Contador has no message for Armstrong ahead of Critérium International
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Contador has no message for Armstrong ahead of Critérium International

by Bjorn Haake at 3:00 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Critérium International
 

On the eve of the Critérium International, Alberto Contador hosted a press conference, where he answered all the nagging questions ahead of his first clash of the season with Lance Armstrong. But Contador said there was no message that he wanted to send, and that his race schedule change simply had to do with his optimal preparation for the Tour de France in July.

He is taking the race this weekend on the island of Corsica quite seriously and has already checked out Sunday's 7.7.km time trial course, which will conclude the three-stage event. He has taken a look at the hilly stage one road course as well, which marks a change from the opening sprint finishes in recent years.

"Yesterday I went to see the climb up to the col de l'Ospedale. It was incredible because in the beginning the weather was quite good. But then a lot of clouds came in, it started raining and it was quite cold. This morning I saw the time trial course - I like it," Contador said.

The weather conditions could be more determining than the actual uphill. "The climb is not very hard, but we will get there after a very tough stage, when we are all very tired."

The question if he'd rather have a large or a small gap before the time trial put a smile on the Spaniard's face. "If I can request it, certainly a large gap! But tomorrow, the differences will be quite small, although any kind of gap will go a long way in the race."

Despite his good form so far, he is not afraid of hitting the peak too early. "I will start the Tour a lot better than what my current form is," he said with confidence.

That means no pressure over the weekend, either. "I will race in order to continue my preparation. There are very strong rivals who are as much interested in winning as I." Contador was unwilling to give a top five of his strongest competitors in the race. "I don't even know the entire start list yet. I don't want to give a list of names, as I could forget someone. But I will say that Cadel Evans looks really strong; he did a great Tirreno."

No message for Armstrong

Inevitably, Contador was asked why he didn't mention Armstrong's name. "There are many strong riders and I think there are some who are currently above Armstrong." He reiterated that his change in race schedule had nothing to do with the Texan. "No, I don't want to send any message. I came here because this is best suited to my preparation [for the Tour de France]."

There were a few reasons why he changed his calendar around. "Paris-Nice was hard and Catalunya would have been seven days over a terrain which doesn't suit me too well. The Critérium, on the other hand, is only two days, with a route well made for me. Then I decided to go to Castilla y León, because those stages are more like the classics - which I will do only to get experience."

The Tour de France will start out in the Netherlands and Belgium this year and take in some crucial cobble stone sections. Contador wants to get some experience by riding some of the northern European races in April. It is mostly with the Tour de France in mind, but that could change some day. "In the future I'd love to win a classic, but realistically, there are riders better suited to these courses. They are also in an unfavorable season for me, when it is allergy time. But no doubt, it is a great motivation for the future to win a classic."

There is a striking difference from last year, when Contador did all the press conferences by himself. Now manager Yvon Sanquer is always at his side. "Many things changed. That Yvon is by my side underlines the support I get from the whole team. All the riders work for the same objective of being at the top in July, but of course not forgetting the races before that."

This includes his domestique royale, Alexander Vinokourov. "Vino is a very important rider and racing here with him also motivates me. It is important to compete together and our relationship until now has been excellent."

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