Giro d’Italia leader Alberto Contador has said that even though his injured shoulder is improving steadily, he will be making slight alterations to his time trial bike so he can feel more comfortable during Saturday’s crucial 59 kilometre race against the clock.
“I’ve been testing the time trial bike today [Monday],” Contador said in a press conference, “and even though I should be feeling even better than I already do when the time trial comes in five days time [on stage 14], for now we’re changing my position.”
“We’re going to open up [widen] the position of my arms a little. That way there will be a little less pressure on my shoulder. That’s the most important consideration.”
Contador said that the change was purely because of his stage 6 injury, given that Saturday’s time trial was all about adopting as aerodynamic a position as possible. “When I did a recon of the time trial course, I was going at 40kph at some points. it’s got a climb, but it’s a very gentle one, so I’m only changing my position to protect my shoulder.”
That said, the 32-year-old Tinkoff-Saxo rider said that he was pleased with his recovery from the crash so far. “I didn’t just injure my shoulder, I hurt my knee as well. Each day it feels like I’m getting better. Yesterday [stage 9] I felt better than I did at Campitello Matese [stage 8], for example, where my pedal cadence wasn’t as good.”
“What’s more, I’m in the lead. It’s up to my rivals to pull back time on me. Everything in this year’s Giro d’Italia has yet to be decided, but it’s always good to be ahead.”
Contador said that when he fell on stage 6, “a lot of things went through my head “ including his crash at the Tour de France last year where he was forced to abandon.
“When I fell last week I thought my collarbone was broken. Then after seeing that it wasn’t and managing to pop my shoulder back into position myself, I started thinking about the sacrifices I’d made for this double [bid for Giro and Tour in the same year] everything that I’d done.”
“But I never let myself think about going home. I told some friends of mine, if I had had to abandon, I would have needed a psychologist!”
Having the shoulder injury did not increase his motivation to win because “I’m so motivated to do it anyway. I could lose the Giro, I could win it, I could win the Tour and lose this, or lose both. But either way, mentally I’m prepared for trying to win it, I couldn’t be more motivated.”
Contador refused to be drawn into a potential controversy over rival Fabio Aru’s request to the Spaniard that they work together in closing kilometres of stage 9. Contador agreed, but Aru then out-sprinted the Tinkoff-Saxo rider in the finale to claw back a second’s advantage. “I just hope that this Giro d’Italia isn’t won or lost by a second,” Contador said with a dry smile.
It was also pointed out to Contador that he had never, in nine seasons of fighting for a Grand Tour, lost a GT leader’s jersey after taking control of the overall classification. However, at the same time, stage five in this year’s Giro d’Italia was the earliest he has led a Grand Tour. Was this a risk and did he think he might lose the lead, and if so, on which day?
“I don’t want to think about that,” Contador answered. “In any case, I’ve seen that I can lose the maglia rosa on any day. They’ve all got their dangers. I could have lost it 400 metres from the finish on stage 6. It’s true that Richie Porte (Team Sky) is a very strong time triallist and perhaps that tradition” - that Contador has never lost a Grand Tour race lead - “will end on Saturday, but then there are opportunities to get it back.” He ended up by dismissing the fact he has always remained in command of a Grand Tour as “statistics.”
Contador insisted, in any case, that he was not worried about losing the maglia rosa in the time trial, rather that he was looking at the long term result. The Madrid-born rider revealed that he and TInkoff-Saxo had planned at one point to ‘loan’ the jersey to a breakaway on stage 8 - specially, Przemyslav Niemec (Lampre-Merida), the winner last year on the Lagos de Covadonga stage in the Vuelta a España.
“The other day we weighed up the possibility of giving the jersey to Niemec, but it was not so easy. When we stopped working Astana went on the front. It’s entirely possible that the maglia changes hands a lot between here and Milan. But our objective is to have the maglia rosa there, on the final day.”
Contador continues to name Aru and Porte as his two main rivals and as equally dangerous, after a first week he described as “one of the most intense I’ve lived through in a Grand Tour. There was a lot of very tiring terrain. This next part before Saturday is not challenging, although there are some stages” - Wednesday and Thursday have tricky climbs - “where we will have to be very careful.” After such an eventful first week, though, Contador will be hoping that things are a little more straightforward in week two of the Giro d’Italia.