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Contador plans to return to Vuelta a España next year

MADRID (AFP) — Spain’s controversial three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador said Wednesday it was “very likely” that he will once again compete in the Tour of Spain next year.

The 28-year-old rider did not participate in this year’s Tour of Spain, citing the need to rest. He last competed in the race in 2008 when he won it.

“Next year my goal is the Tour of France but it is very likely that I will take part in the 2012 Tour of Spain. I feel like it again,” he said during an interview with the website of Spanish public broadcaster TVE.

Contador finished in fifth place in the Tour of France this year. A week later he announced that he would not compete in this year’s Tour of Spain. The Spaniard is only the fifth cyclist to win all three grand tours and is the fastest to accomplish the feat.

He tested positive for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France, which he went on to win. But he was cleared to compete when the Spanish cycling federation rescinded an initial decision to hand down a one-year competition ban, accepting the rider’s claim that he had unknowingly consumed drug-contaminated meat and was therefore not negligent.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and world cycling’s governing body UCI are appealing against the federation’s decision to acquit the rider. The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is scheduled to consider its appeal at a Novermber 21-24 hearing.

Contador tipped Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas to retain his Tour of Spain crown this year.

“It is hard to make a prediction with everything that still lies ahead and with the differences so small that exist,” he said when asked who he thought would win the 2011 edition of the race. “But if I had to give a name, both because of his experience and because he already knows what it is to win this race, it would be Nibali.”

Nibali is in third place overall of this year’s race after Wednesday’s 11th stage, 11 seconds behind the leader, Britain’s Bradley Wiggins.

The 26-year-old Nibali has so far not lost time in any of the key stages. The Tour of Spain wraps up in Madrid on September 11.

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