Contador not panicking over lost time in Tour de France, says he will improve
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Contador not panicking over lost time in Tour de France, says he will improve

by Conal Andrews at 4:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Spaniard takes silver lining from Luz Ardiden’s grey cloud

Alberto ContadorDespite losing time to his main rivals on today’s first big mountain stage of the Tour de France, defending champion Alberto Contador is insisting that all is not lost and that he will improve in the days ahead. Like several other riders such as Robert Gesink, he found that things were not one hundred percent after his falls earlier in the race.

Contador faltered on the final climb to the line at Luz Ardiden, looking uncomfortable, slipping back close to the finish and crossing the line eighth on the stage. He dropped 43 seconds to the stage winner Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi) and, more dangerously, gave up 33 seconds to Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek) and 13 to the trio of Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) plus Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek).

That plus the time losses he incurred on stage one and in the following day’s time trial mean that he is now seventh overall, four minutes behind race leader Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).

“I'm happy with the result,” he insisted, somewhat surprisingly, “because I am sure that from every day onwards I'll become better and that is the most important thing. As I said this morning, my goal was to race to my expectations and be defensive as this was the first mountain stage after so many setbacks. I had to be a bit cautious and not risk anything.”

Contador is the only one of the big GC contenders to have competed in the Giro d’Italia. It’s very difficult to ride well in both races, let alone win both, and other riders who also competed in the earlier Grand Tour have shown fatigue. Ag2r la Mondiale’s John Gadret finished fourth overall but was forced to drop out of the Tour de France yesterday due to exhaustion. Last year, the 2010 Giro winner Basso was far off his top form in the Tour.

The Spaniard is convinced that he will recover, though, and that he will be able to answer the upcoming attacks from his rivals, including his big threats from the Leopard Trek team.

“We have seen from the beginning of the Tour that the Schleck brothers were to play two cards and they would take turns attacking,” he said. “Perhaps I spend more energy than necessary and my knee has bothered me a bit but I'm happy with the outcome of this first mountain stage. I'm sure I'll be better every day from now on.

“Today, I simply wasn't feeling my best and my pedalling was not natural. It seems that both Schleck brothers are a tremendous threat in the overall classification but Frank seems like the strongest at the moment.”

His conviction that he will bounce back is based on two things. The first is that he should recover from his knee problem as time passes. The second is down to his physiology: “My strength is my ability to recover and that's going to play a role late in this race,” he insisted.

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