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New team is key to Contador’s 2017 Tour ambitions

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Alberto Contador is finalizing a multi-point plan with his new Trek – Segafredo to win another Tour de France in 2017. After the Tinkoff years, the American WorldTour team wants a “relaxed” environment for its new Spanish star.

Contador won the Tour already in 2007 and 2009, the Giro d’Italia twice, and his home grand tour, the Vuelta a España four times.

He and general manager Luca Guercilena met a handful of times after the 2017 contract became official. And nearly ever day, they trade WhatsApp messages about the details going of their plan to win the 2017 Tour de France, July 1 to 23.

The team will meet for a pre-season training camp in Spain in December. Guercilena, however, already detailed the key points in Contador’s plan.

Relaxed atmosphere

Contador leaves behind Team Tinkoff, a team whose owner Oleg Tinkov was as loud and obnoxious as its neon yellow kit. At times, he took aim at Contador and created stress within the team.

“More than talking about him and his previous team, I’d like to talk about the sporting aspect,” Guercilena told VeloNews. “I want to allow him to be calm and relaxed in those Tour stages where he doesn’t need to be stressed. We want him concentrated when he needs to be on the important stages, relaxed in the others.”

Focus

Crashes in the first two stages put an early end to Contador’s 2016 Tour. In 2015, he arrived tired from his Giro victory. In 2014, he broke his tibia and abandoned. He will need a bit of luck to win again.

“He’s needs to focus on the stages that matter, the climbing stages, and relax in the other stages. Those stages create stress for positioning, but don’t matter much in the overall,” Guercilena said. “Our job is to keep him calm and protected, and we have men to do that.”

Experience counts

Contador will celebrate his 34th birthday next month and will be the oldest of the favorites when the Tour starts in Düsseldorf. That can be a disadvantage against 26-year-old Nairo Quintana (Movistar) or 31-year-old Chris Froome (Sky), or a point in Contador’s favor.

“It’s clear that he’s getting older and that’s always a limiter, but athletes like Alberto can find recourses when needed. Many people wrote off Fabian Cancellara, called him finished, but he found what he needed to win. You can use your recourses better when you are older, aim for the big goals without stress and draw on past experiences.”

Sole leader

Tinkoff took two leaders to the Tour, Contador for the overall, and Peter Sagan for stage wins and the green jersey. Trek – Segafredo will not split resources and will develop a group around its Tour leader early.

“If you are going to the Tour to support Contador, then you must put 99 percent of the team behind him. In modern cycling, you can’t aim for multiple goals in the same race,” Guercilena added.

“We have Haimar Zubeldia, we signed men like Andre Cardoso, Jarlinson Pantano. Bauke Mollema can share in the leadership. We have four or five riders who can support him to the highest level.”

Exploit technical route

The 2017 Tour is light on time trial kilometers and heavy on difficult mountain days. It is not simply the summit finishes, which only add up to three, but the technical days that end with descents, like the stage to Chambéry.

Contador toppled race leader Joaquím Rodríguez in a mid-stage attack to win the 2012 Vuelta and attacked from 100 kilometers out with Quintana in this year’s Vuelta to end Froome’s hopes. Critics argued, in the sleepy final week this July, that the Tour missed Contador’s spark.

“To have someone like him who won so many stage races is an advantage for Trek – Segafredo. Above all because he’s able to lead. I would’ve liked to have more time trial kilometers because Alberto is competitive. But bring on the climbs! With the many climbs, there’ll be less stressful flat stages where the GC men are racing not to lose seconds. Pantano can guide him on the descents.”

Materials

American bike manufacturer welcomed back Contador after it helped him win two Tours with Discovery Channel and Astana, and also as an advertising replacement for outgoing star Cancellara. In return, Contador has a title sponsor with a specific interest in winning the Tour.

“I knew that he paid attention to the details, but I have to say, he surprised me, he’s really an expert on materials and equipment,” said Guercilena. “He’s very attentive, scrupulous. I like that, being that we are sponsored by a bike company. Like Cancellara, he’ll be using and trying specifically designed equipment in the lead-up to the Tour.”