Alberto Contador has described his relationship with Saxo-Tinkoff manager Bjarne Riis as “exceptional” and insisted that he is happy with the diet of one-day races that serves as his preparation for the world championships in Florence later this month.
Rather than defend his Vuelta a España title, Contador’s September racing has been limited to the GP Ouest France, the Brussels Cycling Classic and the GP de Fourmies, and he will continue his Worlds build-up this weekend with the GP de Montréal and the GP de Québec.
“My team has never ordered me to race here or there. I am free,” Contador told L’Équipe. “I have a special rapport with the Vuelta, but it’s equally important that some riders who sacrificed themselves for me in July can now play their personal cards.”
While Nicolas Roche leads the line for Saxo-Tinkoff at the Vuelta, therefore, Contador has been racing in the unfamiliar confines of northern Europe as he steels himself for the Worlds. Recent history suggests that the road to the rainbow jersey tends to run through the Vuelta but Contador is hopeful that he can still be competitive on the tough Florence circuit.
“Why am I here? Because I have ambitions for the world championships and, beyond that, the Tour of Lombardy,” Contador said. “It’s true that the Vuelta has shown itself to be the royal path to the Worlds, but it’s not impossible to be on top form by going a different way. It’s an unusual programme for me, with only one-day races, but the idea is to gain in power from next weekend in Canada so that I can be at my best level fifteen days later in Florence.”
Following Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso’s decision to back the Euskaltel-Euskadi team in 2014, speculation has mounted that Contador might be tempted to switch teams, even though he has two more years on his existing deal with Saxo-Tinkoff. Oleg Tinkov is set to remove his backing at the end of the year, and team manager Bjarne Riis is searching for a co-sponsor to replace Tinkoff Credit Systems.
“My relationship with Bjarne is exceptional,” said Contador, adding that he was hopeful his team would find a replacement for Tinkoff. “It’s a great opportunity for a sponsor to come in and involve itself with one of the best teams in the world with a reasonable budget. In any case, I hope things go well in that sense.”
Contador camp dismisses cover-up claim
The leaked summary of a dossier detailing allegations of corruption against UCI president Pat McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen included a claim that the UCI offered to cover up Contador’s positive test at the 2010 Tour de France in exchange for money. The document claims that “the efforts were not successful because the media became aware of the story before the cover-up could be completed.”
Contacted by Cyclingnews on Tuesday, however, Contador’s press officer Jacinto Vidarte dismissed the story. “It is not true,” he said.