Speaking before the six-day race began on Monday in Pamplona, Contador pointed out that, “it’s a very different kind of route this year, and I won my four titles on a much hillier, punchier course.”
Contador is still on the hunt for a win this year after taking second places overall in the Ruta del Sol, Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya.
“I’m in good shape, but there are a lot of really strong rivals here,” the Trek Segafredo rider pointed out. “Until we get into the hiller part of the course in the second half of the week, there’s no way of seeing who is really in good condition.”
Amongst those gunning for the win will be Alejandro Valverde (Movistart), who beat Contador both in the Ruta del Sol and again in Catalunya. Valverde has never won the Vuelta al País Vasco, although he took his first-ever professional win here back in 2003, a stage into Vitoria.
This year's route is unusual in that it does not have the usual series of hilly stages from the first day. Instead the route has two stages that should end in bunch sprints, although a narrow ‘pinch point’ through a village and short, poor surfaced climb at four kilometers could cause the bunch some problems. Fortunately the weather is warm and dry, reducing the risk of crashes.
At 27 kilometers the final time trial in Eibar looks set to decide the race, come what may. “Again, it’s very different to what we’ve had before in this race,” commented Contador, who won the Vuelta al País Vasco last year in the final chrono. “But we just have to adapt to what the route is like and see how we can handle it.”