MILAN (VN) — Team Sky’s Chris Froome is racing in the Critérium du Dauphiné this week, but he has his eyes a bit further down the road at the Tour de France, and on the rivals he faces in his pursuit of a second Tour title.
The Brit has obvious stars like 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on his mind, but one man worries him the most: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Contador just finished the Giro d’Italia on the podium’s top step. He is heading to the Tour de France where he hopes to score a rare result: winning both the Giro and Tour in one year and by doing so, holding all three grand tour titles at once. In September 2014, he beat Froome in the Vuelta a España after they both had to pull out of the Tour early due to crashes.
“He’s got an amazing Grand Tour resume,” Froome told The Telegraph newspaper. “I can’t write off guys like Nibali, Quintana, Valverde, but Contador does stand out. He is the benchmark, the guy to beat.”
Froome won the Tour de France in 2013, but that is the reach of his grand tour victory record. Contador’s extends much further. He won the Giro d’Italia in May for a second time. He counts three Vuelta titles and two in the biggest one, the Tour.
That tally would be nine instead of seven had he not tested positive for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour and been stripped of that victory as well as the 2011 Giro title. Contador, however, still counts those victories as his, even if the record books now name Andy Schleck and Michele Scarponi, respectively.
Froome’s best in the Vuelta is second place, twice. In the Giro, his record is much poorer: 32nd in 2009 and a DNF in 2010 for holding on to a motorbike going up the Mortirolo climb.
On that same legendary climb last month, Contador destroyed his rivals. He went so well that some rumored that a motor helped power his bike – a notion that he dismissed flatly.
Froome and Contador have, surprisingly, only faced off in the Tour twice: in 2013 when Froome won and in 2014, when they both pulled out early due to crashes. They both left the Tour last year and trained at home for the Vuelta, Froome recovering from broken bones in his hand and wrist, Contador a fractured tibia. The Vuelta was close, but it was Contador who came out on top by a minute and 10 seconds after three weeks of racing.
“[The rivalry] definitively pushes me,” Froome added. “I do think about my rivals quite a lot when I’m training. I think, ‘Would they be training like this? Would they be pushing this hard?’
“We don’t hate each other. I think when it does come to the grand tours, both of us want it to be a good race. We want to be able to take each other on and for one of us at the end to be able to say, ‘we were better.'”
Contador is not in the Dauphiné this week. Like Quintana, he will race the Route du Sud this month to warm up for the Tour.