Tour champ Contador eager to start racing, makes season debut tomorrow
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tour champ Contador eager to start racing, makes season debut tomorrow

by Conal Andrews at 6:34 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Relishing a return to competition, Tour de France champion Alberto Contador is one of several big names due to line out on tomorrow’s opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal. The 27 year old Spaniard will appear alongside Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer (Team Radioshack), Tour of the Mediterranean victor Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Transitions), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel Euskadi), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and others in the lumpy 157.5 kilometre leg from Algarve Stadium to Albufeira.

Contador won the race last year, beating Chavanel by one minute and six seconds. He feels that his form is good but, having just come back from his longest-ever voluntary break in racing, doesn’t want expectations to be too high.

“I am especially looking forward to my first race,” he stated. “I am a rider who likes to compete and that's what motivates me. I think I came with a good level, but not with that of 2009 when I won. I'm fine, but what I want is to make a good preparation for Paris-Nice, where I want to be competitive.”

The Spaniard won his second Tour de France last July and, criteriums aside, hasn’t competed since. The length of that break plus a disruption in his training means that he is a little behind where he was last year.

“The sensations are good, but in 2009 I came from a training camp in the U.S. where I worked very well,” he explained. “This year, however, there has been a very bad weather in Madrid and I have not trained as I like. Anyway, this is the first race of the year and we should not pay too much importance to it.

“My training is more or less as it was in other years, perhaps with more long training rides than in 2009. The idea is to reduce my weight a little as I'm still 63.5 kg, 2 kg above the weight of the Tour, and you can feel that.”

Strong lineup:

The 2010 edition of the race has a very impressive field, with many big-name riders in attendance. Most are also making their season debut but it’s quite possible that they will be competitive from the off. Contador is clear on who the main favourites will be, and will probably look forward to the chance to see them close up.

“Although waiting for the official confirmation, I know that Leipheimer, Klöden, Luis Leon Sanchez, Ivan Gutierrez, Samuel Sanchez and Vandevelde will come. There will also be others such as Chavanel, Ezequiel Mosquera and Joaquin Rodriguez, while not forgetting the riders of the Portuguese teams, which are very good and have a special motivation at home.”

However, while he will have the opportunity to study their condition, he said that he is not going to worry about how he fares compared to them. “I just want to check my form and see how I respond in the race. It’s not a matter of comparison.”

“The course is great for doing good training, but it is a little worse [for him] than 2009, because people have told me that the time trial is shorter and completely flat. Last year was very hard and it allowed me to make differences. This year, however, there are other riders with more possibilities on this course.”

The first two stages are lumpy but likely to end in bunch sprints. Friday’s stage to Malhão is where the big shake-up is expected, as the summit finish is difficult enough to cause significant time gaps by the line. Saturday’s leg will be less decisive as the finale is flatter. And, as Contador suggested, Sunday’s 17.2 kilometre time trial to Portimão is an easier one than last year.

Tour rivals Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong will undoubtedly study the results afterwards but whatever the outcome, Contador feels secure that he is on the right track. He believes that the long break in competition will see a slower start, yet give him more reserves in the long-run. He also feels that he should reach a higher level than in 2009, and this is something that will undoubtedly concern his rivals.

“To start again [after a long break] is a handicap because you lack a bit [of condition]. It's not as easy as if you had finished after the Worlds. You must train hard to reach the same point, although this has its positive side. In the long term the body will appreciate this rest.

“I think I will improve [on 2009]. I'm working at 100% in training and I think I can improve in both the mountains and time trials. I'm doing some tests and the results are even better than last year. I hope that it works out in competition.”


Team Astana for the Volta ao Algarve: Alberto Contador, Jesus Hernandez, David de la Fuente, Andriy Grivko, Maxim Gourov, Dani Navarro, Benjamin Noval and Sergey Renev.



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