Alberto Contador: A man for the Classics
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Alberto Contador: A man for the Classics

by VeloNation Press at 11:31 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège , Flèche Wallonne
 

Alberto Contador - Tour de FranceOne of the biggest criticisms of Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) over the years has been his solitary focus on one event, the Tour de France.  Not many people can argue with his success in La Grande Boucle, with seven victories in seven years, he's shattered the previous record of five Tour wins, and did so in commanding fashion with an incredible story.  Now, five years after his last Tour victory, Alberto Contador (Astana) is sitting firmly on Armstrong's former throne and comfortable enough to take a different approach to his July.

Contador has taken part in four stage races so far this year, winning all but one, the two-day three stage Critérium International.  He's continued to build on his success and changed focus to the Ardennes Classics, where he rode impressively onto the podium in Flèche Wallonne, and will now take on the oldest of the Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

In a press conference today he said that the Classics are going to be a focus for him during his career, something that will earn the Spaniard a lot of respect from the purists in the sport.

"I do not know [how I will perform in Liège], is a bit unknown. My aim is to gain experience, because to try to win here requires more experience and to know the course. I'm uncertain," Contador said when asked about this Sunday.

Alberto Contador - Volta ao AlgarveWhile Armstrong would at times try to win the Amstel Gold Race during his Tour reign, he largely ignored his build-up aside from testing himself in the races against the clock.  Having kept his form throughout his build up for the Tour de France, the Astana rider has been impressive thus far.  Contador doesn't seem concerned about burning himself out before he attempts to win his third Tour crown, which brings up the question of whether he's been winning simply because he's that much better than the rest, rather than his victories being the product of a concerted effort.

"I see it as being good," he said about his fellow Tour de France contenders putting in a serious effort in to conquer the Ardennes Classics. "That riders like [Cadel] Evans, [Vincenzo] Nibali or [Andy and Frank] Schleck brothers are here is good. For me, it is the first time that I have included these races in my program, and I am also aware that the outcome of this Classic might be totally different from what will happen later in July."

He said he’s indifferent about his result this coming weekend adding, “Of course, I'm always happy when I'm on top, but these results do not influence my preparation or performance that I will have in July at all. It is the same to finish third or thirtieth [this weekend].”

After watching him in the finale of Flèche Wallonne earlier this week, it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be looking for the victory.  Contador said his biggest concern isn’t with the 260 kilometers he will face, the increase in distance that sets the Classics apart from other one-day races, but rather his allergy to pollen is the biggest question mark.  He was knocked out of contention in the Critérium International last month in the closing kilometers of the first stage when he had trouble breathing, but came roaring back to finish second in the closing time trial the next day to salvage his race.

“It’s true that for many riders there is a barrier after 220 kilometers, but that depends on the day you have, etc.  I think more about my problems with allergies, because they are predicting better weather than we had in Flèche, and that can be a problem for me [because of the pollen].  During the month of July I have no problems.”

Alberto Contador - Castilla y LeónContador was the youngest rider to win all three Grand Tours, and said he would prefer a more complete palmarès rather than focus only on stage racing.  He respects the rich history of the sport and would like to test his limits in the Classics.

“Yes, of course,” he said when asked whether a win in the Classics was important to him.  “In the future I will try to come back and win one of the Classics because they are very important races with a lot of history, the kind of race that everybody likes to win. If it fits in my program, I will come back at one hundred percent.”

“I have enough wins in stage races, but I have never won a Classic.”

He has said Sunday will be a day to gain experience, and will be riding alongside former Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Alexandre Vinokourov.  The Kazakh is fresh off a win in the Giro del Trentino and will give the Astana team another option for victory, something that comes with its own set of tactical advantages.  Contador looks like he has the legs to follow anyone on the climbs in Liège, which means that he will arrive at the start with a chance to secure his first Classic win.

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