Contador: Froome will be my most dangerous Tour de France rival

Tinkoff-Saxo team leader also hints that he may retire at the end of this season

Alberto Contador has picked out Chris Froome as his principal rival for the Tour de France title. The Spaniard, who is targeting a Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double, has said that despite the lack of time trial kilometres on the Tour route, Froome has the ability to win even the toughest mountain stages, which makes him an outstanding candidate for the yellow jersey.

Asked in an extensive interview with L'Equipe about his most serious rival at the Tour, Contador replied: “Froome, without question! Some people are already starting to say that with so few kilometres of time trialling that this isn’t a Tour for Froome. But, although he might be a really good time trial specialist, he is above all a climber. He is capable of winning the biggest mountain stages. I think that Quintana and Nibali are a level below.”

The Spaniard said that he is optimistic about his Giro and Tour prospects this year having achieved what he insists was his best-ever level in 2014. Contador hopes that he will be at least as strong this year, but will make a significant change to his early-season objectives in order to be as fresh as possible for the Giro

"The only difference this year is that I’m not going to line up at races at the start of the season with the aim of winning them. My big challenge is still winning the Giro and the Tour," he said.

"I want to win them both. I wouldn’t have taken on this challenge without being able to achieve it. I am well aware that it’s not going to be easy. By doing the Giro, it is often difficult to arrive at the Tour in optimal form. What motivates me even more is hearing that achieving this double has become almost impossible."

Asked about the arrival of former Sky DS Sean Yates to join Steven de Jongh, who moved in the same direction last year, Contador admitted he was happy with the way Tinkoff-Saxo is continuing to commit resources with a view to becoming the strongest team in the sport. He once again paid tribute to de Jongh for persuading him to change some of his training methods, and particularly the introduction of high-altitude training camps.

But Contador also hinted that he may not be part of the set-up beyond the end of this season, when his current contract expires.

"I’m realistic, I’ve just turned 32. I’ve never felt as good during my career and I am still motivated. On the other hand, when my decision to stop is made, I want people to remember that I left when I was at the highest level," he confessed. "That means I don’t see myself staying in the peloton for very much longer."

Pressed on whether he might retire at the end of this year if he achieves the Giro-Tour double, Contador explained: "It’s complicated to say yes to that today. I believe that I still could do another year. But it’s only: ‘I believe.’ The weeks and months to come will tell me what decision to take at the end of the season. What is sure is that that I can’t see myself remaining a professional rider for more than three more seasons."

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