Tinkoff-Saxo is bringing its A-team to support Alberto Contador as the Spaniard makes a run at the elusive Giro-Tour double, with a loaded squad set to line up Saturday for the team time trial that will open the Giro d’Italia.
With the Tour de France also in his sights, Contador will be counting on his superstar team to control the sometimes chaotic Giro, and set him up for attacks when it counts on the decisive climbing stages. Behind the scenes, it remains to be seen if the dramatic exit of ex-team boss Bjarne Riis will have any impact. On the road, Contador will see support from Michael Rogers, former two-time winner Ivan Basso, and Roman Kreuziger, all riders who have been leaders on other teams.
“The main goal is to do the best possible GC result with Alberto,” Tinkoff sport director Steven de Jongh said in a team release. “Our clear road captain is Rogers, who together with Kreuziger and Basso, represent a very strong supporting trio in the mountains. I’m convinced that we have a really strong squad around Alberto.
“We all know that a grand tour is long and a lot can happen over the course of three weeks,” De Jongh continued. “However, if Alberto stays safe and fresh, he can play a main role in the GC. Alberto and the boys had a really productive altitude camp on Teide, where [Ivan] Rovny and Kreuziger also went earlier. And following the Ardennes classics, I can see that Roman is in great form. I’m confident that the guys stand fully prepared on Saturday.”
Rogers, who took an emotional stage win last year, said he focused on training camps rather than racing to prepare for the Giro. He’s also expected to race the Tour later this season, so much like Contador he’s riding into the Giro with relatively few racing days in his legs.
“To fulfill my goal of arriving at the Giro d’Italia with a balance of physical conditioning and mental freshness, the Tinkoff Saxo coaching staff and I decided to put greater focus on quality blocks of training, rather than the traditional early season competitions,” Rogers said. “I feel we have a well-balanced team, and we look forward to the numerous challenges that lay ahead in the next three weeks.”
Tinkoff will bring one of the strongest teams to the Giro, and with Contador starting as the five-star favorite, the peloton will be looking to the team to control the pace and bear the responsibility early in the race.
Basso, who switched roles when he joined the team over the winter, said he’s excited to help Contador.
“My determination, drive and will are identical to when I was preparing for the Giro d’Italia as team leader, where my goal was to win it. The only difference is that now, all my energy will go to serve the team and our leader, Alberto,” Basso said. “Alberto is in great form himself and the entire squad is in the best shape possible. I think the quality of work at the training camp was excellent, we rode a lot, we talked a lot and discussed at length our approach. Our leader is the world’s best rider and that fact gives confidence to the rest of the squad.”
For the transition stages, the team will lean on Matteo Tosatto, Christopher Juul-Jensen, longtime Contador confidant Sergio Paulinho, and Manuele Boaro.
Contador, meanwhile, is coming off a three-week altitude training camp at Teide. By his standards, he’s had a relatively discreet spring, with only one victory — a stage win at the Ruta del Sol — but Spain’s “pistolero” says he has one eye on the Giro and another on the Tour.
“I come in pretty good shape. It’s true that we must wait and see the race, and I am not at the same level I had at the beginning of the Tour last year, but slightly lower,” Contador said. “We have to keep in mind that if I were at the same level, it would be difficult to keep the good shape until the Tour. Anyway, we must wait to see how the race develops to measure myself against my rivals.”