Contador will race Algarve; eyes Giro

Soon after being cleared of doping charges by the Spanish federation, Alberto Contador is expected to travel to Portugal to arrive in time for Wednesday’s start the Volta ao Algarve.

Alberto Contador is expected to travel to Portugal to arrive in time for Wednesday’s start the Volta ao Algarve after the stunning turn-around of the Spanish cycling federation, which cleared him of doping charges Tuesday.

Contador has the No. 1 bib on the official start list released by race officials Tuesday afternoon.

Contador was pre-registered by Saxo Bank-Sungard with the hope that he would be cleared in time to race. Contador pre-taped an interview with Spanish television that will be broadcast this evening and is expected to travel to southern Portugal for the 10 a.m. sign-in for the 157.5km first stage near Faro.

Contador has been temporarily suspended since August 23 when he was officially informed of doping allegations when traces of clenbuterol were detected in controls taken on the Tour’s second rest day.

The Spanish cycling federation’s ruling lifts Contador’s temporary ban and clears him to immediately return to racing. Contador is certainly wasting no time and said in a press statement Tuesday he intends to race Algarve if possible.

Contador could continue racing even if there is an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and would only be sidelined again if CAS rules against him.

If Contador loses an appeal at CAS, he could face a full, two-year ban. That ban could extend into the 2013 season, since in past cases CAS has exercised a great deal of latitude when specifying the date at which a suspension officially begins.

Plus, Contador runs the risk that any official results earned between now and a possible negative ruling by CAS would likely be annulled.

Saxo Bank-Sungard is certainly keen to have its star rider back in action. Some Spanish media have suggested that Contador would race the Giro d’Italia, in large part to get back into top shape for a return to the Tour de France.

The team has also pre-registered Contador in the Vuelta a Murcia in early March and Contador could return to the Vuelta a Castilla y León in mid-March, whose race director allegedly brought contaminated steaks from Spain to France that Contador claims got him in trouble.