Contador chasing second stage race victory of 2011 in Volta a Catalunya
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Contador chasing second stage race victory of 2011 in Volta a Catalunya

by Conal Andrews at 11:40 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Volta a Catalunya
 
Spaniard will be closely watched by rivals

Alberto ContadorToday’s opening day of the Volta a Catalunya marks the beginning of the third stage race of the season for Alberto Contador. The Saxo Bank SunGard rider will hear at some point this week if the UCI will indeed appeal his clearing by the Spanish cycling federation RFEC, but for now is keeping his mind fully on matters competitive.

While Contador has come up against some other big names during his fourth-place finish in the Volta ao Algarve and his victory (with two stages) in the more recent Tour of Murcia, the Catalan race will provide a clearer example of how he measures up to his rivals at this point of the season. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) is known to be in strong form after his victory in Tirreno-Adriatico, and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Denis Menchov, Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) will also be keen to compare their condition.

Others who will be keen to test their legs including the Italians Danilo Di Luca (Katusha) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), who have both shown strong form.

“Some of the Tour de France rivals are here,” he said. “There will be Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, Menchov, Scarponi, who is very strong, and I have left out others. There will be very tough opponents, with the difference this year that all have come to dispute the race, all coming after doing good races. They have started very well the year, we have noticed that. It's just a pity that a ProTour race like this, in its centenary and with this level of riders, is not being broadcast on TV.

“I arrive with motivation. I like to compete and since the Tour of Murcia, 15 days ago, I haven’t. I did some good training, but particularly basic training, thinking a bit more long term, of the Giro de Italia. In this race there are riders who come more trained than me, people coming from the Paris-Nice and, above all, people who have been competing until four days ago at Tirreno-Adriatico. They probably have something over me.”

The race begins today with a 166.9 kilometre stage starting and finishing in Lloret de Mar. It includes two first category climbs, and so the riders will learn early on how they are going. Stage two to Banyoles is flatter and should suit the sprinters, while day three to the summit finish of Vallnord in Andorra is potentially the most decisive.

After that come four more stages, some of which with major climbs, and the nature of these lead Contador to believe that it will be a more complicated race than the three-stage Vuelta a Murcia.

“The course is very favourable to attacks. The third day is the key stage, finishing in Andorra, but the rest are difficult days and there is not time trial.

“In this sense, the course is not too favourable for me,” he added, saying that he would have liked a race against the clock. “There are riders over whom I can open a differences in that discipline and it's always good to do adjustments on the time trial bike.”

As is always the case, Contador seeks to play down his chances somewhat. He said that he’ll test himself and try to do something on stage three to Andorra. “But I know that is not a race too favorable for me and there are more prepared riders,” he explained. “Do not forget that Murcia was 15 days ago and with only 3 days, including one time trial, while other races are of 8 days, allowing you to define a little bit more and get another point of competition. But hey, I want to test myself.”

A big part of riding the race is to continue his preparations for the Giro d’Italia. This season will be his second time to do the race, following his 2008 victory, and he wants to perform strongly there. He doesn’t start Grand Tours with the intention of not going for the win, and the Giro will be no different.

Contador also knows that there is a chance he could miss the Tour de France due to his Clenbuterol case, and this will provide further motivation for him to try to be in peak form in May.

After Catalunya, he’s scheduled to ride the Vuelta a Castilla y León, as well as Flèche Wallonne. It remains to be seen if he will do Liège-Bastogne-Liège again; he was ninth there last year, and third in Flèche.

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Volta a Catalunya (World Tour), March 21-27:

Stage 1, March 21: Lloret de Mar (166.9 km)
Stage 2, March 22:Santa Coloma de Farners to Banyoles (169.3 km)
Stage 3, March 23: La Vall d'En Bas to Andorra-Vallnord (183.9 km)
Stage 4, March 24: La Seu D'Urgell to El Vendrell (195 km)
Stage 5, March 25: El Vendrell to Tarragona (205.8 km)
Stage 6, March 26: Tarragona to Mollet-del-Valles (195 km)
Stage 7, March 27 : Parets del Valles to Barcelona (124.5 km)

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