Contador back in saddle for Basque Country tour

Talansky, van Garderen, Horner head for a wild, mountainous showdown in northern Spain

LEON, Spain (VN) — Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) will be aiming for his first overall title of the season next week at the week-long Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) in northern Spain.

Contador missed last weekend’s Critérium International on the island of Corsica, citing a bout with the flu, but team officials confirmed that the Spanish climber would line up for the Basque Country tour, set for April 1-6.

Contador will top favorites list for a Basque tour loaded with riders sharpening their form ahead of the Ardennes classics.

Despite missing Critérium International, Contador has had a fast start to the 2013 season. He won a stage and finished fourth overall in his season debut at the Tour de San Luís in January and fought to second behind Chris Froome (Sky) at the Tour of Oman in February.

Earlier this month, Contador was third overall at a hard-fought Tirreno-Adriatico, where Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) successfully defended his 2012 crown.

A two-time winner of the Basque tour, in 2008 and 2009, the steep hills and narrow roads are ideal for Contador.

This year’s route features no less than 32 rated climbs, with summit finishes at La Leiana in stage 3 and Arrate in stage 4. There are no less than 10 rated climbs in what will be a wild ride through stage 5 and a 22km individual time trial to settle the podium in stage 6.

Contador will face a quality field, with Paris-Nice champion and Critérium runner-up Richie Porte (Sky) bringing the form of his career to Spain.

Andrew Talansky will lead Garmin-Sharp while Tejay van Garderen, third at Critérium, will head the BMC Racing charge. Defending champion Samuel Sánchez will captain a motivated Euskaltel-Euskadi team racing on home roads while 2010 winner Chris Horner and Andy Schleck are scheduled to start for RadioShack-Leopard.