour de France he said he wasn't "necessarily the man to beat," saying there are many possible winners. But when asked about his rivals he showed his confidence by saying, "No one stands out too much. There are many rivals, though man-to-man the person who put me in the most difficulty in the mountains at the Tour was Andy Schleck."

He also worked to set the record straight about his 2009 Tour de France win saying, "No, it was not me winning alone against everyone [on Astana], I needed the help of the team."

Contador said that his relationship with former mentor Johan Bruyneel isn't what it used to be, but he was hopeful that at some point in the future that would change. "We're a little more distant because we both have our own projects, but our relationship is okay, and I hope that in a few years we will have a completely normal relationship."

Since the end of the 2009 Tour de France Alberto Contador has travelled a rocky road when it comes to the fans of his former teammate Lance Armstrong. In some cases things are sensationalized and even blown out of proportion in the press. Some purposeful, some not; and sometimes things can just be misunderstood in translation.

In any case, the end result has been a perceived, or perhaps even a real, adversarial relationship between the Tour contenders. But Contador isn't too worried about that, saying of Armstrong, "I have great respect for him as a rider and a competitor." He has also decided not to discuss his 'conflict' with Armstrong many times already this year, and wouldn't rule out the possibility of one day becoming friends with the American, simply saying, "Life takes many turns."

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