Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is downplaying the significance of his Route du Sud victory over the weekend despite taking down Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in a thrilling battle in the Pyrénées.
Although he won again after a short break following his Giro d’Italia success, the veteran Spaniard knows better than to start tooting his own horn. With the Tour de France less than two weeks away, Contador is the first to admit that the Route du Sud was little more than a two-man race.
“I’m happy with this victory at the Route du Sud but this doesn’t change anything in view of the Tour de France,” Contador said in a team release. “It would be a mistake to change the mindset right now, thinking that this win would give me more confidence. … We still have another 13 days until the start of the Tour de France and I will keep my focus on my preparation, in order to reach the start in the best shape possible.”
At 32, Contador is experienced enough to know that the Route du Sud win won’t count for much when the real battle commences during the Tour de France. While he might not admit it publicly, Contador will take satisfaction in his performance following his Giro d’Italia victory in May.
Contador was able to drop Quintana on the descent off the Port de Balès to win Saturday’s “queen stage,” and set himself up for overall victory Sunday. Quintana said he didn’t want to take unnecessary risks on the descent, and let Contador ride away. On Sunday, Bryan Coquard (Europcar) won a bunch sprint, and Contador coasted across the line with his second consecutive stage race victory.
Contador rolls into the Tour with a 17-second victory over Quintana, who will be one his main rivals in his quest for the Giro-Tour double. After winning the Giro, Contador spent some time in the high-altitude valley of Livigno in the Italian Alps before lining up for the four-day Route du Sud.
“We came with two main objectives, to win the queen stage and have a good GC position. Alberto won both the stage and the race, so it is a result that satisfies us,” said Tinkoff-Saxo sport director Patxi Vila in a team release. “Alberto was in good shape and, hopefully, he will keep his form until the Tour. However, it is still too early and we expect his rivals to be strong. His victory is the result of a very hard and dedicated work by the entire squad, especially in the two last stages.”
With the wrap on the Route du Sud, all of the Tour favorites have posted encouraging results in the weeks ahead of the July 4 start of the Tour.
Chris Froome (Sky) won two stages and the overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné, while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished second in a stage and wore the leader’s jersey before fading to 12th, worse than his seventh place overall last year at Dauphiné before barnstorming across the Tour. Quintana rode to second at Route du Sud in his first race since early May.
As Contador suggested, it’s all about hitting peak form in that last week of July. What happens now really doesn’t matter.