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Alberto Contador joins Saxo Bank’s 2012 team presentation, says he’s planning to race

Just days after hearings in his long-running doping case wrapped up, Alberto Contador returned to the spotlight Tuesday in Copenhagen with the official presentation of Saxo Bank for the 2012 season.

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2012 Saxo Bank team presentation, Contador and Riis
Alberto Contador and Bjarne Riis laugh during a press conference at Saxo Bank headquarters in Copenhagen as Riis presented his 2012 team. Photo: Nils Meilvang | AFP

Just days after hearings in his long-running doping case wrapped up, Alberto Contador returned to the spotlight Tuesday in Copenhagen with the official presentation of Saxo Bank for the 2012 season.

Contador was the headliner of a Saxo Bank team presentation, but he refused to talk about his hearings before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which will decide whether he continues racing next season or serves a suspension.

“That’s something that happened last week,” Contador was quoted at the presentation. “Now I am completely focused on this and nothing else.”

Following four days of hearings, which concluded November 24, the three-member CAS panel will decide whether Contador receives a racing ban for testing positive for traces of clenbuterol en route to winning the 2010 Tour de France.

If the panel rules against Contador, he could face a ban of up to two years that most likely would begin when the decision is announced in early 2012. He also could lose his 2010 Tour victory and perhaps his results from 2011 as well.

If cleared, Contador can continue racing as he has since the Spanish cycling federation cleared him last February.

Contador said he is planning his season as if he expects to race and hopes to target the 2012 Tour as well as the London Olympic Games.

“I want to have a program well organized and above all, arrive rested to the Tour,” Contador said. “This past year, I didn’t have good preparation (for the Tour) and this year I want to do it perfect.”

Despite the departure of such riders as Gustav Larsson and Richie Porte and no major signings for the grand tours, Contador said he believes he has a team strong enough to support him in the Tour.

“I have full confidence in my teammates,” he said. As regards the Vuelta a EspaƱa, he added, “I don’t want to think too far in advance, but I have not discounted it and there’s a big possibility I will race.”

Contador has already said he will not defend his 2011 Giro d’Italia victory and will place all bets on the Tour.

The presence of the Olympics in London immediately following the Tour will also offer Contador an enticing chance at an Olympic medal. In 2008, he just missed out on a medal in the time trial, losing bronze to then-teammate Levi Leipheimer.

Contador and his Saxo Bank teammates are set to travel to Israel through December 11 for a training camp and team-building exercises.

For 2012, riders such as Juan Jose Haedo should see more support in the sprints while Nick Nuyens, a winner of the Tour of Flanders, leads the team’s efforts on the cobblestones.

New arrivals include former team riders Karsten Kroon and Anders Lund as well as Sergio Paulinho, one of Contador’s closest friends in the peloton who will likely join the Tour squad.