When it all shook out at the end of the first stage of the Tour de France, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) was one of the biggest losers of the general classification contenders. Along with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Contador stood at the back of a group of contenders sat between 47 and 54 seconds down on the stage winner Geraint Thomas.
Contador told reporters outside his team bus that he has felt good throughout but seeing his compatriot Alejandro Valverde come down so hard during his effort forced the Spaniard to take the course with more caution than he ordinarily would have. While most of his rivals are still within touching distance, he gave almost three-quarters of a minute away to Chris Froome.
"I heard that Alejandro had fallen and we decided to go very carefully in the corners," Contador said after the stage. "In the parts where I had to pedal I felt good, although 42 seconds is a lot for 14 kilometres, but this has just begun. Obviously, Froome has made some great differences, he is ahead, so there's no other way but to go on the offensive. But until we get to the first mountain stage and see how the legs are, you cannot say what tactic to adopt."
Ahead of the Tour de France, Contador had said that he didn't want to rely on 'feats' to take the overall victory, but he must now be thinking of the potential places and ways in which he can turn the race on its head. Contador emphasised that self-preservation was more important than pushing hard to limit his losses.
The Trek-Segafredo rider has overhauled larger gaps before, but that was against riders who had less support than Froome does. It will be hard to do, but Contador is trying to remain confident with still three weeks of racing and plenty of mountains ahead.
"My priority was to go in the corners with great care, and in the straight lines I think went quite fast,” he said. "Evidently the most important thing is to save yourself in these first days. It is true that for this TT to lose 42 seconds is a lot of time, but on the other hand, with everything that is ahead, there is a chance that this will change.
"It's hard to say if Froome took risks because he has not fallen, but it is clear that he has gone very, very fast.”
Contador, who crashed in each of the opening two stages of last year's Tour de France, empathised with Valverde and said that the Movistar rider would soon put the disappointment behind him and have his eyes set on his next target. Nevertheless, returning for this season might be hard for Valverde after his Movistar team confirmed that he had broken his kneecap in the crash.
"It's a huge pity for Alejandro. It costs a lot to prepare the Tour de France, it is almost half a year preparing for it, and in the first corner, you go home. I want to offer him my encouragement and now, obviously not, but surely in two days he will start thinking about the Tour of Spain."
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