Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) will make his return to the peloton today in the The Netherlands at the Eneco Tour. The seven-day stage race begins with a 203.9km route from Waalwijk to Middelburg. Contador has wasted little time getting back into competition as his ban only ended on August 6 - the day of the tour’s start.
Contador spoke with the media at a press conference prior to the start of the Eneco Tour, thanking his family and those close to him for their support during his suspension. He also graciously thanked the organisers and the people of The Netherlands for welcoming him back into his beloved sport.
"I do not know if relief is the right word, but I'm looking forward to competing because is what I like to do," he said.
"The whole last two years has been hard because they say everything about me without any limit. Luckily, I have my family and my friends. Thanks to them I did not need to seek help from any professional. They are the ones who have given me encouragement."
"[Today] is an important day and I'm happy to be back competing tomorrow, especially in a race as pretty as the Eneco Tour. Tomorrow I will be part of Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank officially so I'm happy, in addition to making my return in front of fans like these. There was no better place to start," he said.
While it has been just months since Contador raced at the Tour de San Luis in January, where he won two stages and finished second overall, he spoke of his difficulties of the past two years and believed his time away from the professional scene will make him stronger in the years to come.
"It is true that in some ways the illusion that I had eight years ago is gone. It has made me grow up and see cycling as a part of my life, but not my whole life. I have faced difficult situations which will help deal with stressful situations in the future.
"Those six months have been difficult and I’ll remember them forever. I did not want to stand, I changed my training places, there have been days of having more desire and others less, but I'm just as tired as other years at this time because I trained hard to get into good condition. I want to thank everyone who supported me on the road, in social networks and elsewhere because they have helped me to train every day," Contador said.
Contador has been officially announced in his Saxo Bank-Tinkoff's roster for the upcoming Vuelta a España where he is planning to win a second overall title. The third Grand Tour of the year begins on 18 August - one week following the completion at Eneco. It will be four years since Contador has raced in his home Grand Tour and his motivation to succeed will be undeniably high. He spoke of his return to Riss’ team and was thankful to other teams who also showed interest in signing the multiple Grand Tour winner.
"For me it was very easy to stay on this team. I am also very grateful to all teams who have called me. They respected my decision because what Saxo Bank and the other sponsors, with Riis at the front, have done for me is invaluable. I am indebted to them and never felt out of this team."
He touched briefly on his opinion on out-of-competition doping controls and was adamant that he believed in the system but would like to see changes being made which better reflect the modern times of the sport.
"I believe in controls and I continued to believe in them all along. I have passed several controls in recent months and I have never complained, but I certainly would like to see certain things changed and improved and for which solutions should be sought.
"What is clear is that this legislation is outdated and all relevant authorities know this, but do nothing to change it," he said.