Alberto Contador on Giro climbs: ‘You have to see it to believe it’

Alberto Contador and key Saxo Bank-Sungard teammates previewed the decisive climbing stages for the upcoming Giro d’Italia and came away impressed.

Alberto Contador and key Saxo Bank-Sungard teammates previewed the decisive climbing stages for the upcoming Giro d’Italia and came away impressed.

The road up Zoncolan was used in 2010, too. It's brutal, but it's the descent before the climb that has Contador worried.

Contador skipped racing Liège-Bastogne-Liège to have a chance to scout four major mountain summits that are looming in next month’s Giro d’Italia. Speaking to the Spanish daily MARCA, Contador said he couldn’t believe what they encountered in the Dolomites.

“We saw four stages – the climbing TT at Nevegal, Grossglockner, Monte Zoncolan and Val di Fassa. I find it hard to put into words, you have to see it to believe it,” Contador told MARCA. “It’s incredible. It’s like four ‘queen stages’ at the Tour all in a row.”

Contador was joined by teammates Jesús Hernández and Dani Navarro in the four-day scouting mission across northern Italy and Austria. Contador said he’s never seen anything like what lies in store in the final week of the Giro, set to start May 7 in Torino with a team time trial.

“The stage of Val di Fassa, for example, has 6,500 vertical meters of climbing. It has five climbs and 230km of racing. I am not sure, but the most we ever climbed in the Tour in one stage is around 5,000 vertical meters. And the stage the day before, in stage 14, will also have 5,000m of climbing, 210km and with the finale up Zoncolan,” Contador continued. “The stages are long, hard and dangerous, they have everything.”

Contador also tested new material and rode with 34×32 gearing during the training rides. He is even considering the option of changing bikes for the descent off the Monte Crostis, which is already being called one of the most dangerous descents in recent racing history.

“That descent off the Crostis, which is the climb before Zoncolan, I don’t know how we’re going to get down that. I don’t know if they’re going to repave it, or if they will put nets on the corners like on ski runs, because the drops there are tremendous. All I know is that even in a car, the descent puts your hair on end. I only hope nothing unfortunate happens that day,” Contador said. “(On switching bikes for the descent), I wouldn’t count it out, but in the end, I don’t think I would do it. I am glad to have seen it, just to be able to get ready for it in my mind. But if it’s raining or snowing … I don’t even want to think about it.”

Contador is pushing ahead with his racing schedule and refuses to be distracted by his upcoming hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, likely to be scheduled for sometime in June ahead of the Tour de France.

Contador resumed racing in mid-February after the Spanish cycling federation cleared him on clenbuterol charges and he has set the Giro as his first major early-season target. Contador won the Giro in 2008 and says he will be ready to race despite the distractions of his ongoing doping case. The International Court of Arbitration for Sport announced Wednesday that the panel to review the UCI’s appeal in the case has been named.

Contador also said he’s recovering from a light cold that zapped him in early April and he hopes to be in fighting shape to try to win the Giro for a second time.

“I am still feeling the effects of the cold I got just before the Vuelta a Castilla y León, but I believe it will be cleared up in a few more days,” Contador continued. “For everything else, things are going well. I just got back from Italy and the sensations are good, but until you line up for the race and see how your rivals are going, you really cannot say. Overall, the preparation has gone pretty well.”

Contador’s reconnaissance trip was filmed by Gazzetta dello Sport: