Contador confirms San Luís start

Saxo Spaniard signs major endorsement deal with watch-maker and says he won't over-extend his career

Alberto Contador (Saxo-TInkoff) confirmed he will open his 2013 season at the Tour de San Luís and expanded on comments earlier this week about his hopes of racing the 2013 Tour de France.

The Spanish rider – speaking to journalists to inaugurate a new endorsement deal with Time Force watches in Madrid on Thursday – said he wasn’t trying to pressure Tour officials when he commented to French TV earlier this week that he might consider skipping the Tour if the team is not notified soon enough of an invitation.

“My statements have not been at all, in any way, to pressure the Tour, what I said is that we will analyze all possibilities,” Contador said. “We are waiting to find out if we will be in the WorldTour… if not, we need invitations. I’d like to be back in the Tour, because last year I couldn’t race and the year before I wasn’t at the level I would have liked.”

On Thursday, ASO officials told a Danish newspaper it would not make exceptions for Contador in its selection process for wildcard teams for the 2013 Tour.

Contador said in order to prepare properly for a grand tour as demanding as the Tour or Giro d’Italia, it’s important to make a training schedule that’s at least eight weeks out.

Last year, the Tour issued its four wildcard slots in early April, which would still give Contador enough time to prepare for the Tour if Saxo does not receive one of the final ProTeam licenses.

The UCI confirmed this week that it would finalize the 18-team WorldTour league by December 10. Saxo is on the bubble, in large part because Contador’s points are not calculated in the team’s ranking due to his clenbuterol ban from the 2010 Tour.

Contador, who won the 2012 Vuelta a España in his return from the controversial ban, would not reveal what his racing schedule would look like for 2013, but confirmed he would make his season debut at the Tour de San Luís in Argentina, January 21-27.

The South American race has gained steam over the past few years, seeing a better and deeper field. According to media reports, 10 major European teams are likely to start in January.

Along with Contador, Omega Pharma-Quick Step will be back (without defending champion Levi Leipheimer, who was fired after admitting he doped during much of his career), as well as Astana, Movistar, Cannondale and Katusha.

“I cannot say anything right now,” Contador said of his 2013 racing schedule. “I can only say that I will start my season in San Luís. Maybe I will only race one grand tour this year, because the team has other riders who can guarantee that they can be on the podium in the others.”

Contador also expressed his satisfaction to join Time Force as one of its top-name spokesmen.

The Spanish-based company sells mid-priced watches, which retail from $100 to $400, and has worked with such sports icons as tennis player Rafa Nadal and NBA star Pau Gasol and Spanish model/actress Elsa Petaky.

Contador joins Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo as the company’s public face. The company revealed a line of watches and men’s bracelets called the “Contador collection” that will be available in stores.

The deal is a coup for Contador, who reportedly lost a major endorsement deal with an Italian designer in the fallout from his clenbuterol case two years ago.

Contador, who turns 30 on December 6, also hinted about his future.

“It’s painful to turn 30,” he joked. “Now I have a three-year contract and I will finish it. I will not over-extend my career. Now I look back and I think it’s amazing how I’ve aged over these years. This is a hard sport, but physically, I feel fine. I am still motivated, I recover well, and I am stronger and more experienced than ever. All this keeps me motivated.”