Fresh from his third overall victory at the Vuelta a España, Alberto Contador’s thoughts are beginning to turn to new challenges. The Spaniard is certain to return to the Tour de France in 2015 after a crash ended his race prematurely this year, and he has admitted that winning all three grand tours in one year remains an ambition – albeit a difficult one to realise.
“I would like to ride the three grand tours in one year but I see it as being very difficult,” Contador told AS. “If I did, it would be with the intention of winning them. But I’d need courses that suited me and a strong team in all three races.”
Regaining the maillot jaune, which he last wore in 2010 in a Tour that was later stripped from his palmares following a positive test for clenbuterol, will doubtless be Contador’s priority next season. The Tinkoff-Saxo man was generous in his praise of this year’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali, but expressed frustration that he was denied the chance to test the Sicilian’s credentials in the mountains.
“At the Tour he was the best, he was very strong, although I wasn’t as good in the Vuelta as I was in France, where I had the best level of my life. I was anxious to get to the mountains but I fell before them,” Contador said.
The Vuelta was billed as something of a do-over for Contador and Chris Froome, who were both forced out of the Tour by injury, and the pair were duly first and second on the podium in Santiago di Compostela. Inadvertently, Froome’s Sky team proved to be an ally of circumstance for Contador, helping to control the race during the final week of racing.
“Sky’s work was good for me, especially at the end of the Vuelta, to control [Alejandro] Valverde and Purito [Joaquim Rodriguez], because they are more live wire and in explosive stages they are very hard rivals to control,” said Contador, who was critical of the short, final time trial in Santiago.
“It was dangerous. If it [the general classification] had been tighter, people would have certainly gone to ground and more than once.”
Contador was speaking during a visit to Spanish newspaper AS’ offices in Madrid on the day after his Vuelta victory, and he also recounted his surprise return to action after suffering a hairline fracture of his tibia when he crashed out of the Tour in July. Ten days after the incident, doctors in Lugano examined Contador’s wound and ruled him out of the Vuelta, but he sought a second opinion from medics at the Cemtro Clinic in Madrid.
“I called Dr. Manuel Leyes and he sent someone from his team, César Flores, who put together a sort of surgery in my home. He opened the wound on my knee again and cleaned it,” Contador said. “I could only have an anaesthetic around it but not in the wound itself, so I had to put a sock in my mouth because of the pain.
“I couldn’t stand the idea of watching the race on television, like I did the Tour.”
One race that Contador will watch on television, however, is the world championships road race in Ponferrada. He ruled himself out of the squad during his rest day press conference last week, and although Javier Minguez has since named him in Spain’s pre-selection, he reiterated that he will not take part.
“When you plan a season, you analyse the routes of the races. The Worlds course didn’t suit at all. It would be like asking Cavendish to ride the queen stage of the Tour,” Contador said.