Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) says he expects that Chris Froome, the 2012 Tour de France runner-up, could well be his most difficult challenger in next year’s Tour de France – but that he does not underestimate how hard it will be to beat the reigning champion Bradley Wiggins, either, saying the Londoner’s performance this July was “outstanding.”
The race route of the Tour de France will be unveiled on Tuesday in Paris, with the course widely expected to have fewer kilometers of time trialling and more mountainous stages. Contador has raced against Wiggins as an overall contender in one Grand Tour, in the 2009 Tour de France, where the Londoner equalled Britain’s then best-ever finish of fourth, while Contador won. Contador went head-to-head with Froome in this year’s Vuelta, which the Spaniard also won, with Froome in fourth. But when it comes to rivals for next year’s race, Contador knows which one he’s more worried about for now.
“Froome,” Contador told Cyclingnews. “His potential for attacking in the mountains is far, far higher [than in the 2012 Tour]. Even though it’s your form that really ends up making a difference on a climb, the attacks themselves can be important and that’s why I see him as being the most dangerous for next year.
“He’s very tough. I admire him greatly, what he did in the Vuelta was impressive, I take off my hat to him. He’d ridden the Dauphine, the Tour and the Olympics all out and he did a really good season all round.”
Contador said he had been very impressed, too, by the way in which Bradley Wiggins had won the Tour: “I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised, Wiggins was brilliant in the time trials and then kept the race under control in the mountains. On top of that he had a very strong team.”
“He couldn’t have had a better opportunity to win the Tour. If Froome had been in another team, the race would have been a lot more open, no question, [but] Sky’s teamwork was brilliant and that meant Bradley was in a good position to fight for the victory.”
Contador said he was not surprised that Wiggins had won, “because he’s always been very strong in the time trials, and that was what decided the race. Froome was second best in the time trials and he was second overall.”
Contador said that in a wider context he was pleased about Wiggins’ victory because it meant that cycling had “gained popularity in Great Britain and I think that is good for everybody. In that sense, we all have to thank Team Sky.”
“We could all see that Sky, too, work well, as a team and in areas like research and technology, and they support Wiggins really well throughout the season, taking him to the right races for him where the time trials were important for the overall.”
Contador himself says he is “going well, although not doing too much training yet. I didn’t do much racing, but it was a very intense end to the season and I spent a lot of time away from home checking out Vuelta stages.”
“I’ll start [training more seriously] at the end of November, when I will also make a more detailed plan of next year’s racing.”
Contador said that he will be at the 2013 Tour de France presentation in Paris on Wednesday and that he hopes that the Tour will retain its traditional finish on the Champs Elysées rather than ending with a double ascent to Alpe d’Huez, as is rumoured.
“Alpe d’Huez is very special, but so is that last stage onto the Champs Elysées, it’s a very special day when you win the Tour, you think about everything you’ve fought for in the previous three years. I’d like to see that still in place.”
A full interview will appear with Albert Contador in next month’s edition of Procycling magazine.