Contador's Astana team awaits their big test
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Contador's Astana team awaits their big test

by VeloNation Press at 3:33 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice

All things considered, yesterday's Paris-Nice stage went well for overall leader Alberto Contador. The Astana captain learned from his mistake last year and ate properly during the stage, and put himself in a position where the other teams with overall contenders were obliged to help control the race.

"They are more interested in winning than I am," Contador said of the Caisse d'Epargne team. "Luis León [Sanchez] and [Alejandro] Valverde are both very close in the overall and have a powerful team."

"I am also here to win, but I know the limits of myself and my team, and I cannot take responsibility for the entire race," he explained. "In the end, the interests of Caisse, Garmin and Liquigas require them to work."

On the final climb of the race Contador expected that he would have to cover attacks. He was isolated from his Astana team, but the Spaniard said he thinks the hard kilometers ridden this week have taken their toll on the peloton.

"People did not attack [on the final climb], but there is still a long way to the finish," he said.

Contador is content with his form at this point in the season: "My legs are responding and that is important in a super fast race. This Paris-Nice will be one of the fastest in years," he concluded.

Today's final stage around Nice will be short at only 119 kilometers. It has three categorized climbs, including the Col d’Eze which summits near the finish. Contador will have to be very attentive to hold onto his overall race lead, as the Caisse d'Epargne team will likely try to wear him down with Luis León Sanchez to set up Valverde for the win. Valverde picked up six bonus seconds on yesterday's stage with his second place finish, bringing him to within 14 seconds of Contador.

Interestingly, the Liquigas-Doimo team could try the same tactic by firing off 20 year old prodigy Peter Sagan. He's been more than impressive all week and sits just 38 seconds off the race lead. While holding off the armada of Spaniards in front of him on general classification would seem next to impossible, this time last week nobody would have bet on him winning two stages and leading the points competition either.

Contador said he would normally attack on today's stage, but since he's holding the race lead he'll instead wait and see how the stage plays out. The bigger question is whether or not his team will be able to handle the pressure. If Astana has a rough day, his Tour de France rivals will certainly gain a bit more confidence for July.


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