Sagan, Contador blow out cobwebs on Canary islands

The Tinkoff squad is in the midst of a training camp on the island of Gran Canaria ahead of the 2016 season.

Tinkoff teammates Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan traded cycling kits for swimsuits this week during the team’s pre-season training camp on Spain’s Gran Canaria island.

The team hit the beach Wednesday and did some paddle-boarding, a form of cross-training. They were back on the bikes for training rides that continue through December 18 as the team’s superstars prepare for an ambitious season, with the spring classics, Tour de France, Olympics, and the world championships all sharing a crowded calendar.

For teams like Tinkoff, pre-season training camps provide ample opportunity for a variety of tasks. The squad already held its first series of pre-season meetings in Croatia last month, so the Canary islands camp is more about hitting the bikes and regaining fitness ahead of the 2016 racing season.

“This provides valuable training time on their bikes,” said head sport director Stephen De Jongh. “The mountainous terrain of Gran Canaria provides us with challenging training routes for long rides and physical testing on climbs.”

For newly crowned world champion Sagan, the Gran Canaria training camp is the first step toward his season debut at the Tour de San Luís in January.

“The team is happy and already working hard for the start of the season well with the first races,” Sagan told the Spanish wire service EFE. “I am very motivated, with a lot of excitement to start to race. It will be very special to wear one of the most beautiful jerseys that there is.”

The 25-year-old Sagan will certainly be busy. After racing in Argentina, he will have a packed spring calendar, with likely stops at Tirreno-Adriatico before Milano-Sanremo and the spring classics. Sagan’s major goal is to win one of the spring monuments while wearing the rainbow jersey. After that, he will reload for the Tour de France, with the idea of winning a fifth-straight green points jersey, before taking aim at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Although the Rio route favors the climbers, Sagan still has the race on his radar. After that, he will decide what his late-season schedule will look like before heading to Qatar in October to try to defend his rainbow jersey.

The same goes for Contador, who has outlined what he described as a “classic calendar,” with a season debut at the Volta al Algarve (February 17-21) in Portugal in a traditional approach to the Tour de France. He remains uncommitted if he will race after the Olympics, and has not indicated he will race the Vuelta a España in what could be his final season.

“The Tour’s the big goal of the season,” Contador told EFE. “I like the Tour route, but I have no choice but to like it. One has to adapt to the route, but I believe it’s a good one for me, even though later we’ll see how it goes.”

Contador, who celebrated his 33rd birthday with his teammates this week, repeated that 2016 will likely be his last in the pro peloton, leaving the door open to continue if he suffers some bad luck, a crash, or an illness that might keep him from his best during the Tour. After that, the Olympics provide him with a rare chance to compete on a course that favors him in international competition.

“I’m happy [about the hilly Rio road race course]. A lot of times, the worlds and the Olympics have been held on flatter courses, and I believe the excitement isn’t the same because riders with characteristics similar to mine, we’ve never had realistic chances to win,” Contador told EFE. “This time, it’s different, and we are going to try to take advantage of the opportunity, and make a good Olympic Games.”

Contador said his approach to the Tour won’t be any different because the Olympics follow in August. He said the key to performing well in Brazil will be recovery from the hard Tour effort.

He already said months ago he would not defend his pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia. After Algarve, Contador is slated to race Paris-Nice (March 6-13), Volta a Catalunya (March 21-27), Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country, April 4-9), and the Critérium du Dauphiné (June 5-12). Contador has also mixed in high-altitude training camps at Tenerife and Italy ahead of his major goals.

“You don’t make a special plan because it’s an Olympic year,” he said. “[The Tour is so hard] that it will be very important to recover as much as possible to be in top condition for Rio. The idea is to arrive at the Tour in top condition to try to win.”

For Contador and his teammates, it all starts on Gran Canaria. These two weeks lay the foundation for the 2016 season. Many European teams are taking advantage of Spain’s typically mild winter weather to hold training camps throughout the country.

“We’re doing a lot of work on the base,” Contador said. “This island guarantees good weather to train for two weeks, something you cannot do on the rest of Europe.”