Alberto Contador (Spain, Saxo Bank-Sunguard)
© Tim De Waele
It’s a surprise to many that Alberto Contador will start the Alpine stages of the Tour de France with a 4 minute deficit over the Yellow Jersey, currently Thomas Voeckler. He’s also 1.45 down on his arch-rival Andy Schleck. Following his crashes during the first week, the defending champion has been at his best level in the Pyrenees, but he’s convinced that he’ll ride better in the Alps.
CYCLINGTIME.com: What do you know about the coming three mountain stages in the Alps?
Alberto Contador: I saw them in mid-June when I decided to ride the Tour de France, the day before the [first fun ride] Marcha Contador [on June 11]. With five riders from the team, we stayed in Risoul in the French Alps and we rode the course, except the uphill of the col Agnel because there was an avalanche on the Italian side. Those three days will be important for sure. On Stage 17 [to Pinerolo in Italy], much will depend on weather conditions. The final descent of Pra Martino will be dangerous. Stage 18 [to the top of the Galibier] is very hard with the col Agnel and the Izoard, that’s where I’ll need to have a good pedalling style. The race can change on that day. Stage 19 is very short and everyone knows l’Alpe d’Huez… I only rode once up there and I won. It was during the Dauphiné last year, I wanted to because it’s such a prestigious climb, but it will be my first time doing it at the Tour de France.
CT: How would you compare your level now with that at the Giro, when you dominated everyone?
AC: I’m not as fresh as I was at the Giro, the first week of the Tour has been very demanding, and not just for me. Everyone has spent a lot of energy and that’s why you haven’t seen the attacks you might have expected in the Pyrenees. I’m not at the same level as at the Giro because my right knee was injured from a crash and I’ve compensated by pushing more on my left leg, so I haven’t had my usual pedalling style, but I’m getting better and I’m confident that I’ll have more opportunities to do something in the Alps.
CT: What do you have to do?
AC: I need to attack at some stage. If the overall ranking remains the same before the time trial on Saturday, it’ll be impossible for me to win the Tour.
CT: How important is it for you to win the Tour this year?
AC: I’m pretty relaxed because I’ve already delivered results this year. I’ve won the Giro so I won’t be empty handed at the end of the season anyway. This is not the biggest fight of my career but I’ll try to win this race. I’m not so far down. Except for the crash that delayed me on Stage 1, I haven’t lost more time and I have good reason to hope for better days.
Photo (c) Tim De Waele
CT: Do you think that current leader Thomas Voeckler has a chance to win the Tour de France?
AC: Yes, definitely. He’s got an incredible form and it’ll be difficult to take him down from the first position on GC. I have no doubt that he’s a serious candidate for the overall win at the Tour de France. He won’t have any problem on Stage 17. He might lose a bit of time in the hardest climbs but maybe not much. He’s a favorite at the same level as Cadel Evans right now.
Photo (c) Tim De Waele
CT: If you can’t win yourself, is there someone you’d like to see in yellow in Paris?
AC: Of course I have my preferences, like we all do, but I won’t make mine public. It was the same at the Tour of Italy. I never answered when I was asked if I preferred Michele Scarponi or Vincenzo Nibali for second place.
CT: Gracias Alberto.
AC: De nada.