Alberto Contador (Astana) will race with his new teammate Lance Armstrong as well as Levi Leipheimer together for the first time in the Vuelta a Castilla y León (March 23-27). Contador sees it as a benefit to race with Armstrong before the real 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]," Contador said. "We will try to win here, but there is not the same pressure."
Contador said 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." Contador expects bigger groups to arrive in the hilly days, which is why he is not too concerned about winning it for a third time in a row. "If we win it is great, but we won't make it an obsession."
He did admit that circumstances that cost Astana a win in Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico are less likely to repeat. "Here the race will be easier to control with a strong team like ours."
His own preparation is 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.