Alberto Contador’s dream of completing the winning Giro-Tour double failed to come to fruition as he currently sits in fifth place overall at the Tour de France ahead of the celebratory finale in Paris on Sunday. After the Spaniard hauled himself to the top of stage 20’s summit on Alpe d’Huez, however, he said that he was “glad he tried.”
Contador, a seven-time Grand Tour winner; three titles at the Vuelta a España, and two titles each at the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, had planned to take on the task of winning the Giro and Tour at the start of this year.
He completed the first of two goals, winning the Giro d’Italia title in May and came into the Tour de France as one of the so-called 'Fab Four’, along with Chris Froome (Team Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Cycling fans saw glimpses of Contador’s climbing prowess with attacks made on Plateau de Beille, Col de la Colle Saint-Michel and the Col du Glandon, but even he admitted they were made out of more heart than legs. For the most part, he struggled through the Pyrenees and the Alps at the hands of Froome and Team Sky, Quintana and even to Alejandro Valverde and Nibali at times.
As the Tour de France wrapped up in the Alps on the penultimate stage to Alpe d’Huez, Contador sits in fifth place overall, 9:48 down. Chris Froome (Team Sky) will inevitably wear the yellow jersey into Paris and stand on the podium as the Tour de France champion for a second time, while Quintana sits in second place 1:12 back, Vavlerde in third place 5:25 down and Nibali in fourth at 8:36 down.
“It’s true that there are riders that would dream of finishing fifth,” Contador said in a team press release. “For me that was not my objective but I’m glad that I tried. If I hadn’t tried then after my career I might have wondered whether I could have done the Giro-Tour double and now I know.
“I don’t think it’s impossible to do the double but it’s really complicated because nobody has the experience on how to prepare it. However, I prefer having tried than being left with a desire to do it.”
Contador said that his crash on stage 17 on the Col d'Allos descent didn’t help in his aspirations of gaining time back on Froome, but that regardless he felt satisfied with his overall performance during the three weeks of racing, considering that he had targeted two successive Grand Tours. He also admitted that his winning performance at the Giro left him exhausted.
“It was very hard, I particularly felt fatigued and it’s also true that the crash three days ago took its toll. I can say I’m satisfied because I did an acceptable Tour. I think that Quintana did a good race today but couldn’t take more time on Froome because his team rode in an intelligent way. Next year we will completely change the plan and we will fully focus on the Tour with different ambitions and one goal. Now the focus for me is on 2016.
“The truth is that this year, although the start of my season was quite calm, the main problem was the requirements of the Giro. I think that this Giro was very hard from the beginning due to Astana’s performance and left me exhausted everyday with long time trials and the final week, which was marked by extraordinary efforts. As a result, although my mind wanted to proceed, my body needed more rest.”
Contador has decided to put the Giro-Tour double attempt behind him and restructure his plan for the 2016 season to include targets at the Tour de France and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“For next year I plan my season similar to that of 2014 - to enjoy the start of the season in top shape and to do the Tour and then the Olympics,” he said. “I think that next year’s Olympics is hard and as such can adapt to my style, which doesn’t happen often.”