Roche: no problem in Contador taking a break from racing
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roche: no problem in Contador taking a break from racing

by Conal Andrews at 8:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 

1987 Tour de France champion Stephen Roche has said that he doesn’t believe Alberto Contador’s long break from training will have any negative consequences for his season. The Spaniard is currently competing in his first race of the season, with the opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal marking his first serious competitive outing since last year’s Tour.

“The guys at the top level know themselves so well,” the Irishman told VeloNation, playing down any suggestion that a seven month break in racing could affect Contador’s fitness level later in the year. “If they are at home and not racing, they are training very well. These guys don’t sit back and wait until the condition comes any more; they go out and get the form. If they are at home, they are training behind the motorbike, looking after their weight, getting the hours in and working hard.

“They are looking after themselves so well that they can just jump onto the bike and race. Mentally, I think it is good because when they are actually in the racing scene, there is a lot of people such as journalists knocking on the door and talking to them. I think that having a long break is not a bad thing any more. Years ago we would have seen it differently for your fitness, but as they have themselves very finely tuned, it is not a big deal now.”

Contador has admitted that the freezing weather conditions that spread across much of Europe affected his training over the winter. In contrast, former team-mate and Tour rival Lance Armstrong has spent long periods of time training in Hawaii, and also began his own racing season exactly a month ago in the Cancer Council Helpline Classic in Adelaide.

However the Spaniard has said that tests show his power output is better than at this time last year, leading him to believe that he is on track for a third Tour victory.

More rivals expected, along with strong emphasis on tactics:

Roche believes that Contador will step up a level – something which is a natural consequence as he nears the optimum age for competition – but also thinks that some of his rivals will do likewise. “I think there will be more and more contenders, with Schleck and others. Valverde should be better this year, Armstrong should be better. I think Cancellara will do a good ride this season, and so too Gesink from Rabobank. There are lads there now who will give him a run for his money.”

Even if he is still as superior as he was in 2009, the nature of the course will give some of his rivals hope that they can steal some time and have a buffer when it comes to the high climbs. The flat early stages – which, on day four, will include several stretches of cobbles – should see plenty of attacks, with the RadioShack team and others likely to do what they can to distance him.

Roche says that they have to adapt this tactic. “Contador is going to fly in the mountains, and I don’t think Armstrong is going to match him there. So the outcome will depend on how the rest of the race unwinds.

“I don’t think Contador is quite as clever tactically as Armstrong is. He also doesn’t have the army of tactically-wise people around him either. Basially, I don’t think Armstrong will miss a chance if he is in the wrong place. If Contador falls asleep [tactically], Armstrong will take time from him. And hopefully there will be other guys there, challenging as well, in order to make things more exciting for the event.”

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