Reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) has named his rival from last year's event, Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), as favourite for this year's event. The Spanish youngster, who recently won the Giro d'Italia, will not defend his title this year but said missing one year of the French Grand Tour wasn't a "catastrophe."
"My favourite for the Tour is Cadel Evans, he's a solid rider who can really make time differences count in the time trials," Contador told AFP. "It should be quite an open Tour, with Evans, [Alejandro] Valverde and [Denis] Menchov the main favourites.
"The Tour is the best race in the world, but if I don't race it one year it's not a catastrophe," he added. "There are other races I can do."
Contador's team wasn't invited to the French event after the drama which surrounded the Astana name at last year's event. While the current Astana team has a completely new management team, that of the former Discovery Channel outfit, event organiser ASO has sidelined the squad for the 2008 race.
Under its former management, Astana rider Alexander Vinokourov tested positive during the Tour which led to the outfit being thrown out of the event.
"I did think at one time about changing teams [to race the Tour], but I couldn't do that – especially as Astana built the team around me," he said. "In the end I think I've made the right decision."
Instead the Spanish rider will focus on further cementing his name in cycling's history books. Contador will target the Olympic Games road race in Beijing, China, this year which features a course suited to the climber, as well as a Grand Tour triple with the Vuelta a España.