Vuelta a Espana

Alberto Contador relaxed, focused and hopes to gain strength in final week of the 2012 Vuelta a España

The Spaniard names Team Sky's Chris Froome as his main rival and said he hopes to gain strength as the race progresses

PAMPLONA, Spain (VN) — He may not be as strong as some of his rivals at the outset, but Alberto Contador says he’s relaxed in his mind and focused on the overall victory in the 2012 Vuelta a España.

“My objective is to fight for the victory,” the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank captain said during a press conference on Friday. “I might win or lose but I’ll start the start with the illusion that I’ll win it.”

Fresh from a six-month ban following his clenbuterol positive in the 2010 Tour de France, Contador declined to call himself a favorite for the overall and conceded that he was facing some “very strong rivals” — among them Team Sky’s Chris Froome, whom the Spaniard named as his main competition, along with Denis Menchov (Katusha) and Movistar teammates Alejandro Valverde and Juan José Cobo.

“I have a lot of rivals for the overall ranking,” said Contador. “Looking at the results of last year’s Vuelta and this year’s Tour de France, Froome is my main opponent because he’s a good time trialist and he has a very strong team.

“Last year, he had the opportunity to win the Vuelta if his team chose another tactic, but we’ll never know if he had the possibility to win the Tour as Bradley Wiggins was the best in the time trials. I’m happy that Chris is here racing. His presence increases the quality of the Vuelta.”

Contador expects the Vuelta to be decided during the stages in the Asturias.

“In theory, the 40km individual time trial and the three mountain stages in the Asturias will be decisive but something new could happen at Bola del Mundo on the penultimate day,” he said.

“I’ll take it day by day. It’s difficult to calculate because it’ll be a very spectacular race.”

Contador said he had trained “very hard” during his suspension and was “mentally very good now and focused on doing a great race.”

“I’m supposedly fresher than my rivals who have done the Giro or the Tour but that’s debatable. Sometimes it’s harder to train than to compete,” he said. “The main difference between me and the other contenders is that I might be mentally more relaxed than them. They might be physically better than me at the beginning and I’ll possibly be fresher towards the end.

“I might not be at my best during the first week of the Vuelta, but I expect to be better later on.”