No Ardennes classics for Contador in 2014

Double Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Saxo-TInkoff) says he will make some important changes to his race programme in 2014 in a bid to avoid what was a consistent but almost win-free 2013.

Fourth in the Tour de France, third in Tirreno-Adriatico, fifth in the Vuelta al País Vasco, second in the Tour of Oman and a frustratingly close second place behind Chris Froome in the Tour’s second big time trial were the most notable occasions that Contador hit what appeared to be a glass ceiling results-wise. Only once, in a stage of the Tour de San Luis, did he manage to break through for an actual win.

Contador’s 2014 programme, he reveals in an extensive interview with Spanish sports daily MARCA, will start in the Tour of the Algarve (Feb 19-23), continue with Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico, followed by the Critérium International or the Volta a Catalunya, then continue with the Vuelta al País Vasco in April, the Dauphiné in June and then the Tour in July and Vuelta a España in August.

Apart from the addition of the Vuelta, which Contador has won in 2008 and 2012, the most notable change is the wiping of the Ardennes Classics from his programme. Contador took an unremarkable 33rd in Flèche Wallone and 59th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“I started to race very early, in Argentina,” Contador told MARCA, “and after Tirreno, where the weather was really bad, I got sick and had to change all my programme. I scratched the Critérium International from the list and then went to the Vuelta al País Vasco without really being at a good level.”

“It wasn’t the ideal programme, and I regret starting so soon and not really putting together a programme that balanced my training and my dealing with sponsorship obligations well. All that had an effect. The Ardennes Classics were an ‘extra’ that I didn’t need, I was tired and competing at a level that wasn’t good, my base condition wasn’t good. The Ardennes have never really worked for me when it comes to building up for the Tour.”

If Contador has made some important changes to his 2014 programme, the 30-year-old’s team is almost identical to 2013 when it comes to his key Tour support group.

“I have absolute faith in every single member in Saxo Bank,” Contador told MARCA, “You couldn’t have a better atmosphere in the team, and I have riders like Kreuziger, one of the best in the world, alongside me, Rogers, Roche, Bennati, an experienced rider like Tosatto. I really wouldn’t change them for anybody else.”

Although he admits that Fernando Alonso’s project for a new squad is “interesting,” Contador says has no plans to change team, pointing out that he has a contract through to the end of 2015. In any case, his retirement, he says “is still a very long way off.”

Contador has already been training for a month, he revealed to MARCA, with the last part of that programme in Gran Canaria with the rest of the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff squad. Although based in Lugano, Switzerland, Contador is keeping a close eye on his ‘Contador Foundation’ teams in his hometown of Pinto, which was initially a junior squad and has now added an U-23 team to its structure for 2014.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

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 IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.