Contador's Mur mission a tough one

Spanish ace admits iconic Flèche climb harder than expected

He may be tipped as a favourite for today's Flèche Wallonne but Alberto Contador is under no illusions as to the task that awaits him in conquering the infamous Mur de Huy.

"I remember the Mur de Huy," said Contador, "but I found it even harder than I remembered; it has a final 700 metres that are incredible," he admitted.

Speaking after a training ride with his Astana teammates on the route, Contador said, "Today we saw the last 60km of the race and everything went pretty well. There are climbs that I knew from 2007, but there have been some changes in the final.

"We had a good day - we saw everything and now I just need the legs to work," he added.

Like countryman Alejandro Valverde, Contador drove the 2,000km journey from Spain to Belgium for the event, something he admitted may have hampered his preparation for today's race.

"It's difficult to draw any conclusions after a voyage of almost 2,000 kilometres. My sensations today were not the best, but I hope that will change tomorrow," he said after yesterday's training ride.

He believes that "those who fought for the Amstel Gold Race, people like Philippe Gilbert, [Damiano] Cunego, [Seguei] Ivanov and others like Alejandro Valverde," will be the favourites and the 'reference points' for where he needs to be throughout the race.

While Contador will be a marked man this afternoon in the Ardennes, Sunday's Liège - Bastogne - Liège is a different proposition, and the only Spaniard to have won all three grand tours knows that he could struggle with the additional demands of the 'old lady' of the Classics.

"Liège is a race far more demanding than this; people come to the finish more just because there are 60km more and the accumulated slope is also significantly higher [than Flèche Wallonne].

"I hope to do well and continue learning these races, but there are more experienced and more motivated riders than me, because I come here a little relaxed," he said.

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