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January 10, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
He’s identified the Tour de France and Olympics as the two top goals in what might be his final season, but Alberto Contador has left the door open to also riding the Vuelta a España.
The three-time winner will make his decision after those two other targets but his statement will gladden the hearts of both his fans and the race organiser, not least because of his status as the biggest draw in Spanish cycling.
“This will be a special year for me,” he said, referring to his previous statements that he would likely retire at the end of it.
“I would like it to be a very good one and I’m working hard for that. There is no doubt that my focus in 2016 is, first and foremost, the Tour de France and then the Olympics.
“It will be the final year of the Tinkoff team and I would like to conclude it in the best way possible. I still have to talk to Oleg Tinkov and the team in order to decide our schedule but I don’t rule out riding the Vuelta.”
He said that determining what is best for the team is a big part of that decision. “My desire is for Tinkoff to finish in the highest step possible of the UCI WorldTour ranking and for that reason we cannot rule out my participation in the Vuelta.”
Contador won the Vuelta in 2008, 2010 and 2014 and knows that a fourth victory would move him level with Roberto Heras. The latter’s final win has a major asterisk next to it, though, given that he tested positive for EPO, was disqualified and then later reinstated by the Spanish courts.
Contador assessed his chances and said that his busy schedule could well have an impact on his physical condition. “2016 will be the toughest year to reach the Vuelta in good form. After the Tour, it will be very tough to rest because of the Olympic Games,” he admitted.
“It will be much more difficult, compared to previous years, to fully recover in order to start the Vuelta in top shape. In any case, the Vuelta will always be a very special race to me.”
One factor that could boost his chances – and therefore will likely influence his decision – are the ten summit finishes in this year’s race.
As confirmed on Saturday, the 2016 route will favour the climbers, with limited chances for pure time trialists. There are just two races against the clock, with the first being a 29.4 kilometres opener for teams. The only solo test is the 39 kilometre stage 19 to Calpe.
“It is a typical route of the Vuelta a España, similar to what we have seen in the recent past,” Contador said.
“From the outset, the GC contenders will have to be in the front and assume their responsibilities”.
“There are a few stages with longer mountain passes, especially stage 14 to [the Col d’] Aubisque. These stages could suit better someone like me, if I were to take part in the Vuelta. I am sure, this year’s route will provide strong emotions until the very last moment. It will also be very important to see the form the main contenders will have at the start”.
He does identify one aspect of the climbing stages that concern him.
“This year’s parcours has many explosive finishes that aren’t ideal for me, in particular due to the bonus seconds,” he said. Still, he knows that he can’t wish for everything to be exactly as he would like it.
“It is what it is and if I were to race I would have to look at it on a positive way.”
That’s not a promise, but it will be enough to give his fans some hope that he will be there at the start line on August 20.