Despite being a minute and half down on Quick-Step Floors leader Julian Alaphilippe’s yellow jersey, few riders will have written off Alberto Contador’s chances of turning Paris-Nice on its head during the final three days. It is anyone’s guess as to whether Contador (Trek-Segafredo) can succeed in tearing up the GC, but the present sentiment at the race is that if the Spaniard spots an opportunity, he will look to exploit it.
Contador sits eighth overall – 1:31 off the maillot jaune – and with a number of other podium candidates peppering the top 10, the Trek Segafredo leader is up against it. The Spaniard lost the bulk of his deficit during the crosswinds on stage 2, and although he claimed second on stage 4’s time trial, he was no match for Alaphilippe’s winning time.
"Of course the first few days of Paris-Nice were very hard and they hurt the body. The time trial was another sore day, but now I feel okay," he told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 5.
"The weather is better and I hope to have an easy day. Tomorrow we’ll look, but it really comes down to the feelings in the legs on the climbs."
Contador sailed through stage 5 with the rest of his rivals, but the triple-header of mountain stages remaining in the race will determine whether he can gain enough time to make an impact on the top echelons of the overall standings. Not only does Contador have to fight his rivals and the roads, but also sickness. He is still recovering from illness, having needed a course of antibiotics before the race began.
"We've many strong riders here, and the differences in the GC are very big," he said.
Stage 6 to Fayence looks suited to Alaphilippe’s explosive style – an element that appears missing from Contador’s locker as age begins to catch up with him. However, stage 7, with its long and brutal ascent to the top of the Col de la Couillole, offers Contador a more favourable window to try and isolate Alaphilippe.
"We’ll see the final climb tomorrow, and it’s a finish where we need to really pay attention. It’s a very good final for riders like Sergio Henao and Alaphilippe. I need to be close to those riders and then maybe Saturday is a good option for me. Many things can still happen. You saw that in the first two stages. Of course in this moment it’s difficult."