Vuelta a Espana

Contador: ‘The Vuelta begins now’

Pistolero says the real racing starts after Monday’s first rest day as he targets the long climbs of Asturias

Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) remains confident in his chances to win the Vuelta a España as the race enters its most difficult and decisive stages.

Speaking to journalists during a rest day press conference in Galicia, Spain, Contador says he’s ready to make a move with the most important stages looming over the next week.

“My favored terrain now lies ahead,” Contador said. “We’ve had some days of fatigue and weariness, but now is when the Vuelta begins that is going to decide the overall, with the time trial on Wednesday and the mountains that will mark the differences. The differences will be bigger in these stages than what we’ve seen so far.”

Contador has yet to win a stage, despite attacking on several occassions. He’s third overall, poised to move up with a strong time trial Wednesday and longer, steeper climbs that loom in Asturias this weekend.

Racing his first grand tour since last year’s Tour de France, Contador admitted that he is finding his racing legs after coming off his clenbuterol ban that ended just two weeks before the start of the Vuelta.

“Now is when the race begins and my sensations are good,” he said. “I had a lot of time without racing and the course up to now was more for explosive riders. Now it will be better for me and the climbers.”

Many are watching Contador to see how he reacts in the coming days. Some have suggested that he doesn’t have the same spark in his legs as before his ban while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), fourth overall and the winner of two stages, even suggested that Contador is “nervous.”

Speaking during his rest day press conference, Valverde said Contador is racing in a different manner and suggested that he has misfired in a few of his attacks, pointing out his early move Sunday ahead of the Montjuic climb in Barcelona.

“No, I’m not nervous at all,” Contador countered. “I didn’t know Montjuic and that was too bad, because I could have been at the front, if not with Joaquim (Rodríguez) and Philippe (Gilbert), at least very close to them. For the rest, I am calm.”

The Vuelta kicks back into gear Tuesday with a stage well suited for the sprinters, while Wednesday’s 40km time trial will prove critical to the GC picture.

Contador has previewed the course and said it’s a route that favors his style of riding.

“It will be a time trial pretty good for me, but it’s not bad for the other three, either,” he said. “You have to climb and descend one climb. It’s better adapted for a rider like Joaquim than if it were flat. The four of us that are up front, we have to do it well and later we’ll see how the tactics play out depending on how things go.”