Alberto Contador’s (Tinkoff-Saxo) bid to complete the Giro-Tour double remains on target after a smooth return to racing at the Route du Sud on Thursday. In his first race day since winning the Giro d’Italia, Contador stayed out of trouble, crossing the line in 10th place as Steven Tronet of the Continental outfit Auber 93 surprised the favourites at the end of stage one.
With his big goal of the Tour de France just over two weeks away, Contador was keen to play it safe and he was pleased with how things went. “In the final 500 metres, that were uphill, I decided to move to the front. With so few days left until the start of the Tour de France, it is better to be in the front in order to minimize the risks of a crash,” Contador explained in a team press release.
After an aggressive final week at the Giro, Contador showed signs of weakness when he was dropped on the last mountain stage to Sestriere but he had already built up a comfortable lead by that point and went on to win the overall classification more than two minutes ahead of Fabio Aru (Astana). Earlier this week, Contador said that he was still feeling the effects of his Giro efforts.
The lengthy, but flat, opening stage of the Route du Sud was the perfect way to ease himself back into racing. “Being my first contact with a competition after the Giro, it was a long stage, 220km long. It proved very useful in order to ramp up after a break of nearly three weeks and all in all the sensation I had today was good,” said Contador.
"There was a breakaway at the start of the stage, while Europcar, together with us, controlled the group. We decided to have a rider collaborate in the front of the group so that we could have some control of the race. At the end, it turned out to be more difficult because of the undulating terrain but I felt in good shape.”
Rivals Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) opted for the more traditional warm-up of the Critérium du Dauphiné, with Froome taking the overall victory ahead of Tejay van Garderen (BMC). However, Contador has decided to use four-day French stage race as his one and only tune-up event before he takes on the Tour de France next month. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who hasn't raced since the Tour de Romandie in early May, is the only other major Tour contender to use the Route du Sud as his final preparation for July.
There is a tougher test to come with stage three taking them over three first category climbs, including the 20km Port de Balès, en route to Bagnères-de-Luchon.