Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) tried his best to dodge questions about the announcement that his hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport had been delayed, almost certainly allowing him to ride this year's Tour de France.
Contador had expected to appear at the hearing in Switzerland between June 6-8 but all the parties in the case have apparently agreed they need more time to study the details of the case. Contador tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol during last year's Tour de France but has always claimed that the minute traces of the drug came from contaminated meat.
The CAS is set to decide on a new date after talks with everyone involved next week. Contador was cleared of doping by the Spanish Cycling Federation and so is allowed to race until the final verdict of the CAS. With a rapid verdict no longer needed in time for the Tour de France, the case could now be put back until the end of the summer.
At the race leader's obligatory press conference after stage 18 to San Pellegrino Terme, Contador was happy to talk about the Giro d'Italia but was faced with a series of questions about the CAS hearing and the Tour de France.
"At the moment I'm concentrated on the Giro," he said astutely. “It’s a very important race and I've got to stay concentrated on this race. The important thing is to arrive in Milan in pink."
Asked again about the CAS hearing, Contador insisted he was optimistic because he said the truth was on his side.
"I don’t know much about it because my lawyers are a looking after it all. But I'm optimistic because when the truth in on your side, you’re can stay serene, so I'm very optimistic," he said.
"I think it's clear that my case is different to other cases. I think it's important to tell the truth. When someone talks about it, you can see it on someone's face if someone is guilty or not."
Asked if he would give back his maglia rosa if he was eventually found guilty of doping by CAS, Contador responded bluntly: "To be honest, something like that doesn’t deserve a minute of my time."
A fast stage
The rest of the brief press conference focused on the race and the Colle delle Finestre, the last major climb of this year's Giro d'Italia.
Contador and his Saxo Bank-SunGard team carefully controlled the racing but it was not an easy day in the saddle because of the fast speed of the stage before the break formed after 90km of the 151km stage.
"It was an incredibly fast stage," Contador said. "The first hour was at 53km/h and the second at 51km/h. It seemed that a break wasn't going to go away but then fortunately it did. There was nobody dangerous in the move and we let it go, but it was a still a tough day and we all spent a lot."
Despite Vincenzo Nibali promising some spectacular racing on the Colle delle Finestre when speaking on Italian television, Contador seemed pretty relaxed about how the dirt road climb could affect the overall standings of the Giro.
“I didn't see go and see it before the Giro because I expected the race would be decided on the Grossglockner and the mountain time trial to Nevegal," he explained.
"We tried to look at it just before the start of the Giro in Turin but the top seven kilometres were blocked by snow. I've seen a video of it and I like it. I'm sure there will be a big battle up there but I'm confident I'll be okay."
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