Saxo-Tinkoff have finally confirmed that Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) will take part in the Ardennes Classics, riding both Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Contador’s best result of his two Flèche rides to date was third in 2010, the same year that he took tenth in Liège-Bastogne- Liège, his one ride so far in La Doyenne.
With flights cancelled across Europe because of the ash cloud from an erupting volcano in Iceland, he reached the Ardennes Classics that year after a marathon 2,000 kilometre drive from Galicia in north-west Spain, where he had completed the Tour of Castille and León on the Sunday.
This year Contador's arrival in Belgium, programmed for late Monday evening at Brussels airport, should be slightly easier. On Sunday, Contador took in a full-length training ride which went well and then rode just a couple of hours on Monday. He may go and reconnoitre the Mur de Huy climb and approach roads on Tuesday.
So far this year Contador has taken one win, a stage in the Tour de San Luis in late January, and his latest race in the Klasika Primavera Classic in the Basque Country ended with an unsuccessful late attack and a second place finish behind Portugal’s Rui Costa (Movistar).
“I’ve been resting up for the last week, because I needed it, and I’ve only done two long training rides looking to reinforce my overall endurance, which is what you need in the Ardennes,” Contador said on Monday.
“The idea is to try and boost my team’s chances, even if I started to race in the second week of January and I’m beginning to feel tired.”
Contador said he had finally decided to take part in the Ardennes classics because “Saxo-Tinkoff wanted me to be there and of course they are races everybody likes to do, even if when you’re building up for the Tour de France it’s perhaps better not to [race them]. But it’s only another week of racing, so I’ll try to do as well as possible.”
With team-mate Roman Kreuziger in top condition following his victory at Amstel Gold on Sunday, Contador will not be Saxo-Tinkoff’s sole leader in the race. “Roman is going really well...I’ll [just] be one more rider in the team,” he recognised. Other favourites for Liège-Bastogne-Liège were, he said, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC), “and then a whole group of riders who can be up there depending on how the race goes because we’re not as fast as those three. We have to seize our chances as best we can.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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