Spanish Tour de France star Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) has confirmed that he will definitely continue racing beyond the end of this season and that, should plans for his own squad not materialize, reveals he has several offers on the table from teams once Tinkoff ceases operations this winter. Whilst not totally decided, Contador is increasingly keen to ride the Vuelta a España this September, too.
As for the Giro d'Italia this May, the race's defending champion will be watching the Giro on television but "only if it ties in with a rest day from training" And, Contador tells Cyclingnews with a chuckle, "it's probably better that way, because whenever I watch the Giro, I start wishing I was racing it!"
Cyclingnews: After easing back a little following your victory in the Vuelta al País Vasco, how are you feeling now you're training full on again?
Alberto Contador: Very motivated, ‘back to work' after Pais Vasco, and very keen to get going and face the challenges that are coming up. Things are going well. Obviously I'd have liked to have won Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya, which I lost by four seconds and seven seconds respectively but I'll settle for the fact that I felt very good in both of those races and the year, overall, is going very well.
CN: After the Vuelta al País Vasco, you said it looked very likely you'd be racing next year. Is it now 100 per cent certain you'll be racing in 2017?
AC: Yes. I have decided that I will continue because I am very keen to keep racing, my condition is very good, and on top of that my power data, year on year, is very encouraging. Talking it over with my support staff and with my family, I've decided to continue. On top of that, racing is what I like doing the most.
CN: Have you got offers from other teams and is there still a chance you will form your own squad?
AC: Right now, after what I said in País Vasco, various offers have come through for next year. I don't like saying which teams because apart from anything else it's not fair on the riders already in those teams. So there's that interest, there's still that chance of having my own team although it's true that we have to move fast on that to keep that option open.
What I want to be clear is that whichever team I do ride for in 2017, they would have to make winning the Tour de France a top priority. It doesn't matter if it's my team or one that's already created, it has to be a powerful squad that is going all out for the Tour and that factor will be what has the biggest effect on my decision where I sign. They've got to be as keen to win the Tour as I am.
CN: And if that hypothetical new team were to say, ‘Alberto, you can't sign for one year, it's got to be for two or three', what would you say to them?
AC: Well, that's an option. It's not necessarily for just one year. I've left that door open on continuing, and not just for one year. When I decide to quit, that's when I quit, but there's no date right now on my retirement. I'm also aware that if a team is going to make a big investment and sign me, it'd be difficult to for that to happen with a contract for just one year.
CN: Earlier this year you said the Criterium du Dauphiné in June could be the only race of the year where you might not be at 100 per cent in a position to fight for victory. Is that still the case?
AC: Yes, no doubt about that. I will push myself as hard as I possibly can at the Dauphiné and I would like to do a good race there. But my objective is to get to the Tour de France in top shape and that's why I go to the Dauphiné without that clear objective of winning. I want to have a little bit of an opportunity to polish my form there, particularly as it's a very, very hard race for your team and for the riders. The idea in the Dauphiné is to race yourself into top form.
CN: How likely is it that you will add more races into your program between now and the Tour?
AC: There's a chance I will do the Spanish National Championships with the same kind of objective as the Dauphiné, although only, for now, the road race.
CN: Then there's the Olympic Games, but there's a question mark about the Vuelta in September. Is it fair to say the Vuelta is still neither completely ruled out nor completely ruled into your race schedule
AC: Well, that's more or less the case. I couldn't tell you whether it's a definite yes or no. It's a decision I'll take with the team as well. But, well, there's a real chance that I will race it, and it's a very good chance, too.
CN: You're heading to Tenerife this Monday for altitude training, are you able to watch the Giro d'Italia on television in the afternoons?
AC: I don't have an opportunity, most days. If there are rest days, though, I'll maybe watch it, but not the other days. What's more, with the time difference in the Canaries, we're an hour behind the rest of Europe, it makes it even harder. But that's maybe for the best, because I really like the Giro and when I watch it, I end up wishing I was there, racing in it.
CN: Any chance of another Spanish winner in the Giro d'Italia in 2016? Or maybe even a Polish one?
AC: Well, I think there's a large number of contenders but I'd have to highlight one because he's already won the Giro d'Italia and he's always up there in the big Tours, and that rider is Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Then there's a group of favourites who also have a very good chance to fight for victory, and that includes, amongst the Spaniards, both Mikel Landa (Sky) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Landa did a great Giro d'Italia last year and Valverde is an outstandingly good rider with a lot of experience, who always does well in Grand Tours.
Then there are the up-and-coming riders, like [Tom] Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Rafal [Majka-Tinkoff] who is keen to show the same kind of form he's had in the Tour in other years and who is hoping to be at a similar level. Then there's [Rigoberto] Uran (Cannondale) who's already twice been on the Giro podium and [Esteban] Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), a big group of riders who are going to have their chances. But when you look at his consistency and his palmares in the Grand Tours, Nibali is the top favourite.