Alberto Contador has a difficult relationship with the Tour de France. Officially, he’s won it twice, but he’s also been stripped of a title and twice denied starts at the eleventh hour. So between one thing and another, for 10 years, the Tour has been a constant source of tension for the Tinkoff rider. No wonder he felt "liberated" when he has won it, he tells Procycling.
But staying away is not an option: the best stage racer by reputation is drawn to the biggest race on the calendar like a moth to a light, and in 2016 it is the sole focus of his year. "The day I stop thinking I can win the Tour is the day I retire," he says defiantly in a wide-ranging interview.
At 25, Fabio Aru is at the other end of what could be a hugely promising Grand Tour career. He won the Vuelta last year and finished second at the Giro. The year before, he was third at the Giro and fifth at the Vuelta. Procycling meets the quiet, very focused Sardinian as he also sights on the Tour, which will be his debut. "I don’t have the experience so I need to be really concentrated, stress-free and just prepare the best I can," he tells us.
His DS, Giuseppe Martinelli, is less laid-back and insists that they go there to be "competitive and try to do something good." One thing is sure: however Astana approach the race, Aru will figure greatly.
Elsewhere, Procycling looks back at Lizzie Armitstead’s magnificent spring. The numbers speak for themselves: she’s raced eight times this year and taken four victories, including Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, Trofeo Alfreda Binda and the Tour of Flanders – all while wearing the rainbow bands. But as Armitstead explains, "I race well under pressure." After the Classics, the Boels Dolmans rider says she is focusing on the Rio Olympics. By the time August rolls around, she hopes she will be able to hang onto the climbers over the final climb. Procycling finds out how she is transforming from Classics star into climbing specialist.
Robert Gesink is also in a transformational year. For a decade he’s been a GC rider, forced to ride conservatively, to be a better time triallist than the climbers and a better climber than the time triallists. However, after finishing fifth in last year’s Tour, the LottoNL-Jumbo rider is changing tack and will be racing for stages and one-day victories. "When I look back at the races I have won, it’s always because of something I just did, without overthinking it," he says, explaining just how far the transformation will go.
Procycling also reports back from the hipster’s Paris-Roubaix, the Tro Bro Léon, and hangs out with the crowds on the Mur de Huy at Flèche Wallonne. Triple Dauphiné Libéré winner Charly Mottet’s career is the subject of Retro and all the latest race action is wrapped up in Debrief. The Look 795 Light race bike is put through its paces and regular diarists Hannah Barnes, Matteo Tosatto, Joe Dombrowski, Matt White and Dan Martin reflect on the previous month’s action.
And like every edition, Procycling’s June 2016 issue is superbly designed and showcases the work of one of the sport’s best photographers, Tim de Waele.
Pick up your copy in all good newsagents and supermarkets from today. Alternatively, order a Procycling subscription.