For the second year running, Alberto Contador has started his season with second place overall at Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya. The 34-year-old finished 15th on the seventh and final stage of the Spanish race as he continues his preparation for the Tour de France with his current focus on form over wins.
Contador's result, his third runner-up result in four years at the Volta, is the second time in 2017 he has finished second to Alejandro Valverde following Ruta de Sol in February. However the 1:01 minute margin was more substantial than the one second loss to Valverde in in Andalucía.
"Today has not been a walk at all, perhaps if it was seen on television," said Contador of the stage, won by Valverde. "It was a very, very demanding stage in which we wanted to try our options with Jarlinson Pantano, who has always been working for me. We have been very close to the victory with him."
Contador and his Trek-Segafredo teammates were on the back foot in the bid for the overall after the stage 2 team time trial. While Contador had Pantano for support in the mountains, the Spaniard explained that Movistar's team was simply too good across the week of racing as reflected in the results.
"It has not been possible to win because Movistar has been very strong in all areas and we have to congratulate them. But I am very happy with my performance at this beginning of the season even though we have made many second places. I prefer to have these second places than to get victories and maybe not have the same level. The victories will come sooner or later; we are well placed in the WorldTour ranking, which is also important for the team."
Contador's next goal is the defence of his Pais Vasco title in early-April where he is looking to continue working with his new teammates. Should Contador win the race, he will move above José Antonio González with a new record of five overall victories.
"We are riding very well despite the fact that it is difficult for the team to run with me because we always take responsibility and that makes my teammates have great wear," he added. "In fact, in the Basque Country the team will be completely different from the one I've had here and Paris-Nice because my teammates are quite fatigued. But I'm really happy about how they are behaving with me and with the support they give to me!"
Contador's overall victory last year saw him re-think his retirement which he ultimately reversed and signed with Trek-Segafredo.
Pantano is also new to Trek-Segafredo in 2017 and described that in his first two races with the multiple Grand Tour winner he is consistency surprised by his qualities and willingness to shift roles from leader to domestique
"The end of the race was very fast and was quite hard. Thanks to Alberto, who helped me pull in the end, that we were close to the victory," Pantano said of his second place finish.
"I feel super; the sensations are quite good. I never thought that Alberto was the person he is, but it is very good to have him as a teammate, he is a great professional and a great person. He fills you with confidence, and I am very happy to work for him. I am happy to be here and to put a grain of sand for Alberto."