If Alberto Contador is to turn his Tour de France around and overhaul Chris Froome's lead he will have to bank on not just the Sky rider cracking and Movistar failing to capitalise, but also a return to his best form.
Contador looked unsettled in the Pyrenees last weekend, losing ground on the climb to Ax-3 Domaines before an understandably conservative approach on the final ascent of stage 9. Now lying 1:51 down on Froome, the Spaniard must use his superior team to his advantage but also look to limit his loses in the individual time trials before an all-out assault in the second half of the race.
"Up until now Froome's been very strong but I will try and do something, everyone's legs are hurting but if you don't think you can succeed you never will. We have to take a few risks," Contador said during his rest day press conference on the French coast.
Whether they're risks or simply the opportunities born from the race route, Contador will certainly need to be aggressive. His nature means that riding for second or third will not enter his mind, but by the conclusion of the Mont-Saint Michel time trial it's possible that he will be roughly four minutes down on the British rider and with Ventoux more exploitable terrain for Sky's train, Contador may look towards the undulating stage to Lyon to salvage his Tour.
"It's not the situation that I would like, because I'd rather be at the same time as Froome, but I didn't have good day," Contador said when explaining his post-Pyrenees predicament.
"Thanks to my teammate Kreuziger I'm still in the race, and next time trial is also better for Froome."
Throughout the season Froome has had the measure of Contador, but Sky's weakened team has given Contador and Movistar a vital boost as the race heads towards a curtain-raising final week.
"That the last week can be hard for Froome but this is only a possibility, because so far he has shown no weakness. I'm going to try, because legs will hurt in the final week. Sometimes you have to take risks and you have to try something."
It may not be enough, however. Contador has never looked as dominant as he did since his crushing Tour victory in 2009 in which he almost single-handedly took on the peloton. Since his return from a doping ban, however, his form has been patchy and bar one extraordinary day at the Vuelta last year he has not scaled those heady heights again.
"It's true Froome very strong right now and I'm not in an extraordinary good state of form, but I've always, always gone better in the last week of the big Tours and that's good. Froome has always been strong throughout but don't forget he lost it a bit in the last week of the Vuelta."
Froome, in his press conference reminded Contador that the Vuelta came after a long season for the Sky rider and that he was ‘riding on fumes' and although the second half of the race will throw up a number of possibilities and scenarios, one is certain and both rivals are well aware of it: Contador has not thrown in the towel, nor will he.
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