After a spring of near misses across multiple stage race appearances, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) headed to Tenerife to fine-tune his form ahead of the season's main objective. With a sustained of training now complete, the Spaniard will look to put his preparation to the test this week at the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he'll square off against most of his likely rivals for the Tour de France, including defending champion Chris Froome (Sky).
Although he spent plenty of time on the Canarian island hard at work, Contador noted at a press conference Saturday that his training plan was carefully drawn up to avoid leaving him overcooked for the three-week challenge on the horizon.
"Basically it has been a fairly meticulous preparation. I took a few days off after the Basque Country, I took vacation time to disconnect and then, little by little, I increased my training volume. The main block I have done was in Tenerife, at Teide. I have been there for about three weeks and have returned a few days ago to continue here with the preparation," Contador said.
"Compared to previous years, I have been thinking even more about July and that explains why I have not yet done a lot of intensity work. I have not trained behind the motorbike yet, I have not done series of maximum effort yet."
Like many of the top names on the Dauphiné start list, Contador will be squarely focused on his Tour de France preparation this week in France – perhaps even more so than some of his rivals. Froome has won the Dauphiné ahead of all three of his Tour victories, but Contador was straightforward about the Dauphiné's place in his Tour build-up plan, and his lack of interest in hunting overall title there. He noted that his main objective was simply to leave 'in good shape.'
"The Critérium du Dauphiné is a very nice race and I've been very close to winning it in the past, but I've never come here thinking about winning. It is a race of great importance, but it is just before the Tour de France, so I have always used it as a preparation. I remember climbing the Mont Ventoux in the Dauphiné and practically pouring my heart out because of the effort I had to put to follow some riders, and a few weeks later, during the Tour it seemed like the Ventoux was almost an easy climb," Contador added.
"I don't think you have to win the Critérium du Dauphiné to win the Tour de France. I'm more in favor of doing a good race, maybe to go more slowly but working at the shape everyday, rather than to be at the start line thinking only and exclusively of getting the victory. Maybe there are people for whom psychologically, to have a greater confidence, it is good to win, but not for me. Obviously, everyone likes to win, but the Dauphiné is the Dauphiné and the Tour is the Tour. I have always liked to prepare for the Dauphiné and Tour in a totally different way."
Not even a frustrating collection of early-season second places seem to have shaken Contador from his approach.
The Spaniard managed to finish second in the Ruta del Sol, Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco over a two-month period earlier this year, missing out on the first two wins by two seconds or less. Press conference statements and strategies out on the road are, of course, two separate things – but at least on Saturday in the run-up to the Dauphiné, Contador was steadfast that his dearth of victories so far this year won't push him to ride any differently in the eight-day race.
"Coming here without any victory but with a lot of second places doesn't really change anything for me. Obviously, if this had happened to me in my early years as a professional, it would have changed something, but not now. And bearing in mind also that we now have power data to be able to analyze the performance you have had in each race, it is different," he said.
"This year it may seem a lie and complicated, but it was practically all second places in the classifications due to one factor or another, but I've ended up very happy about how I've found myself physically and how I've recovered from the efforts. Although I do not have victories like other years, I've come here with more confidence even."