Alberto Contador looking forward to Flèche Wallonne on the way to the Giro d'Italia
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Alberto Contador looking forward to Flèche Wallonne on the way to the Giro d'Italia

by Ben Atkins at 3:22 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Spring Classics, Flèche Wallonne
 
Last year’s third place not on top form after suffering from a cold

alberto contadorAlberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) is looking forward to racing in tomorrow’s Flèche Wallonne, although he concedes that a cold caught after the Vuelta a Castilla y León means that he may not be able to challenge for the win. In last year’s race he broke clear on the final climb of the Mur de Huy with compatriot Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) then attacked alone close to the top; he had launched his effort slightly too soon though, and was overtaken by both eventual winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) before the finish.

Although he may not quite be in the right condition to win it this year, Contador is looking forward to racing in Belgium this week.

"These races are great for the fans,” he said, “for the way they turn out. In this country the cycling culture is above everything, cycling is as big here as football is in Spain, for example. For that reason I really wanted to come to and race, in spite of not being in totally good health.”

Contador started last week’s Castilla y León as defending champion, intending to defend his title, but a puncture at a decisive moment on the race’s big mountain stage prevented him from doing so. His technical issues weren’t his only problem though, as he was beginning to feel unwell.

"Physically I felt fine and it’s a race I like, but my health wasn’t as I wanted,” he explained. “I started Castilla y León a little unwell and it got worse. I thought it was going to recover a bit before, but I do not expect to be at my best. If not, I’ll try to help my teammates.

“I want to do as well as I can,” he added, “but I have the limitation of not being in good health and so it will be a bit difficult fight for the victory.”

His third place last year followed a drive of several hundred kilometres as the ash from an Icelandic volcano grounded flights across most of Europe. He evidently enjoyed the experience and is returning this year to try to do better. “That is why I choose to only come to Flèche and do Amstel or Liège,” he explained.

So far this season, since the decision was made by the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) not to suspend him for testing positive for a trace amount of clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France, Contador has won the Vuelta a Murcia and the Volta a Catalunya, as well as finishing fourth in the Volta ao Algarve; despite his disappointing overall position in Castilla y León, he did manage to win the time trial there too.

All of this bodes well as he approaches the Giro d’Italia, where he hopes to repeat his 2008 victory.

“My condition is very good,” he said. “Except in the Algarve, where I arrived almost without training, in the other races have won victories in the mountain and in the time trials. I am very happy, because they are tests ahead of the first goal of the year, the Giro d’Italia, so I am very pleased with the beginning of this season.”

In tomorrow’s Flèche, Contador sees a few names standing out as favourites for victory, but also sees that it could be any one of a number of riders that comes out on top.

“There are plenty [of favourites],” he said, “but some of the big names are [Philippe] Gilbert, Joaquín [Joaquim Rodriguez] and Andy [Schleck], although there are a lot of riders with a chance.”

Gilbert comes into the race after a victory in Amstel Gold, which the Belgian almost managed to make look easy.

“He was very strong, impressive,” said Contador. “They made him the favourite and he still got the victory, a sign that he is in a impressive form.”

Although Contador’s Ardennes campaign is limited to Flèche this year, he would like to have ridden Liège-Bastogne-Liège this coming Sunday, had his programme allowed it.

“You always like to ride races like that, with the history that it has,” he said, “because it is one of the major competitions in the history of cycling, but the best thing for my preparation for the Giro was to not be there.”

The Giro, which starts in just three weeks time, is Contador’s first big target for the year and he is confident that, once he is completely healthy again, he will be on top form for the race.

“Once I get over this ‘flu I think that I will be in good form, because I still have time to recover,” he said. “I'll start with good training, a good base, and with great enthusiasm.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it enormously because it is a race that gives me fond memories of 2008,” he added, “and that I only went at the last minute. I have really wanted to ride it.”

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