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Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) had a detante with Nibali on stage 9
Tinkoff-Saxo leader out to pull back time on Nibali
Alberto Contador has hinted he is ready to go on the attack during Monday's mountain stage in the Vosges to La Planche des Belle Filles as he attempts to pull back time on Tour de France rival Vincenzo Nibali as soon as possible.
Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov suggested that Contador would wait until the Alps or the Pyrenees before challenging Nibali, but after finishing stage nine to Mulhouse safely in the peloton surrounded by several of his teammates, Contador said he would attack if he felt good.
Team manager Bjarne Riis also sent out the same warning message, suggesting that Contador will attack on the final climb to the finish at La Planche des Belles Filles, without revealing exactly how, where or when.
"I think this is a race that you have take an opportunity when it’s there. We're still two and half minutes behind, so we have to move," Riis said, after another day calling the tactics from the passenger seat of the Tinkoff-Saxo team car.
"I don’t think there will be gaps of minutes but definitely seconds. If Alberto has the legs, then Alberto will try."
Contador confirmed the message of warning to Nibali and every other overall contender at this year's Tour de France. We can expect the Spaniard to be aggressive and dance on the pedals in his unique style.
"It'll all depend on how much energy I have, how I recover and how my legs are but I'll be looking to attack if I can," Contador said.
"It's a hard stage, with lots of climbs. The final one to the finish is a hard climb but I will try to attack there. I think that's pretty obvious.
"We'll also see a little bit more about how strong each of us are. Nibali is a very aggressive rider but is also very careful, as are Valverde or Porte.”
Contador was pleased to spend a relatively quiet day hidden and protected in the peloton but he pointed out that it was not an easy day for anyone.
"That wasn't an easy stage because we did 3,000 metres of climbing at an average speed of more than 40kph. It rained too and we used up quite a lot of energy."
Riis: I think the favourites will wait until the final climb
Riis separated his comments with long pauses, sighs, agreements, denials and even an occasional laugh. The Danish team manager has years of experience of big days at the Tour de France but was feeling the tension as a big day of this year's race loomed.
“Nibali lost the jersey and doesn’t need to go on the podium but I don’t understand why he lost it," he said.
"It was tough race but tomorrow is going to be even harder. It's a difficult stage. They'll probably be plenty more hard racing. The climbs are harder tomorrow, no doubt.”
Despite a series of probing questions, Riis refused to reveal little detail of his race strategy.
"There are some things we might do but it depends on how we plan it. But I think the favourites will wait until the final climb," he said.
Riis is confident that Contador and the Tinkoff-Saxo team are ready to continue the battle he began on the finish to La Mauselaine above Gerardmer on Saturday.
“He was good, he was okay. He's happy. I think it was important that he took three seconds on Saturday. Psychologically it was a good thing," Riis said.
"I think we've got a strong team. I don’t know if it's the strongest. That doesn’t matter, as long as we have the strongest guy. I hope so."