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Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) leading the Basque Tour
Spaniard says the Pyrenees will decide the race
The trip to France has left him in no doubt as to where the Tour de France will be decided. "The Pyrenees will make the Tour this year," said Contador.
Contador is looking to take his third Tour de France victory. His last win came in 2009, where he beat Andy Schleck by over four minutes. He won the following year, but it was later stripped from his palmarès after he tested positive for clenbuterol.
The Spaniard finished fourth in last year's race, but looked distinctly below par as the other contenders battled it out on the slopes. That didn't stop him from having a go and he's already seen a few places to attack in the final week.
"(The Hautacam stage) will be a very easy day to control," explained Contador. "There are two small climbs before the Tourmalet, but the highlight will be the descent after that and then there isn't much distance before the Hautacam, so you can make a move after the Tourmalet."
As ever, the last few days are packed with mountains aimed to split the leaders up and Contador has earmarked one particular day that he believes will have a huge impact on the race. "The stage Saint-Lary ]stage 17] will be really tough," he said.
"At 125km, it's not long, but it has a lot of metres of climbing, with the Portillon, Peyresourde and Val Louron before the final climb. It will be a fast day and difficult to control for the leader. There will be opportunities to make tactical moves."
Contador also went to inspect the time trial route in Bergerac, which may decide the overall victory on the penultimate day. It is where his compatriot Miguel Indurain rode to a commanding victory en route to his fourth Tour title. The stage will honour Big Mig's victory over the 64-kilometre course. This year's version is 10 kilometres shorter, but it is still nothing to be sniffed at.
"It is really demanding because of it's length. It will be one of the hardest days of the entire race, depending on how the classification is at the time," said Contador. "But lately it has been the summit finishes that have tipped the balance. I would have preferred to have two climbs like last year, but you have to adapt to the course and I hope that it will be a good day for me."