After recovering from the virus that put paid to his start in the Criterium International, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) will take part in the Vuelta al País Vasco, which starts on Monday in the heart of the Basque Country.
The Vuelta al País Vasco is a race Contador knows well despite a four-year absence. He took one of his earliest professional wins there: a time trial stage back in 2005 and finished third overall. Since then he has won the race twice, in 2008 and 2009, picking up two stage wins on each occasion.
Rain is forecast for much of the six-day race, but as Contador told Radio Euskadi in an interview, this is a factor that he is ready for. Whilst he would have preferred to take part in the Criterium International, he still feels he is good shape for the six-day race.
Other rivals at the Vuelta al País Vasco include Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez, who won last year, as well as Paris-Nice winner Richie Porte (Team Sky) and two former Pais Vasco winners: Andreas Kloden (RadioShack-Leopard) and Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar).
“The race is much more than Samuel and me,” Contador said on Radio Euskadi. “There’s a very high level of participation and Richie is clearly in great form and will be looking for more success here.”
“There are plenty of other top riders and País Vasco is one of the hardest races to keep things under control: it’s not unheard of for a rider who was a team’s ‘B’ option to get in a break and walk off with the overall win.”
A testing route
With only one relatively flat day, stage two to Vitoria, Contador said: “All the other stages are really difficult. The two in Beasain (stages five, with ten classified climbs, and the stage six time trial) will be the most decisive, even more than the two mountain top finish stages (stages three and four).
Well-placed sources have told Cyclingnews that Contador has also added another race day in the Basque Country to his schedule, the Clasica Primavera. The one-day race takes place in Amorebieta on the Sunday immediately following the Vuelta al País Vasco.
As for the spring Classics, which he last raced in 2011, Amstel is now definitely off the program. But a start at Fleche Wallone, in which he has finished eleventh and third in 2011 and 2010, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, in which he took tenth three years ago, both still remain possible.