In spite of a listless performance in the final time trial of the Volta ao Algarve, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) has declared himself happy with his return to competitive action. The Spaniard returned a positive test for Clenbuterol during last year’s Tour de France, but last week the Spanish Cycling Federation announced that it had decided not to sanction him.
Contador immediately set off for Portugal to take the start of the Volta ao Algarve, a race he won last season. After showing initial flashes of form earlier in the week, he was off the pace in the concluding time trial, finishing 45 seconds down in 15th, a performance that saw him slip off the podium to fourth overall.
Nonetheless, the controversial Contador was pleased simply to be back on his bike.
“The time trial didn’t turn out quite right, but just being here is already a triumph,” Contador said after the finish. “I think I had a good performance for the first race. I read in a newspaper that I’d gone 205 days without racing, and that is too much.”
Contador’s last race was the final stage of the Tour de France last July. He was informed of his positive test for Clenbuterol on August 24, but the news only entered the public domain on September 30.
Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) took the stage and the overall victory in the Algarve, and Contador acknowledged the German’s strength.
“The performance was very good, because people who were here in the time trial were specialists, like Tony Martin, who has showed that was very strong when he arrived on Friday with the climbers,” Contador said. “Those who have finished in front have been very strong”.
While last week’s announcement from the Spanish federation has cleared Contador to race for now, it is likely that the final decision on his case will be made in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the months ahead. For now, however, Contador is adamant that he is focused on racing.
“I’m on the path towards the next race,” he said.
Contador also claimed that in spite of the storm of media attention his contentious presence in the Algarve had attracted, he had approached the race itself in a relaxed manner.
"I came in thinking I had nothing to lose,” he said. “I have done it differently than in other years, when I came here with a lot of pressure to win the race.
“This year, however, I could not train so much, but this will also work out better because I always start the year very strong and then I have to measure my breaks. This year, however, I will go calm.”