Contador back in the fray in Catalunya after Paris-Nice defeat

Last victorious in the Giro d'Italia last year, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) is now racing in the Volta a Catalunya despite suffering the aftereffects of a cold that he picked up in Paris-Nice.

Second in the Volta ao Algarve and second again in Paris-Nice following a major duel against Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) on the last weekend, Contador is poised to do battle in the Volta a Catalunya, where he finished fourth last year.

"I had a cold and I'm still noticing the effects a little, but other than that, I'm in good shape," Contador told Cyclingnews before the stage 1 start.

"I haven't forced myself in training in this last week as a result, but my base form is very good and I got even better during Paris-Nice. These first two stages will sort things out a bit more, and then we'll be into the mountains." Contador said he does not know the Port Ainé climb on stage 4, which will likely prove decisive, "although I know they've been up it before in Catalunya", to be exact, back when Dan Martin took a spectacular lone triumph in 2013.

As for the exceptionally strong line-up in the 2016 Volta a Catalunya, Contador pointed out that "The level of participation in this race is only equal to the Tour de France. Almost every team has a contender. There are so many rivals, you can't name them all."

Given Contador's strong climbing form in Paris-Nice, where one key mountain stage had to be cancelled because of snow, "we're hoping that they don't have to cancel this stage because of the weather," Tinkoff sports director Sean Yates told Cyclingnews. (At the moment, in any case, the forecast for the Pyrenees mid-week is dry and relatively warm, around 10 degrees in the late afternoon for both stages 3 and 4.)

Judging by the large knots of spectators standing outside his nearby hotel and again at the team bus at stage 1, regardless of what he manages to achieve in the Pyrenees, Contador's popularity in Catalunya is hardly on the wane. "Alberto, Alberto, at least point your head in our direction for a photo, please," one fans yells as Contador lines his bike up at the start in Calella - which he duly does. Then after a minute's silence for the victims of the bus crash on a motorway in Spain on Sunday, the starting whistle blows and Contador, like the rest of the field, moves off.

Contador finished 44th in the opening stage, in the main field and with the same time as stage winner and overall race leader Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).

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