Contador: Quintana is almost as big a favourite as Froome for Tour de France

Alberto Contador has said that Nairo Quintana can be considered “almost as big a favourite" in the upcoming Tour de France as defending champion Chris Froome.

“I think Froome stands out as the top contender, for sure, and has a very strong team, but Nairo’s team and his ability to finish Grand Tours make him almost as big a favourite,” Contador said in a press conference at his Tour de France team hotel set deep in rural Normandy.

Contador, sitting between his press officer and top Tinkoff sports director Steve De Jongh, followed up that argument by firmly rejecting another journalist's idea that the Tour's GC battle could be reduced to a two-way fight between himself and Chris Froome.

"That would be the wrong way of looking at it. I know I’m in a good condition to fight for the Tour, I’ve done it several times and I can be pretty confident of the way I analyse how I’m feeling. But although it’s a good route for me, it will definitely take 25 days before we know for sure what the outcome of this Tour is.” The difficult third week, of course, reinforces Contador’s argument about ‘waiting and seeing’.

As he had told Cyclingnews on Tuesday, Contador insisted that he had yet to sign any kind of contract for 2017 and beyond, although he recognised that “it would probably be a two-year deal" that he'll sign with Tinkoff set to fold at the end of the year. Recently published stories in the Spanish media continue to insist that Trek is his most likely destination but as yet nothing has been confirmed. In any case, Contador said on Thursday: “What I’m looking forward to right now is racing the Tour for a sponsor who’s been with us since 2012.”

Meanwhile, the question of how Sagan and Contador will race together in Tinkoff’s line-up was raised by several journalists, although in fact last year there were no issues between the two riders when they raced the Tour together. Contador confirmed that he was “really lucky to be sharing a team with Peter [Sagan], because we are very compatible. Peter is the rider with the most innate class, I think, that i’ve ever raced with in my career. He will be a key component at a tactical level and apart from that, I’m very proud to have him in my team. It’s a privilege.”

As for the Tour route, Contador argued that it will be “open until the last moment, and in fact I consider that last stage the hardest. It’s one of the hardest Tours in years, and that means recovery is going to be the most important factor of all.”

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.