Alberto Contador (Astana) is optimistic he can be at his best as the race heads into the Pyrénées for four explosive stages over five days that will all but decide who will win the 2010 Tour.
Contador and archrival Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) ended Saturday’s transition stage separated by just 31 seconds. Schleck fended off a jab from Contador on Mende, when the Spanish climber took back 10 seconds (the same amount Schleck took at Avoriaz), so the pair goes into the Pyrénées with everything on the line.
“As I said from the beginning, the Pyrénées will decide everything,” Contador said. “I hope to have good sensations, because every day I am feeling better. I hope to take advantage of these hard stages to take back time, and if it’s possible, to move ahead of Schleck.”
Contador was glowing with confidence ahead of Saturday’s stage, but cautioned that one bad day can ruin months of hard work and preparation ahead of the critical battle of this year’s Tour.
“The biggest danger is to have a bad day,” Contador said. “Even if you have a good day, a bad one can come, and in the Pyrénées, considering how difficult they are, the question is to not falter but take back time.
The big question going into the Pyrénées is how much time Schleck needs coming out of them before the final time trial at Bordeaux. Contador is clearly better than Schleck in time trials and many pundits seem to think that Schleck could need at least two minutes.
“My situation is good. If I don’t see things clearly, I will not try to attack, because my position in respect to Andy is good and I am not going to take unnecessary risks,” Contador said. “(Andy) needs to try more than I do in the mountains. We’ve been petty even so far — one day one is better, then the next it’s the other. But it’s true I have a certain confidence regarding the time trial in Bordeaux. It’s still an option for me, in case I don’t take time in the mountains or even if he takes more time on me.”
Here’s Contador’s take on the final mountain stages:
• Stage 14: “The first pass is very hard, Palhieres, with steep grades and a fast descent before the climb to Ax 3 Domaines, short but tough. The differences will be very important.”
• Stage 15: “The next day is marked by the climb to Bales, a long and very hard pass before the finish. The descent is tough. This stage is like the Madeleine. There may be attacks and riders who take big chances.”
• Stage 16: “The stage of Bagneres de Luchon-Pau will be a difficult day, because it begins with the climb to Peyresourde and then have to overcome the Tourmalet and the Aubisque, but then there will still be 60 kilometers until the finish. Let’s see what others do.”
• Stage 17: “Finally there is the arrival at the Tourmalet, which is what everybody is talking about. It starts with two passes before the final climb; Marie Blanque and Soulor. We’ll have to look at the GC to decide what to do. But in general the most important thing is not having a bad day in the Pyrénées, otherwise we might be forced to take big risks. That is the most dangerous.”