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Tirreno-Adriatico leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the start line for stage 6
Former Team Sky directeur sportif switches role at Tinkoff-Saxo
Alberto Contador has confirmed that former Team Sky directeur sportif Steven de Jongh is his new coach at Tinkoff-Saxo and has acknowledged that the Dutchman has played a key role in helping him rediscover his form and perform so well at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Contador had a difficult 2013 season, winning just a stage in the early season Tour de San Luis. He fought to finish fourth overall in the Tour de France but was unable to compete against Chris Froome. Tinkoff-Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis convinced Contador to improve the quality of his training and the Spaniard reached out to De Jongh last November.
The Dutchman is not a sports physiologist but apparently convinced Contador of the benefits of training at altitude on Mount Teide in Tenerife and has helped him control his weight.
While most of the Tinkoff-Saxo team trained at sea level in Gran Canaria in January, Contador clocked lots of climbing miles at altitude on Mount Teide with two teammates, under the careful eye of De Jongh.
"I'm really happy to be working with Steven," Contador told journalists, including Cyclingnews, after stage six of Tirreno-Adriatico.
"There's a good feeling between us, good understanding. I think the work is giving us some excellent results."
De Jongh knows the secrets of how Team Sky trains its athletes but Contador played down suggestions that he was interested in copying the British team.
"He hasn't told me anything and I'm not interested in knowing anything [about Team Sky.] The important thing is that we keep doing as well as we have so far," Contador said.
The Dutch De Telegraaf newspaper was the first to reveal that Contador was working with De Jongh.
De Jongh was a directeur sportif with Team Sky between 2010 and 2012 and directed the team's spring Classics campaign. He left as a consequence of Team Sky's zero tolerance policy and admitted to taking EPO "on a few occasions" between 1998 and 2000. He turned professional in 1995 for TVM and was part of their Tour de France squad in 1998. He rode for Rabobank and QuickStep before retiring at the end of the 2009.
The Tinkoff-Saxo team does not have a zero-tolerance policy and De Jongh joined the team in January 2013.