With Chris Froome (Team Sky) unable to race Tirreno-Adriatico due to illness, there were only three of the so-called ‘Fantastic Four’ Grand Tour contenders at the pre-race press conference on Tuesday afternoon: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), who confirmed he has signed a new contract lasting until the end of 2016, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep) also attended.
Contador is now the favourite to win the overall title at Tirreno-Adriatico. He placed second to Froome at the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol in February, while Quintana will make his European season debut and Nibali claimed he was gradually building his form for the Tour de France.
“This year, Tirreno-Adriatico is a bit different for me, I think I’m on form as we saw at the Ruta del Sol but I’m focused on the Giro d’Italia,” Contador said.
“I always want to win but I’m also thinking of the Giro. It’ll be difficult to win because of the high level of my rivals here. Regarding where the race will be decided, it’s difficult to say. I don’t know Terminillo so I don’t know how it will select the race. We’ve got to take it day by day and stay focused so not to lose the race. We’ll see. I think the last day’s final time trial will also be important.”
When Contador was asked if he will miss Froome, he replied: “Bueno, in Andalucía we had a good race, hard fought to the end. Chris Froome isn’t here but the level is very high, there’s the Tour de France winner and others, so Chris Froome’s absence won’t change my approach to this race.”
Tinkoff-Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkoff and manager Bjarne Riis sat at the back of the press conference and were happy to confirm that Contador has extend his contract with the Russian registered team until the end of 2016.
“It’s true, I’ve reached an agreement for next year,” Contador confirmed. “To change teams would have meant starting from scratch, so the best option for me was stay. We have a strong team around me and so I want to thank Oleg, Tinkoff Bank and Saxo Bank for putting their faith in me. I’ll give my best to do as well as possible in the future.”
Quintana arrived a little late to the press conference but apologised in his quiet voice before talking about his Tirreno-Adriatico hopes.
“This race is very important for me. The presence of my strong rivals means it will be a race where we can all improve our form. For me it will be about finding my race rhythm. It’s my first race in Europe this year and so is important for me.”
Nibali was more forthcoming about his hopes for Tirreno-Adriatico than he was about the CIRC report questions that were asked earlier in the press conference. He conceded he might struggle to take on Contador. He has trained more this winter and raced more than in 2014 but has yet to land a top-10 result.
“This season started differently for me compared to last year,” he said. “After winning the Giro and Vuelta (in 2013) I struggled to find form for the Tour. It was my main goal and it’s the same this year but I’ve opted to work differently. I’m still suffering but I’m getting there.
“I’m not at my best, like at the Tour de France but I’m working on my form step by step. I haven’t faced Alberto, Rigoberto and Nairo yet this year but they’re my big rivals and in good form, especially Alberto, looking at his results. We’ll see how I feel at the end of the race and see the results.”