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Alberto Contador (Astana) gives his trademark salute.
Defending champion confident in team ahead of Tour start
An overwhelming favourite to add a third Tour de France title to his already impressive palmares, Alberto Contador says that winning the Tour as favourite isn't an easy task.
The 27-year-old Spaniard has enjoyed a fantastic start to his season in 2010, winning the Volta ao Algarve general classification, taking the Paris-Nice crown and securing the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon title. He finished second overall at the Criterium du Dauphiné behind Jani Brajkovic, having stated he was there for Tour preparation and wouldn't be aiming for the win.
Contador believes that this excellent form can be a hindrence mentally however, when the weight of the world's expectations are on young shoulders. "There is nothing more difficult than winning a race when everyone says you're the favourite," he told Spanish sports daily Marca. "You know that any moment of weakness will be taken advantage of by your opponents."
While the tag of favourite is applied to Contador, some have doubted the ability of his Astana squad to provide adequate support. He stated categorically that he has confidence in Alexandr Vinokourov and his whole team and the fact that outfits such as RadioShack and Saxo Bank possess riders fancied for the title suits him.
"That there are other strong teams works in my favour partly because they will have to take responsibility," he explained. And for one of those fancied squads in particular, RadioShack, Contador was full of praise, in particular its manager, Johan Bruyneel. "There are very few [who] lead a team as Bruyneel does. I know that [because of] tactics applied at certain stages," he said.
For the American team's leader on the road, Lance Armstrong, Contador took on a respectful tone and touched on the troubles of 2009. "I have great respect [for him], because he is a great racer and a great champion, worthy of admiration," he said. "The problem is that last year we were both on the same team and two riders with the same objective are not compatible."
As for this year's race itself, Contador has joined the chorus of voices calling of the dangers within the final week in the Pyrenees, where he says the race will be most testing. "The Alps will wear down the field and we'll see a surprise, although that is normal and the other favourites will finish together. This year the Pyrenees will be more decisive," he explained.