Although he sits 52 seconds off Chris Froome's yellow jersey, Alberto Contador has not given up on winning this year's Tour de France. The Spaniard lost ground on the first stage in Dusseldorf and was distanced – although only by 10 seconds - on the opening mountain test to La Planche des Belles Filles.
Contador heads into stage 7 of the Tour de France in eighth place overall but with two brutal stages to Sation des Rousses and Chambery on the menu this weekend, the two-time winner is holding onto the idea that he can claw back time on the seven riders ahead of him.
"I hope, in my head, and I'm always thinking that I can make up time," he told Cyclingnews at the end of stage 6.
"For sure Froome is very strong and he has a very strong team. There's also a lot of riders in front of me but there's a lot of things that can happen in this Tour still."
Saturday's stage to Sation des Rousses consists of three categorised climb but it's Sunday's route from Nantua to Chambery that will really shake-up the overall standings. There are seven climbs in total, three of which are Hors Categorie, and the riders will have to come through the technical descent off Mont du Chat – used in the Criterium du Dauphine this year. To make matters more complicated, there is the chance of rain showers.
"At the weekend everything can happen. Next Sunday will be the hardest day of the Tour de France and there could be rain. It's going to be very hard day," Contador predicted.
Although the Trek-Segafredo leader has already lost ground to a number of rivals in this year's race he can also draw on a number of positives. At the same point last year he had crashed twice and was just a couple of days away from abandoning the race. In 2015 he was limping through the race due to the fatigue from racing and winning the Giro d'Italia, and in 2014 he had crashed out during the opening week.
Contador is only 38 seconds off the podium and seconds could easily be wiped away over the weekend, clinging to hope and optimism.
"If before the Tour you'd told me that I'd be in this condition I don't know how I'd answer," he told Cyclingnews.
"Maybe I'd take it if you put into balance what's happened to me in the last few years. On the other hand I'm 52 seconds down on Froome. I'm okay. At La Planche des Belles Filles I wasn't great and I lost some seconds but more than that I felt like I was on the limit. After I recovered I rode tempo and I caught the group back."
Of course, if Contador is to challenge for top honours in this year's Tour then he needs to be attacking, not chasing this weekend.
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