Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) is known for daring moves that can blow up races in an instant. He famously won his 2012 Vuelta a Espana with a do-or-die attack to Fuente Dé, and a similar break at last year's Vuelta almost secured him a podium place, and probably gave Nairo Quintana (Movistar) overall victory.
Team Sky directeur sportif Nicolas Portal called Contador 'unpredictable', but the Spaniard hopes he can take the yellow jersey in an altogether more predictable manner at the Tour de France this July.
"At the moment, I hope that this Tour will depend on my physical state," Contador told a room full of media at the Trek-Segafredo hotel in the centre of Dusseldorf. "Evidently, if we have any mishaps then with this route we can make some different tactics but, at this moment, I hope that it won't depend on a feat but on my physical form.
"I think that it is a Tour where a lot of things can happen. It is perhaps an atypical route in terms of the mountains. The Pyrenees are practically with the Alps, but there are three other mountain stages before. On stage 9 we will pass the first serious mountains where there will be differences. Perhaps it is a more open Tour and one that will be harder to control by one team."
What exactly Contador's form is, remains to be seen. Contador has come close to victory four times this season at the Ruta del Sol, Paris-Nice, País Vasco and the Volta a Catalunya. Between those four races, his collective losing margin is barely over a minute, but victory has thus far eluded him. His most recent outing came at the Criterium du Dauphine, where he chose to sit up and not push into the red rather than duke it out for the top spots in the general classification.
Contador says that the more gradual build-up means he is more keen to get going than in the past, and he is confident that he has made the right choice.
"I think that when a rider starts a race they cannot be sure that they are 100 per cent ready. Today, I think that I have to accept that I have done the right thing and it will be confirmed on the road," said Contador.
"I think that this way I have been able to arrive more eager at the start of this Tour. In cycling, it is really demanding to arrive in optimal condition to fight for the victories. At moments, it was difficult not to contest all the races, but I was thinking of this objective we had to make this strategy. We got these results, and at this moment I am in better condition with respect to last year."
Contador went as far to say that he believes he is as strong as he was in 2014, when he claimed to be stronger than ever – before crashing and breaking his leg at the end of the first week.
"We have to get to the start of the race, but I think that I am in similar shape," he explained. When asked to elaborate, he said: "In the number of watts I can do, my times, and weight, basically in all respects."
Time will be important for everybody at the start of the race with a 14-kilometre time trial through Dusseldorf the first test of the Tour. Contador will be able to take a look at the route on Saturday morning ahead of the stage, but he already knows that there are some tough sections that could be problematic if the weather decides to turn.
"I have not seen the route, but I am quite eager to see it because it's very important," he said. "I know that six or seven kilometres that will be a bit technical and then there will be some wide roads too. A lot will depend on the weather. Tomorrow, we will see which bits are more or less technical. If it's bad weather, I will have to go quicker in the less technical parts of the circuit and don't take too many risks in the corners. In any case, I need to do a good time trial."
Contador's general approach may have been more 'tranquilo' than year's gone by but the build-up to the Tour de France hasn't been without its problems. The Spaniard's teammate Andre Cardoso was removed from the team earlier this week after he tested positive for EPO and will be replaced by Haimar Zubeldia. Cardoso was brought into the team from Cannondale-Drapac to bolster their mountain line-up.
"For me, it was a surprise. It was surprising, something that I never expected to happen on this team," said Contador. "I don't think that I can say much more. It is clear that the team has a zero tolerance. He has been suspended. The team is not able to control everything that happens."
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