Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) looks set to ride both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in 2014 after confirming that he will alter his preparation by starting his season later than he has done in recent years.
Contador began both his suspension-interrupted 2012 season and the 2013 campaign at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina in January, but this time around, he will not start racing again until at least mid-February.
“There will be two major changes from the past two years. I’ve started training earlier than I did before, but I'll start competing a little bit later, not until the second or third week of February,” Contador told ESPN Deportes. “This year, we’ll delay until February so that I can have a good base and grow little by little as I build towards the big objective, which is the Tour de France.”
While the Spaniard did not set a specific date for his 2014 debut, nor did he outline his early-season programme, he has already confirmed that he will return to the Vuelta. Contador opted to forgo the defence of his Vuelta crown in 2013, preferring to ride one-day races as build-up to the world championships in Florence.
“Yes, the goal is the Tour, but it’s not just the Tour, it’s the whole season,” Contador said. “I want to do a complete season, from the first race of the year. There are important races like Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Basque Country.
“I still have to decide [my race programme] exactly, but I want to do some good races, rest a little, do the Tour, rest a little, do the Vuelta, and then take stock at the end of the year.”
Contador is aware, of course, that the Tour de France will overshadow everything else on his 2014 calendar. Although he was an aggressive presence in July this year, Contador was unable to dislodge Chris Froome (Sky) from the yellow jersey and had to settle for 4th place overall in Paris.
“I still have the motivation and the morale, that’s fundamental. If you don’t believe you can achieve your goal, then it’s impossible to do so,” he said of clashing swords with Froome next summer.
Contador was in California during the week to test equipment in the wind tunnel with bike supplier Specialized. The 2014 Tour features just one time trial, but Contador is under no illusions about the significance of the 54km test from Bergerac to Périgueux on the penultimate day.
“It’s a constant evolution. To win a three-week race, you need to perform well in the time trials,” Contador said. “It’s true that there are bigger specialists than me right now, but I want to defend myself as well as possible to make the biggest gains on the other climbers.”