FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Alberto Contador is testing materials and gaining ground with Trek-Segafredo ahead of the Tour de France. He moved into fifth overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné Wednesday with a strong time trial.
Spain’s El Pistolero aims to add a third Tour de France title to his palmarès in July. To do so, he is testing new equipment. In stage 4, Trek rolled out a new TT bike that Contador used to gain two seconds on a normally faster Chris Froome (Sky).
“For me, some moments were hard because we had changed some things on the bike, but this is why we are here: to try different things and work on the position,” Contador said.
“We tried different materials. Trek is always working very well with this, and we made changes in the last moment, and today it felt a little strange, but we still have three weeks before the Tour.”
Contador used a modified handlebar setup that put him in a different aero position. The adjustments could be crucial for him to defend or perhaps even gain time against rivals in the Tour.
Richie Porte (BMC Racing) won the 23.5-kilometer time trial Wednesday over Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal). Contador placed seventh at a respectable 35 seconds. Chris Froome (Sky), who won the Critérium du Dauphiné overall and a third Tour title last year, finished two seconds slower than Contador.
The seconds matter to the 34-year-old from Madrid’s outskirts who is trying to win his first Tour title in eight years, since 2009. He is used to making his gains in the mountains and defending in time trials. However, he needs a well-rounded approach this year.
Contador added, “We changed teams, and for this we are here — things to work on, and to try different positions.”
He passed the last six years with team Saxo Bank/Tinkoff. Over the winter, he signed a deal with Trek-Segafredo that sees him helping the bicycle company develop its frames and components. He also provides guidance to talents like Bauke Mollema.
General manager Luca Guercilena has a one-year extension to keep Contador on for 2018 and wants to confirm it with the results and the expertise Contador brings.
The results have come so far this 2017 season. Contador placed second overall in the Vuelta a Andalucía, Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya, and País Vasco. It reads well considering Oleg Tinkov, owner of former team Tinkoff, had said, “[He] never will win anything, [he’s] too old and too evil.”
Their approach is measured and “super conservative.” In the last three weeks training at altitude in Sierra Nevada, Spain, Contador explained that he was careful to not over-cook himself with the Tour in mind. He wants the same in the Dauphiné, preferring to back off if he sees he is already reaching top fitness.
“The most important is that I feel good. I thought I’d be a little bit behind in the race of the favorites for the classification,” Contador said.
“I feel that I have power on the climbs and also on roads like this. The flats that are better for Tony Martin. I’m happy, fresh, and this is important.”