Road

Contador shuffles schedule, will face Armstrong at Criterium International

Following a tough win at Paris-Nice, defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has reconfigured his racing schedule for the next two months.

Following a tough win at Paris-Nice, defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has reconfigured his racing schedule for the next two months.

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Contador will take a break and then take on two of the calendar's biggest classics.

Contador, who also won Portugal’s Vuelta ao Algarve earlier this season, said it makes sense to ease up in this early part of the season.

“I’ve had very good results in my first two races this year,” said Contador. “My preparation is well underway – ahead of schedule, in fact – so we decided to change our plans, to put less wear on me and my team.”

Contador said that last week’s Paris-Nice was taxing on both physical and mental levels. As a result, he has opted not to compete in the upcoming Volta a Catalunya (March 22-28) or the Vuelta al País Vasco (April 5-10).

Contador will, instead, race in the Criterium International (March 27 and 28), the Vuelta a Castilla y León (April 14-18) and then take a stab at two major spring classics, Fleche Wallonne (April 21) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 25).

“Criterium International is a race that suits my characteristics very well and I really want to ride it, just because it carries so much prestige,” said Contador.

The decision will also mean that Contador will have much earlier chance to test his form against his former teammate and rival Lance Armstrong who is also slated to compete at Criterium International. Contador said that a recent shift in dates for the Vuelta a Castilla y León means that he can also compete in two of the year’s biggest spring classics.

“The Vuelta a Castilla y León is a race I’ve always loved and this year – because of a change in dates – I also get the opportunity to go to the classics. I’m excited to ride there because there is so much history. I’m not sure how I will do, there will be riders with a lot more skill and classics experience than I have.”

Coincidentally, Astana is not fielding a team for Paris-Roubaix. Following negotiations at Paris-Nice, the team and race organizer ASO reached an agreement in which Astana could skip the event to which it would normally be bound to ride.

Astana director Yvon Sanquer said the team simply doesn’t have the sort of “specialists who excel in a race like Paris-Roubaix. Our decision opens the door for another team to race. We will be at the line next year, though.”

Following Liège, Contador will take another break before racing in the Dauphiné Libéré and then focusing on his season’s primary goal, a third win in the Tour de France.