Vuelta holding out hope for Contador start

Alberto Contador said he won't race 2015 Vuelta a España, but race organizers and Oleg Tinkov hold out hope that he might reconsider

Vuelta a España officials are holding out hope that Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) will defend his title later this season, but admit it won’t be easy.

Contador is poised to start the Tour de France next month, and weeks after winning the Giro d’Italia, some are hoping the Spaniard will start the Vuelta in Marbella on August 22 in a bid for cycling’s “triple crown.”

Contador has made it clear the Vuelta is not part of his plans this season, but that didn’t stop Vuelta director Javier Guillén from dreaming.

“I would be very pleased if Contador can manage the Giro-Tour double,” Guillén was quoted by the sports daily AS in a presentation to confirm Carrefour as a Vuelta sponsor through 2016. “We already know that the Vuelta isn’t on his program, but he is a cyclist who takes on challenges, and it would be a good reason to convince him that he races the Vuelta in 2015.”

Speaking during the Giro last month, Contador confirmed the Vuelta is not part of his plans.

“Racing the Giro and Tour is enough for one season,” Contador said. “I am not planning on racing the Vuelta. Unless something strange happens at the Tour, as in a crash or a very bad performance, I won’t be at the Vuelta this season.”

None other than Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov said he would like to see Contador race the Vuelta this season as well. Tinkov opened the debate over the winter that all the major GC riders should be present in the season’s major grand tours, even offering $1 million to anyone who manages to win all three in one season.

In an interview with VeloNews, Tinkov also admitted it would be unlikely that Contador would race the Vuelta this season, especially if Contador manages to win the Tour as well.

“That is his decision. Let’s finish Giro and the Tour and see what happens,” Tinkov said. “If I were him, I would definitely go to the Vuelta. Alberto makes his own decisions. It was even his decision to race the Giro-Tour double. The Vuelta is not hard enough for him. It is more suitable for [Joaquim] Rodríguez or [Alejandro] Valverde. Three grand tours, it’s a really hard task.”

Contador, 32, is already taking on the challenge, trying to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and Tour in one season, a feat that’s only been equaled seven times in racing history. Most consider the demands of the Giro so hard that it will be impossible for a rider, especially in the modern era, to recover in time to truly challenge for the Tour.

Many seem to forget that Contador has already won two grand tours in a row, with the 2014 Vuelta and the 2015 Giro. If he manages to win the Tour as well, it would amount to a sort of “Tiger slam” of winning consecutive grand tours.

For his part, Contador returned to racing last weekend, winning a stage against Tour nemesis Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and the overall at the four-day Route du Sud. Contador downplayed the significance of that victory, and said he is concentrating on trying to hit the Tour in top shape.

“I’m happy with this victory at the Route du Sud but this doesn’t change anything in view of the Tour de France,” Contador said. “It would be a mistake to change the mindset right now, thinking that this win would give me more confidence. … We still have another [nearly two weeks] until the start of the Tour de France and I will keep my focus on my preparation, in order to reach the start in the best shape possible.”

Guillén confirmed the Vuelta will see Katusha’s Rodríguez, Movistar’s Valverde and Quintana, as well as Astana revelation Mikel Landa. Giro runner-up Fabio Aru also might race the Vuelta as well.