Contador plays down chance of Vuelta appearance

Alberto Contador was greeted by more than 300 fans when he returned to Madrid on Monday having wrapped up a third Tour de France victory the day before. After meetings with Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the president of Madrid’s regional government, the Astana team leader got a hero’s welcome in his home-town of Pinto, where he once again stated that he is unlikely to line up in his national tour, which starts in Sevilla on August 28.

Just as he had said in the winner’s press conference following the Tour’s final time trial, Contador indicated that he will again attempt to ride two major tours in one season, but probably not this year. “Although it’s quite a complicated task to take on two major tours in a season because of the long-lasting fatigue that you’re guaranteed to face, in 2011 I will attempt this once again,” he said.

However, Contador did not close the door completely on this year’s Vuelta, where Andy and Frank Schleck are set to be among the main contenders for the title. After admitting that he always enjoys racing on home roads, Contador added: “The route of this year’s Vuelta is very attractive, and although I’m not saying it is 100% certain I won’t ride it, the likelihood is that I won’t appear. But I certainly will be back in the future.”

Contador’s comments will give some hope to Vuelta organizers Unipublic that they can tempt the Spanish champion into appearing in next month’s final major tour of the season. Speaking in Murcia where he was presenting that region’s Vuelta stages, Unipublic director-general Javier Guillén said of Contador: “He’s just finished riding the Tour, which was very tough for him, and history has shown that the winner of the Tour very rarely comes to the Vuelta, although Carlos Sastre did so, for which we warmly thank him.”

Guillén added: “Having Contador in the race would be a good thing because fans would be able to express the admiration and affection they have for him. But we understand that if he does come he will do so with victory as his goal and so it is normal that he has some doubts about this at the moment.”

Guillén, who hosted a reception to promote the Vuelta on the Tour’s rest day in Pau, described the line-up for the race as “magnificent”. Unipublic have confirmed that as well as the Schlecks, the Tour’s third-placed rider Denis Menchov will be attempting to bag a third Vuelta title, while Mark Cavendish is set to lead an extremely powerful line-up of sprinters.

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