Contador aiming for repeat of 2008 triumph at the Giro d’Italia

Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) has insisted that his decision to ride the Giro d’Italia has not been influenced by the possibility that he might be forced to forgo the Tour de France.

The Spaniard returned a positive test for Clenbuterol at last year’s Tour, but was cleared to race by his national federation. The UCI and WADA have since then appealed the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with a verdict expected in June.

Speaking at Saxo Bank-SunGard’s pre-Giro press conference in Alpignano, however, Contador maintained that the corsa rosa was always in his thinking for 2011, as he seeks to repeat his victory of three seasons ago.

“I chose the Giro because I had such good memories of 2008 and because of that I wanted to come back,” Contador said. “I was also thinking of doing the Tour and possibly even the Vuelta too, but for now I’ve decided to come to the Giro without thinking of the Tour or any other problems.”

While Contador rode that victorious 2008 Giro in the knowledge that his Astana team would not be riding the Tour, this time around he claims that he has the Giro-Tour double in his sights. Nonetheless, his participation in July remains in shrouded in doubt, and he acknowledged that riding the Giro is not the ideal build-up to the Tour.

“It is something beautiful and different to try for both,” he said. “At each race I will try to fight for victory, but it will be tough. I know the Giro is not the best preparation for the Tour, especially this year with the difficult route, but you have to find new motivation.”

The week leading up to the Giro has seen the riders named in the Mantova anti-doping investigation pulled from the race by their respective teams, but Contador did not see any parallels between the Italian probe and his own case.

“I don’t know about the situation of those riders, but my situation is completely different,” he claimed. “I have been completely cleared and hopefully that will be confirmed in the future. You cannot make any comparison between the cases.”

Coping with the pressure

As well as dealing with the pressures and polemics of the drawn-out Clenbuterol affair off the bike, Contador could well find he is expected to carry the burden of responsibility on the road once the Giro gets underway.

With an eye-catching record of five overall victories in the six Grand Tours in which he has participated in his career, however, Contador is a dab hand at downplaying expectations. Instead, he turned the heat up on home challengers Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi, and Geox-TMC, who have not been invited to the Tour.

“”Everybody tries to put the pressure on me, but the pressure at the Tour is different to the pressure at the Giro,” he said. “At the Tour in 2009 or 2010, everybody expected me to win, but at the Giro it’s very different. I want to be here, I’m here to win, but I’m doing the race day by day.

“There are others who under more pressure than me. People like Nibali and Scarponi because they are riding at home, and Geox, for whom the race is crucial.”

While Contador is aware of the stiffness of the challenge posed by Nibali and Scarponi, he does not believe that the Italians will form an alliance to repel the foreign raider.

“Everyone will do his own race, and it’s only if I have a bad day that they can ride together against me,” he said. “But that could happen to somebody else too, and the rest of us would ride to eliminate that rival.”

El Clasico at the Giro

The latest four-part instalment of the Real Madrid-Barcelona melodrama has dominated the headlines in Spain in recent weeks, and it was inevitable that Contador would be asked to compare his tactics to those of the aristocrats and eternal rivals of Spanish football.

Barcelona have been widely lauded for their attractive passing game, while José Mourinho’s Real are viewed as playing a more negative brand of football, focused on stifling the opposition. Barcelona won out in the pair’s recent Champions League dual and Contador believes that victory and style are not mutually exclusive terms in cycling either, even if as a son of Madrid, his loyalties lie in the Spanish capital.

“With this route, the spectacle is guaranteed, so I think it’s possible to do both,” he smiled, before adding: “Besides, I think Real Madrid give a spectacle sometimes too, maybe they’re just not as regular as Barça.”

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