Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) returned to competition at the Eneco Tour after serving a doping ban.
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Spaniard has one eye on Valkenburg Worlds
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) may be riding the Eneco Tour as preparation for the Vuelta a España, but the Spaniard was able to avail of the opportunity to reconnoitre part of the Valkenburg world championships route on stage 3 on Wednesday.
The Eneco Tour is Contador’s first race back in the professional peloton following the end of his suspension for a positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.
Contador finished safely in the peloton on the road to Genk on stage 3, which saw the peloton take on the Bemelerberg and Cauberg, the two climbs that feature on the finishing circuit of the world championships road race on September 23.
The finish line of the Worlds comes just 1.7km from the summit of the Cauberg (1.5km with an average gradient of 12%). While the Amstel Gold Race finishes atop the Cauberg every year, Contador has ridden the Dutch event just once in his career, in 2003.
“That’s a long time ago and I didn’t finish the race,” Contador told L’Équipe. Though pleased to test the Bemelerberg (900m at 7%) and the Cauberg midway through Wednesday’s stage, Contador noted that it was difficult to form a true impression of the Worlds course.
“They are two nice climbs. They’re not very big but there are some gradients that suit me. The problem is that you can’t really get a feel for the difficulty of the course when you only go over the climbs once. At the Worlds, it will be different because you have to go up them repeatedly.”
With the Vuelta a España getting underway on August 18, Contador will not have a chance to reconnoitre the Worlds circuit in full until he returns to Limburg in the week between the two races.
Contador will face stiff internal competition for the leadership of the Spanish team at the world championships, not least from Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), who is also expected to be one of his main rivals for victory at the Vuelta.