Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) was broadly satisfied with his showing in the stage 3 time trial at the Volta ao Algarve but said that he will know a lot more about his condition after the summit finish at the Alto do Malhao on Saturday afternoon.
Contador finished in fourth place on Friday’s 13.6km time trial, 20 seconds down on stage winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), who hurtled around the course at an average speed of some 58.078kph.
“The sensations weren’t excellent but, taking into consideration the fact that we’re at the start of the season, it’s still good,” Contador said, according to Biciciclismo. “These time trial events are useful for training.”
After winning two stages in succession, the on-form Kwiatkowski holds a 32-second lead over Contador on general classification, and the Spaniard acknowledged that it would be difficult to overhaul that deficit. “It would be a surprise if Kwiatkowski doesn’t win the race,” Contador admitted.
Nonetheless, Contador is looking forward to testing his legs in earnest on the Alto do Malaho, the 2.5km-long climb at an average gradient of 8.9% that was decisive in each of his two overall victories at the Volta ao Algarve. Contador was first to the top in 2010, while he was out-sprinted by Toni Colom at the summit the previous year.
“I know this climb well and there won’t be big gaps at the top,” Contador told L’Équipe. “I have reason to be satisfied with my start to the season and I’ll know a bit more about where I am after this summit finish. We’ll see if the work I did at altitude this winter shows its first benefits.”
Contador delayed his start to the 2014 season until the Volta ao Algarve, having debuted in January at the Tour de San Luis for the previous two years. While the Tour de France remains the centrepiece of his season, Contador has also vowed to rack up more wins than he did last season, when a stage victory in San Luis was his sole success.