As criticism rings out through the cycling world over news that Alberto Contador will ride the 2011 Tour de France in spite of his pending arbitration for a doping positive, the Spaniard is quietly preparing to defend his title.
Contador and his Saxo Bank-Sungard teammates arrived in Risoul, in the French Alps, to preview the critical stages, including stage 18 which finishes at the Serre Chevalier ski resort on top of the Col du Galibier. It will be the 100th anniversary of the mountain's first inclusion in the Tour de France.
The Spaniard is not being prevented from racing in the Tour de France, in spite of an unresolved battle between the rider, his Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) and the UCI and World Anti-doping Agency over his 2010 positive for Clenbuterol.
The RFEC did not take disciplinary action against Contador for the positive test, and the two agencies appealed the verdict to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Tour de France organiser ASO pushed to have the hearing and a decision prior to the start of this year's Tour, but the proceedings were postponed until August.
Fresh off his commanding victory in the Giro d'Italia, Contador stands not only to lose his 2010 Tour victory should the UCI or WADA appeals succeed, but also all of his results since last July.
On his first training ride with his team-mates after the Giro, Contador returned to Italy to reconnoitre the last part of stage 17 from the Monginevro to Pinerolo. That included a passage at Sestriere where he secured his maglia rosa on the penulatimate day of the Italian event, when the long winning breakaway of Movistar’s Vassil Kiryienka made his defence easier.
“The most difficult part of that stage is the downhill of San Martino”, Contador noted from the stage finale that is equivalent to the one won by Danilo Di Luca – before disqualification – at the 2009 Giro d’Italia.
Contador and his group made up of Porte, Vandborg, Chris Anker Sørensen, Jesus Hernandez and Daniel Navarro, under the direction of Bradley McGee, met the Sky team without Dauphiné champion Bradley Wiggins, while many other Tour de France riders were in the area.
Cyclingnews witnessed Ivan Basso riding towards l’Alpe d’Huez with his Polish team-mate Maciej Paterski. Cadel Evans rode from Serre-Chevalier in direction to the Galibier, which is on Contador’s schedule on Tuesday. Riding the colle dell’Agnello on the Italian side is not a sure thing on the riders’ agenda, as an avalanche closed the road on Monday. After seeing stage 18 to the Galibier and stage 19 to l’Alpe d’Huez, Contador will complete his camp in the Alps by the review of the Grenoble time trial on Thursday.
“Muscularly, I’ve not totally recovered from the Giro yet but I’m ready to attempt the double, I’ll go to the Tour de France to try and win”, Contador told Cyclingnews.