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Slow start: Contador hopes to rebound Sunday in Algarve

Alberto Contador gradually builds form into the 2016 season. This is at the expense of results in Algarve, but he says he's improving day by day.

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With many top riders already winning races across the globe, Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador continues on his understated start to the 2016 season. Contador finished a discreet 13th in the 18km time trial at Volta ao Algarve, stopping the clock over one minute slower than winner Fabian Cancellara.

On the same day that Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali won and took the overall lead at the Tour of Oman, and more than a week after Chris Froome (Sky) won the Herald Sun Tour, the Spanish superstar is in no hurry to rev up his engine in his season debut.

“The sensations during the time trial were not very good, obviously, but not so bad, either,” Contador told the Spanish daily AS at the finish line. “I will go better on the final stage.”

Contador, 32, was the last among the “Fantastic Four” to start his 2016 season, holding off until the five-stage Algarve tour this week. With his eyes on another Tour de France title and a run at the gold medal in the Rio Olympics, Contador said he doesn’t want to come out of the gates too fast. Already, after Thursday’s hilly stage, however, Contador admitted he was still blowing out the cobwebs, saying, “I still lack a bit of pace.”

Contador has won the Algarve tour twice, in 2009 and 2010, but he’s already thrown in the towel for the GC this year. With the TT, he slotted into 10th, at 1:07 behind new leader Tony Martin.

“There are no possibilities for the overall,” Contador continued, explaining his time trial ride. “It was a very windy course. Heavier riders could ride with deeper wheels, and I was more concentrated on not falling. My power was pretty good, and I had some good watts for the type of course it was.”

Contador — who made big news this week with plans to try to form his own team in 2017 — will try to finish off the week on a high note Sunday, with a short but steep summit finish where he won a stage in 2014. As he said, he’s too far back to make up enough time in the overall, but he still could punch into contention for the final podium. Saturday’s stage to Tavira favors a mass gallop.

“There’s no mystery to the stage to Malhao,” Contador said about the climb. “It’s very explosive. Let’s see how I go on Sunday. I’ve recovered well from the stage to Fóai [Thursday], and I should go a lot better Sunday.”

Contador is not panicking. He’ll race next at Paris – Nice, Volta a Catalunya, and the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) in a solid block of racing when he will square off against the likes of Froome and Nairo Quintana for the first time this season. It’s in those races, in March and early April, that the grand tour contenders truly start to measure their form against top rivals.