Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) may be focussing hard on the Vuelta a España, but the 29-year-old Madrileño says that he will be looking to a strong end of season, too, with the world championship time trial, road race and Il Lombardia (the Tour of Lombardy) all on his program.
Speaking on the Vuelta's rest day, Contador said "this year I know I can do both the World's time trial and road-race in top condition."
But whilst Il Lombardia is on his program, too, he warned that he would only do the Tour of Beijing "if my World Tour points are worth something for the team. If they aren't, then I won't go."
Contador attacked the current regulations according to which WorldTour points from suspended riders do not count for toward a team's ranking for the following two years after a ban.
"It doesn't seem right to me", Contador said, "and if they aren't worth something, I'm staying home, and that's clear."
Contador also said that his ban, which ended on August 5th, had affected his race performance in the Vuelta, although he later said that he did not consider this to be an excuse.
Using an image from motoring, he said "More racing would have blown away any dirt there was in the engine. But I lack punch. I'm not in the same form as I have had in other races.
"If I had a little better race condition, there's no doubt I wouldn't have lost time where I did in the first week.
"I wouldn't have been dropped on that climb in Jaca. [on stage six], for example," he said, recalling the day he lost 18 seconds. "It all adds up.
"But Joaquim's form is impressive, too, and we have to congratulate him for that."
However, Contador also said that he is determined to keep on fighting for overall victory in the Vuelta. The task may be complicated, but "one thing that never crosses my mind is not to go for the win."
If a Contador Vuelta victory, although difficult, would be business as usual for cycling, given Contador has two Tours, a Giro and a Vuelta to his name, a defeat for the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff rider would be a landmark in cycling history.
The Madrileño has not lost a Grand Tour since he won the Tour de France in 2007, barring the 2011 race in which he crashed on the first stage and hurt his knee badly - but still finished fifth, and the 2010 title which was stripped after his doping positive.
Contador said the route was not ideal for him this year in the Vuelta, but he will continue to try nonetheless.
"If there was a climb close to the finish on one stage where I could attack from further out rather than having to wait for the last four to five kilometres to make my move, that would be ideal. And we've only really had 13.5 kilometres of flat time trial [on the 39.4 kilometre race against the clock from Cambados to Pontevedra] to the first checkpoint."
"But the route is what it is, and we have to adapt to that."
Looking towards the Bola del Mundo, a climb he knows very well from training given it is just an hour's drive from his home in Pinto, and asked whether he would place a long-distance attack as he did on the Galibier in the Tour 2011 when he was on the point of losing the race, Contador said, "it'll depend on the day. But I'd advise people to watch the stage."
Asked if he still would place a bet on himself winning, Contador said "of course. I believe in my chances, I would be deceiving myself if I didn't."
He also said that he could only be satisfied with the way the public - far more numerous this year than in previous Vuelta's - was 100 percent supportive of him, and the other riders, on the climbs.
"I've got a real debt to them, it's been great to feel that support," Contador said. "It reminds me of some of the Tour stages when we got near to Germany and there were so many people. I feel proud to have that experience."
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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 Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.
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