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Alberto Contador at a presentation about a new race in Dubai
Spaniard also considering adding either the Giro or Vuelta to program
Giro d'Italia organiser Michele Acquarone continued to try to convince Contador to return to the Giro d'Italia while both were in Dubai for the opening of the Dubai Cycling Course this week. However, logic seems to indicate that Contador will defend his Vuelta title and perhaps use his home Grand Tour to peak for a shot at the world championship on the hilly and testing course in Florence, Italy.
Contador missed the 2012 Tour de France because he was serving a ban for his positive test for clenbuterol from the 2010 Tour. He rode and won the 2011 Giro d'Italia while waiting for a final verdict from the Court of Arbitration for Sport but was then disqualified from the result as a consequence of being found guilty of doping in 2010. He seems indebted to the Giro d'Italia organisers RCS Sport but is clearly keen to return to France and prove he's the best stage race rider of his generation.
"I have a lot of dreams and objectives for 2013 and my biggest objective this year will be the Tour," Contador told Cyclingnews in Dubai.
"I haven’t decided my full race program yet. I haven't decided 100% if I do the Giro or the Vuelta. But what’s sure is that my season will centre on the Tour."
Contador is expected to attend the official presentation of the 2013 Vuelta route in Vigo on Saturday, January 12 before traveling to Argentina to ride the Tour de San Luis. He will study the race routes, his goals and talk with team manager Bjarne Riis before making a final decision on the second Grand Tour of his 2013 season.
"Hombre. It's not an easy decision because there are a lot of factors," he explained.
"The 2011 Giro d'Italia was too hard. To do both (the Giro and the Tour) was really difficult that year. This year’s Giro is much more straightforward, with fewer kilometres of racing per stage, so that could make it better to build for the Tour than the Giro of 2011. Later this month I'll sit down with the team and we will decide. Then we’ll organise things."
After competing in San Luis, Contador will return to the Middle East to ride the Tour of Oman, followed by Tirreno-Adriatico and Critérium International. He virtually ruled out riding the Ardennes Classics.
"I'd rather focus on Critérium International. I've ridden it but never been at my best. It's a good, prestigious race and I'd like to have a good shot at it. I'll also be able to ride the roads of the Tour de France Grand Depart, which is important."
Riding in Dubai
Contador spent a week training in Dubai and celebrating New Year in the Emirate, with his wife Macarena and some friends. He tweeted a photo of himself training in the sun and Contador won the exhibition race sprint race against Vincenzo Nibali and Ryder Hesjedal on Friday night. He was keen to take part in the new Dubai Tour announced for 2014.
"I think the creation of the new race is good news; anything that creates interest in the world of cycling is good," he told Cyclingnews.
"It's very important in these countries that there's more interest in cycling. There's the Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Oman and if we have the Dubai tour too, it's good for cycling. Things aren't great in Europe at the moment because a lot of races don't have sponsors and so can't continue. That's another reason why this race is important."
"The winter weather in Dubai is perfect for training at this time of year. It's about 25C. A friend in Madrid sent me a photo at 10:30 in the morning and it was zero degrees. That’s a huge difference."
Contador was relaxed and jovial in Dubai, joking with Nibali and Hesjedal before their early season race and enjoying a boat tour of the Dubai skyline.
He has passed the last two winters under a cloud, fighting against a ban for doping and then serving his time for much of the 2012 season. Contador made a strong comeback in the late summer, winning the Vuelta and getting his career back on track.
"It's been a happy winter, but not because I won the Vuelta," he pointed out. "Maybe not every one will agree with me but happiness in life is not about if you finish first, second or third in the Vuelta, but for other, more personal reasons. That's why I try to enjoy every moment in life and live every day to the maximum. In that sense it's been a good winter and I'm ready for the new season."