Astana's Alberto Contador will race with teammates Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer for the first time together in the Vuelta a Castilla y León (March 23-27). Contador says it will be beneficial to race with Armstrong before his season's primary goal, the Tour de France, in July.
But it wasn't really planned that way. "It was a coincidence. It will help us to see each other in the race now, but it can't be really called a rehearsal, as the racing is different here [than in the Tour]," said Contador. "We will try to win here, but there is not the same pressure."
Contador added that the race is a little different this year. "The time trial is much longer [28km] than in previous years, but the mountains aren't as hard." The Spanish star expects bigger groups to arrive in the hilly days, which is why he isn't too concerned about taking a third successive overall win. "If we win it is great, but we won't make it an obsession."
He did admit that circumstances which cost Astana a win in Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico are less likely to be repeated. "Here the race will be easier to control with a strong team like ours."
Contador's own preparation are going well, despite the loss in Paris-Nice. "You can't always win. But I am fresh physically and mentally. The results have given me confidence to continue my preparation towards the Tour de France."
The Astana team in Castilla y León: Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, Jesús Hernández, Levi Leipheimer, Benjamín Noval, José Luis Rubiera, Tomas Vaitkus and Haimar Zubeldia. Directeurs Sportifs Sean Yates and Viatcheslav Ekimov.