After a successful start to the season defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador was hoping to take his third stage race victory from as many starts at Criterium International this weekend. That hope has been all but quashed after Contador dropped a minute on his rival general classification contenders on Saturday’s opening stage.
“It’s been a hard day,” Contador said after losing time on the Ospedale climb. “There was a head wind on the climb and I suffered a lot with three kilometres to go. That’s when I told Alexandre Vinokourov to stop pacing.
“I couldn’t breathe anymore,” he added. “I preferred to finish climbing at my own rhythm. It’s a pity I couldn’t turn the good work of the team into success.”
In his pre-race press conference Contador mentioned the allergies he usually suffers from at this time of the year. That’s why he never promises to deliver results in spring, although Contador has already won Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice this season.
“Nobody is unbeatable,” he said. “Physically I’m well, but many factors have to be taken into consideration for winning. I’m not disappointed. I was hoping for another cloudy day like the past two days but there was more humidity and the wind blew the pollens in the air. We can’t always win, that’s the beauty of the sport.”
While the race’s closing time trial throws the race in Contador’s favour, at just under eight kilometres it’s unlikely to be enough to put the Spaniard back into contention. Despite the odds Contador hasn’t give up his ambition of at least trying to win the time trial.
“It depends how I can breathe,” he said. “But I’ve done the last kilometre [today] in a more relaxed way in order to preserve some strength for tomorrow’s time trial. I like the course of this race, so if health permits, I’ll give it a go.”