The route of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana is finally due to be revealed, but one of the biggest questions about it looks set to remain uncertain: will Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) take part in his home Grand Tour one last time before his possible retirement?
Three times a Vuelta a Espana winner in the three times he has taken part, in 2008, 2012 and 2014, but not present in 2015 after racing both the Giro d’Italia (which he won) and the Tour de France, Contador is currently contemplating hanging up his wheels at the end of this season. His presence in the Vuelta a España would represent a massive draw for the Spanish Grand Tour, which starts on August 20th in the northwesterly region of Galicia and ends in Madrid, near Contador’s hometown of Pinto, on September 11th.
A Tinkoff team source consulted by Cyclingnews on Saturday morning confirmed that Contador would not be present at the Vuelta presentation in Santiago de Compostela this lunchtime. However, they also said there was no further news about what would be Contador’s final participation in a Grand Tour after multiple victories in the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.
Contador is far from being the only top name whose participation in the Vuelta remains undecided. So far only Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) have said they will race, and in terms of their race calendar it would seem logical to assume that both Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and Mikel Landa (Sky), as they are targeting the Giro d’Italia, could take part.
But Chris Froome (Team Sky), and former Vuelta winners Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) have, like Contador, not commented to confirm or deny their participation in the Spanish race. But as a former triple winner and with his retirement looming fast, interest in whether Contador will race is arguably higher than for any of the other top potential contenders.
For now, Contador’s program for 2016, which starts in the Tour of the Algarve in Portugal this February, goes as far as taking part in the Tour de France and Olympic Games. After that nothing is decided, with a return to the Vuelta a España the biggest questionmark of all.
What has already been revealed of the 2016 Vuelta a España route, with ten summit finishes and tough ascents both to the Lagos de Covadonga and Aubisque in France, would be to Contador’s liking. And there’s no doubt, a final participation in the Vuelta a España as a way for the Spaniard to bring down the curtain on his career has considerable sentimental value. But a lot will arguably depend on Contador’s condition and level of motivation after a summer that already has two very tough objectives on the program.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 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. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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