Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) has compared his fine run of early-season form to the opening months of his 2014 campaign, adding that he will hope for better luck at the Tour de France. Two years ago, an on-form Contador was forced to abandon the Tour after crashing heavily on stage 10.
Contador sealed overall victory at the Tour of the Basque Country on Saturday, having already placed second at both Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya. He will not race again until the Critérium du Dauphiné in early June.
“ was the only year in the last few seasons when I arrived at the Tour well prepared, but then I had the fall," Contador told Marca. “Yes, this could be a comparable year to 2014. So far everything has gone well, I'm doing things in the best way that I can. I’m hopeful I can get to the Tour as I was back then, but have more luck…”
Contador won the Tour in 2007 and 2009, but was later stripped of his 2010 overall victory after testing positive for Clenbuterol in that year's race. After missing the 2012 edition through suspension, Contador returned to place 4th in 2013 and then crashed out in 2014. Last year, Contador finished 5th overall having raced - and won - the Giro d'Italia beforehand.
This season, Contador narrowly missed out on Paris-Nice victory by just four seconds to Geraint Thomas (Sky) and he was only beaten by 7 seconds by Nairo Quintana (Movistar) at the Volta a Catalunya. The balance finally tipped in his favour in the Basque Country, where Contador won the final time trial to beat Sergio Henao (Sky) by 12 seconds overall.
“This year, it’s come down to seconds in the classifications, for things you can’t control,” Contador said. “My rivals have been changing in every race but my overall performance has been very good, I’m always up there fighting. Before the Basque Country, I was happy with my preparation and my feelings. I’d hit the post more than I would have liked, but physically I was going well and that's what excites you.”
Contador’s build-up to the Tour has closely mimicked his 2014 season, with the only alteration being the replacement of Tirreno-Adriatico with Paris-Nice. The Spaniard, who has confirmed that he will continue racing in 2017 after previously hinting at retirement, will spend a block of time training at altitude before returning to action in a little under two months’ time at the Dauphiné, which takes place from June 5-12.
“I’m taking a break now, so that my next peak shape is even higher. It won’t be too long in coming," Contador said, adding that the Rio 2016 Olympics road race is also a target after the Tour. "I’m very excited to represent my country."