By Antonio J. Salmerón
After a brilliant beginning to the 2007 season, Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador has taken some active rest by checking out the mountain stages of the coming Tour de France with his team. He has returned to competition in the Dauphiné Libéré where he hopes to put the final touches on his Tour preparations. He is aware that others are in better shape right now, but his main objective is a little later, in July. "Surely, I will prove myself in some stages, but this race is too demanding," the Spanish climber commented to Cyclingnews just days before the race's start.
"I haven't studied the Dauphiné route in detail, but I know that there is a short prologue, a long time trial of about 40 kilometres and tough stages to the Mont Ventoux and Dignes." He noted, "the main candidates for winning this race will come from the same group that is going to contend for the top places in the Tour, but, at the same time, they may hold back a little. Perhaps, the winner will be a very strong rider but not a leader for the Tour; someone for whom the Dauphiné is a great opportunity," the Paris-Nice winner analysed.
After having trained in the mountain areas that the Tour is visiting this year, "my first conclusion is that the Pyrenees will be much harder than the Alps. The second is that he stage to Tignes will be very hard with its long climbs and the 4,600 metres of elevation gain. This will be one of the key stages, as it's the second mountain stage and we will already have seen who is in form."
Contador thought that another tough stage is the one to Briançon, with the Galibier climb included, though not as difficult as the Tignes stage. Contador continues that "then, in the Pyrenees, there is a pair of mountain top finishes, especially the one up the Plateau de Beille. It will be tricky as it's right after the Albi time trial and that will affect the recovery process." Contador suggested that other difficult stages are the ones including the Peyresourde [stage 15 - ed.] and stage 16 that finishes on the Col d'Aubisque, after having traversed the Col de Marie-Blanque.
After the Dauphiné, Contador will know how much he needs to work on his time trialing. His program leading to the Tour may include the team trial in Eindhoven and the Spanish national time trial championships.