Contador's win atop Ancares in stage 20 of the...

Contador rules out world championship tilt

Despite his success at the Vuelta, the Spanish champion insists he will not join his countrymen in Ponferrada for worlds

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — Vuelta a España leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) has ruled out competing at the world championships in his home country, despite being picked for the Spanish team.

Speaking after his victory in the 20th and penultimate stage of the Vuelta, a result which virtually assured him of overall victory a day later, Contador said Spain would have a strong team without him, despite Spanish selector Javier Minguez including him in a preliminary squad.

Asked if he would change his mind, Contador replied: “No, I’ve already taken my decision, and I told him [Minguez]. It’s true that he’s put me in the preliminary squad but that doesn’t change anything.

“The riders taking part have a great responsibility, and Spain are favorites to win a medal.”

Minguez also selected Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), who were sitting third and fourth at the Vuelta heading into Sunday’s final stage 9.7km time trial in which the chances of gaining places are slim.

The world championships begin on Sunday September 21 in Ponferrada, northern Spain.

Contador said this Vuelta had not been as hard as his last victory in 2012 but acknowledged that this time around it had probably its best ever field with 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Sky), 2009 Vuelta laureate Valverde, Rodriguez, Fabio Aru (Astana), and even current Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar) before he crashed out.

And having finished fourth at last year’s Tour and crashed out of this year’s Grand Boucle with a broken leg just 10 stages in, Contador said he was delighted to be back winning major three-week races.

“I’m back on the podium this year. It’s been a challenge and various circumstances stopped me from being at my maximum, but those things motivate me. I’ve never had a season in which I’ve worked so hard. It was tough to get over the disappointment in the Tour de France but in the rest of the races I’ve had the best results I could have.”

Contador paid tribute to Froome who pushed him to his limits and kept battling all the way to the end.

Their duel up the final hors category climb to the finish of Saturday’s mountain stage was a classic ‘man against man’ arm-wrestle.

“It motives me a lot because he’s a reference on a world level and to fight with him is extra motivation,” said the 31-year-old Spaniard. “But next year we start again from zero, and we’ll all start preparing from zero.”

Speaking of that final climb, Ancares, Contador added: “It wasn’t easy, just when I thought Froome wouldn’t change his rhythm he did, but luckily my legs responded.”

Froome, who also crashed out of July’s Tour — breaking his hand — said he had tried everything but simply could not break Contador’s resistance.

“We tried everything to drop Alberto. The guys gave their all today [Saturday], they did an amazing job to make the race difficult and give me the chance to make the difference on the final climb and put Alberto in difficulty,” he said.

“I gave everything on the final climb but unfortunately I found myself towing him. But that’s cycling. I tried everything to drop him but he was stronger than me.

“But given the condition I was in when I arrived at this race it would be difficult for me to be happier.

“I came here with limited ambitions. I didn’t know if I’d be fighting for the top 10, the podium, or overall victory.

“I’m really delighted to finish second. That will motivate me a lot for the future.

“It’s a great achievement. I’m coming back from a broken hand and I couldn’t train in ideal conditions.”