Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) has denied reports of a frosty relationship between himself and the other two top Spanish stars in the Vuelta a España, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) – and pointed out that this was one of the reasons why he has ruled himself out of the World Championships this year.
Talking in the press conference after stage 17 to A Coruña, Contador said: "I spoke with Javier Minguez [Spanish national trainer] and I told him that the Worlds did not suit me as a rider. There are other riders who will be better suited to doing teamwork in that sort of course than me. In the Worlds it's not names that matter, but the work they do.
"Alejandro is the leader, he's a great rider, and we have to support him to the full. He needs riders he feels fully confident about, riders from his trade team. I know that in Spain that it's not been easy for fans to understand what this is about, and why I'm not racing, but that's the reason."
Contador's decision not to race the Worlds - although he does not rule out racing after the Vuelta - had caused some criticism in the local media. However, he went out of his way to deny reports that he did not get on well with either Valverde or Rodriguez.
"I read that this morning and it [the reports] make me laugh, it's like some kind of joke. It couldn't be further from the truth, we get on very well. And that's exactly why I'm ruling out the Worlds because we have to be realistic: I'm a Grand Tour racer.
"Regardless of the decision, there's always interpretations, a lot of talk, but it comes from Italy and maybe they want to de-stabilize the Spanish team."
As for stage 17, he described it as a "transition stage, and you had to be very careful, particularly with the pavé at the end. Tomorrow [stage 18, with a second category uphill finish] is a stage which suits Joaquim and Alejandro, and I'll have to stay close to them."