By Antonio J. Salmerón
Alberto Contador wants to win the Tour de France for a second time in 2009 and is committed to Team Astana but says he hopes the return to racing by seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong will not be a barrier to his goals.
Contador won the last three Grand Tours he participated in (the 2007 Tour de France, and 2008 Giro and Vuelta) but in 2009 he may be obligated to other tasks and there is a chance he will have to share leadership of Astana with Lance Armstrong. "If Lance says he returns it is because he will be at a very competitive level and especially if he is in the Tour de France. I am very calm in that regard.
There is also the possibility that former Team Astana leader Alexander Vinokourov will return to racing in 2009. "For me it is not a problem that Vinokourov returns," Contador says. "Honestly, his return has surprised me."
Despite the returning-rider news stories, Contador will only have one big event in his 2009 calendar – the Tour de France. "At my age, I can't continue to do great efforts like this season, with the Giro and the Vuelta, even though I had great results. I don't want to think about not starting the 2009 Tour de France. Astana is the strongest team in the peloton and it has to be at the best race. I will prepare the best I can for it."
Despite some of the uncertainties, Contador is set to stay with Astana and fulfil his current contract. His friend Jesús Hernández has now joined the team, which was good news for Contador. "I was together with him, not only at Liberty [Seguros], but also almost all the seasons before that. Without a doubt he is a good signing for me. He is in good form and a man I can really trust, although I don't want to complain about the great teammates that I count on and had counted on with Astana. They have worked very well for me."
The Spaniard also clarified recent remarks in the Spanish press about his teammate Levi Leipheimer. "There may have been some declarations about Leipheimer that were interpreted wrongly," he says. "Leipheimer deserves respect and admiration for his great courage. I hope and I want that everything will work out fine in 2009."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback
January 18, 2009 - Armstrong announces start of Catlin's drug testing programme
January 8, 2009 - Armstrong impresses Carmichael prior to Tour Down Under
January 7, 2009 - Armstrong believes Team Astana can dominate Tour
December 10, 2008 - Merckx: Armstrong's return good for cycling and Giro
December 8, 2008 - Armstrong climbs Teide
December 6, 2008 - Rast on life with Armstrong
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong considers Tour of Ireland
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong: Contador is the best
December 4, 2008 - Horner unites with Armstrong despite past differences
December 3, 2008 - Armstrong and Contador ride separate paths towards Tour
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong surfs with Astana
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong plans to race Tour
December 1, 2008 - Armstrong's anti-doping testing program pending
November 23, 2008 - Media out of love with Armstrong?
November 22, 2008 - Andreu caught up in Armstrong fight again
November 19, 2008 - Armstrong concerned about Tour safety
November 17, 2008 - Armstrong to meet with ASO
November 9, 2008 - Armstrong racing in Texas again
November 7, 2008 - Exclusive Armstrong wind tunnel video
November 7, 2008 - Lance Armstrong speaks at Web 2.0 conference
November 6, 2008 - Carmichael dials in Armstrong's comeback training
November 5, 2008 - Armstrong looking for balance
November 5, 2008 - Photos from Armstrong's wind tunnel test
November 3, 2008 - Armstrong doubles up and heads to wind tunnel
Even though he still has to discuss his 2009 racing calendar with manager Johan Bruyneel, he has already a rough plan. "I will start with the Challenge de Mallorca [February], which is a race that suits me well [that early in the season]. Afterwards, I will do the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, Paris-Nice and the Vuelta a Castilla y León. I really like the French race and I don't want to miss it."
Contador admitted that other teams were interested in signing him. "That really surprised me, as much with regards from a sporting level as from the economy. For me the most important is to count on a convincing project. There is a clause for a contract cancellation with Astana, but it wouldn't be advisable. There are many teams interested in me, but for now, I will stay with Astana. I think it is the best option."