Alberto Contador, who is recovering satisfactorily from an operation to repair a deviated septum last Monday, will join his Astana teammates this weekend for a team training camp set to run through December 8. Contador will not be cleared to ride again until next Thursday, so in the meantime, he will focus on working in the gym.
Contador said he's been just as busy this winter so far as he was last winter after winning the 2007 Tour de France. "I have had many commitments [after winning the 2008 Giro d'Italia and 2008 Vuelta a España], and I have not been able to disconnect as much as I had wanted, but I already have my focus in my mind [for next season], and I want to begin."
He is eager to spend time with his old teammates meet his new ones as his colleagues and team management gather together to plan the 2009 season.
"It will be good to increase the connection among us," said Contador of his expectations for the camp, "because now we don't have any pressure. We will make a strong team together and we will work so that the [next] year goes well.
"The team of this year has been very good, and big reinforcements have come [for next year]. Haimar Zubeldia's quality is already known. He can play a fundamental part in the three-week races. Another great success of last hour has been the arrival of [Yaroslav] Popovych. He worked very hard in the Tour in 2007, and I have been very happy to know that he's returning with us.
"And also arriving are riders like Jesús Hernández, with whom I train regularly. This year, he will help the quality of the team jump up."
When asked about his most famous new teammate, Lance Armstrong, Contador said the team would benefit from Armstrong's experience. "He has been able to win seven Tours and knows what it takes physical and mentally. His contribution will be very positive for the team. His level is still unknown, but I am convinced that his presence will strengthen Astana even more."
Contador has his sights firmly set on his number one goal. "Without a doubt, the Tour de France. It is the biggest race in the world, the one that changed me the life and, since I could not be there this year, my biggest dream is to race it again.
"I already know that it is difficult to win, there are many great riders disputing it and that many things can happen in 21 days of competition, but I will fight to the maximum to achieve a win. Focusing on the Tour will allow me a more relaxed beginning to the season – also appropriate because the operation."
In addition to trying to win the Tour de France, Contador will work on improving his time trialing position to optimize his performance. He noted that although there is less time trialing in the 2009 Tour de France, he still wants to get better against the clock.
Motivation has proved no problem for the Spanish racer. "I am a rider to which doesn't find it difficult to train when I have an objective. I don't like training for training's sake. I like to give everything to obtain the maximum result in competition and then, I also like to rest, as much physically as psychologically because competition takes more out of me mentally."