SAINT-LÔ, France (VN) — Feeling fresh and motivated as ever, Alberto Contador is cautiously optimistic ahead of the 2016 Tour de France.
The 32-year-old reconfirmed Thursday he will race for two more seasons (with a possible move to Trek—Segafredo to fill the hole left by soon-to-be retired Fabian Cancellara), but said his mind is on the here and now.
“My future is still open, but I will race for two more seasons,” Tinkoff’s GC man confirmed during a pre-Tour press conference. “Right now, I am focused on the Tour. I’ve worked very hard to try to win another title.”
Last year, Contador was out-gunned after coming into the Tour weary from winning the Giro d’Italia, riding to fifth in Paris. This July, the Spanish superstar has shrugged off a pre-race cold that kept him out of the Spanish national championships last weekend and said he’s ready to win.
“I feel fresher, stronger than last year,” Contador said. “I was able to prepare the way I wanted. I feel good and I am confident. In 25 days, we’ll see if it’s my Tour or not. I have the condition to win it.”
After a strong spring, Contador also shrugged off his loss to Sky’s Chris Froome at the Critérium du Dauphiné, saying he “lacked leg speed” during the June warm-up, and said he’s ready for the Tour.
Contador is on a quest to claim another yellow jersey. A winner in 2007 and 2009, his 2010 title was taken away as part of his clenbuterol case, meaning he has two yellow jerseys on his official palmares. He missed the 2012 Tour, and was out-classed by Sky’s Chris Froome in 2013. The following season, he crashed out in the Vosges, while in 2015, he attempted the Giro-Tour double.
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Contador admitted that Froome is the man to beat, though he has edged the two-time Tour winner in other races, including the Vuelta a España. But so far, he’s been unable to seriously challenge Sky’s stranglehold on yellow in July.
“Froome is the top favorite, because he’s won before, and his team is incredible,” Contador said. “You cannot overlook Nairo [Quintana], due to his quality and his team, but Froome is surrounded by big champions at Sky.”
Contador said he would continue with his trademark attacking style, saying, “It’s complicated to change the way one races,” and said the Tour could come down to who can recover best throughout the endless string of climbing stages.
“Recovery will be key in this Tour,” Contador said. “You have to be attentive in the first week and not lose any time, but the decisive part will come in the final week, and perhaps it won’t be decided until stage 20.”
Like last year, Contador will share the team with world champion Peter Sagan, who will be chasing the green jersey as well as stage victories. And like last year, Contador doesn’t see that as a problem.
“It’s a pleasure to share this team with Peter,” Contador said. “He is the rider with more pure class than I’ve ever seen in my career. At any given moment, he can shake up the Tour, so to count on him is an advantage, not an inconvenience.”