It's fair to say that Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) has had mixed results when racing against the clock in the Criterium du Dauphine. In short bursts – prologues and short time trials that max out around 10-kilometers – the Spaniard has more than held his own. But when the distances nudge over the 20-kilometre mark things start to go awry.
On Wednesday, when Contador rolls down the start ramp for his 23.5km individual time trial between La Tour-du-Pin and Bourgoin-Jallieu, he will be more than aware of his past performances, but if his relaxed demeanour in this year's race is anything to go by it will count for nought.
"From experience, and I don't know why exactly, I've always struggled in the time trial of the Dauphine, unless it's a prologue. I always lose time, and I don't know why. For now though I'm okay and riding well. I'm happy," he told Cyclingnews at the end of stage 3 in Tullins.
Contador won last year's opening uphill prologue and finished second to Chris Froome (Team Sky) at the last individual test he raced here, back in 2014. However, a 61st place in the 32-kilometre test in 2013 is also filed away in his palmares.
That said, Contador has taken to the Dauphine with an almost nonchalant fashion. At his pre-race press conference he all but announced that his team weren't strong enough to mount a serious challenge and that he was using this race as a mere warm-up for the Tour de France. It was not the typical Contador, who always – no matter what the form or the scenario – talks about victory and fight. Whether the 34-year-old was merely using the press to mount pressure on his rivals and distance him and his team from controlling the race remains to be seen, but Trek have certainly sent a competitive squad to the Tour de Suisse in order to challenge for both races.
"I hope things go well tomorrow. Today was a hard stage. There was stress and although there wasn't cross-winds we were fighting all day for good position. For me, I'm okay. I'm relaxed and as I've said I'm here to work on my condition. It's a day-by-day process, and tomorrow I'll look at the time trial course and see if it's any good for me."
Contador isn't the only rider at the Dauphine who hasn't ridden reconnaissance over the time trial route. Froome is in the same boat but told Cyclingnews that he is keen to lay down an important marker both for this race and with the two time trials at the Tour de France on the horizon. For Contador the time trial at the Dauphine is an isolated affair, although Cyclingnews has been informed that the Spaniard will test out new equipment for the first time during the stage.
"The Tour will be another world. The time trial on the second last day in Marseille and the time trial in Germany will be more explosive. They will be different time trials and maybe tomorrow will be a little harder."
As for the GC battle, it remains too early to hold Contador to his word and whether he is at the Dauphine to merely train.
"I think Froome is really strong. He's worked really hard since the Tour de Romandie and this is a very important race. For sure Richie [Porte] will be strong, after his level at Romandie but also I think Valverde will be there."
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