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Winless in 2017, Contador uses Dauphiné as trampoline to Tour

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) isn’t sweating it, although he’s never won the Critérium du Dauphiné. It’s one of the few major races he’s started and never won, but Spain’s “pistolero” is focused on his true 2017 target: the Tour de France.

For Contador, the goal is clear: Leave the Dauphiné stronger than when he arrived. Be ready to race to win the Tour in July.

“I want to come out of here with good form,” Contador told journalists. “I will use [the Dauphiné] as preparation, and make a series of maximum efforts, but I will take the race with tranquility.”

Speaking during a press conference Saturday ahead of Sunday’s start of the 69th Dauphiné, the words “tranquility” and “calmness” sprinkled the conversation.

At 34, Contador is only interested in winning another yellow jersey. If that means using the Dauphiné as a stepping-stone to reach a high level in July, well, that’s fine. In fact, he says that’s how he’s always approached the weeklong race across the French Alps. Contador lost a nail-biter to Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) in 2014. He has finished on the Dauphiné podium three times since 2009.

“Some people might want to win for a psychological boost, but that’s not the case for me,” Contador said. “Everyone wants to win, but the Dauphiné is the Dauphiné, and the Tour is the Tour. I’ve always prepared for the Dauphiné and the Tour in totally different ways.”

Contador comes off three weeks training at altitude on Spain’s Teide volcano, where he even coincided with archrival Chris Froome (Sky). The British outfit has been his principal roadblock to winning another Tour de France title. His last came in 2010 before it was stripped away in the clenbuterol controversy. Contador is driven to win another before retiring.

Backed by a team united around the goal to win the Tour, Contador sounds more confident than ever.

“I am excited about the team we are going to have in July,” he said. “This year I believe I will have a very good team and one of the most important things is to go together with a clear objective.”

After switching from what was a tense situation at Tinkoff to the more tranquil waters at Trek-Segafredo, Contador seems ready to take on Froome in July. For next week, Contador stressed he’s not going to focus too much on winning, despite a string of second places in four of the five stage races he’s started so far in 2017.

“If I was younger, that would change things,” Contador said of being winless in 2017 despite 10 top-threes. “Also taking into consideration that now we have all the data that we can analyze, it’s different. … I’ve finished each race content with how I felt physically and how I have recovered from the efforts. Even though I didn’t manage to pull off a win, I am perhaps even more confident.”

Contador gave his strongest hint yet that he will likely race next season. His deal with Trek-Segafredo included this season, with an option for 2018.

“I am going from race to race, but it’s true that right now in my mind is to stay with cycling,” Contador said. “Right now, I am enjoying every race, and I am planning to carry on like this.”

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