Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) has had four stages to observe and analyse some of his leading Tour de France rivals at the Criterium du Dauphine but he believes that a more precise indication of his and their form will come when the race hits the mountains.
Contador currently leads the race by six seconds over Richie Porte, with Chris Froome a further seven seconds back. Contador has been keen to relinquish the leader’s jersey since winning the opening stage time trial in a bid to conserve his energy and that of his teams. However, in the last few days the sprinters’ teams have ensured that any time gaps are minimal.
Speaking exclusively to Cyclingnews at the start of stage 3, Contador said that his rivals are, “very skinny, especially Richie and Froome. I’m sure that they’re working very hard in the last two months and will be ready for the Tour de France.”
He also hinted at possible vulnerabilities within Team Sky. The British team have attacked on both of the last two stages but saw Wout Poels and Michal Kwiatkowski dropped on stage 2. The Pole was distanced again on stage 3 and confirmed to Cyclingnews that he has been ill.
“For me it was a big surprise that they lost many riders yesterday [on stage 2]. I think in the group they only had two riders, and when you think that they have potential to have maybe five riders in that group… The tactic on stage 2 was to put more pressure on me and rivals but they lost Poels and Kwiatkowski. Maybe in the end it wasn’t the best result for them.”
Contador did remain cautious though, adding that the mountains would give a clearer indication of who was the strongest both at the Dauphine and going into the Tour.
“When we arrive in the mountains, that’s when we can speak more about this. It’s too early for that now.”
Where will Contador ride in 2017?
Contador has more on his plate than just the Dauphine as he confirmed his desire to find a new team before the Tour de France starts. Sources have told Cyclingnews that the multiple Grand Tour winner has around four options for next year.
“All I can say is that I’m going to join a team that can give me guarantees to fight for victory in the Tour de France. That’s the most important,” he told Cyclingnews.
“We are speaking with different teams and different projects. Some teams have better conditions for some things, some teams have better conditions for other things but we’re open and we can’t say much more.”
Trek-Segafredo and Lampre-Merida are the two most talked about options. The Bahrain project is possible but certainly not a front runner at this stage.
“At this moment I’m 100 per cent concentrated on the Dauphine and then trying to win the Tour. And also I want a team that I join to have the same ambition as me to win the Tour de France in 2017.
“I think I’ll sign before the Tour. For me it’s not a problem to sign after but I think it will be before. Not this week though, no, no, no. We need a bit more time and it’s a very important decision.”
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