He previously said that 2016 might well be his final in the pro peloton, but Alberto Contador has now said that it is ‘more and more likely’ that he will continue as a professional after the end of this season.
The seven-time Grand Tours winner is in his final year of a contract with the Tinkoff team.
Speaking to the Spanish publication AS, he said that he would continue racing if he is successful in setting up his own team, and if it is of a sufficiently high level.
“The possibility of the project going forward is now 50 percent,” he said, saying that the intended setup would be of the “top level to compete in the Tour de France.”
That in turn floats the possibility that he wants to ride the Tour in 2017, giving himself two more shots to win it again.
He is in contact with several sponsors and is aiming for a budget of 15 million euro per year.
It is unclear if former Saxo-Tinkoff general manager Bjarne Riis would be involved, but Riis is known to be working on a project to return to cycling.
Contador is due to begin his season on Wednesday in the Volta ao Algarve and said that he was feeling good. “I start with confidence and enthusiasm because I’ve done a good job in the winter, with peace of mind.”
However he quashed any thoughts that he might be ready to immediately challenge his rivals. “I know I am going to lack rhythm and that I begin later compared to other riders, but the goals are long-term and I am sure that everything will go well.”
He is clear that taking a third Tour title is the most important thing to him, feeling that he wasn’t at his best in 2015.
“Last year I did the Giro and the Tour and paid for those efforts, but I have no regrets because it was a good year. This season is not about revenge, I just want to go to the Tour in better shape, and I will do that.”
He knows that taking another yellow jersey to Paris would require him to beat another double Tour winner, Chris Froome. He got the better of him in the 2014 Vuelta a España, but Froome was stronger in last year’s Tour. Contador’s Giro win sapped his strength and he was fifth.
“The Sky [team] of Froome impresses,” he admits. “There is no other team at the same level. They have a big budget and do a great job. They could go with two teams to the Tour. They are an enormous power. There the riders aren’t only the leader, but also all the others.”
Still, he has worked hard in the belief that he can emerge best, and has oriented his season completely around that goal.
After July he has another target in mind. He wants to shine in the Rio Olympics. “Both the road race and the time trial suit me very well and I want to be in good shape. It will be the other major objective of the year.”
After that, his future will depend on what happens with his own project. He doesn’t want to continue at a lower level, and so sticking with the sport is based on how well things go in the team’s planning in the months ahead. It will also depend on his own competitiveness this year.
“The Tour and the new team are the keys, and now it seems that the team is closer. The idea of retiring is because I am a competitive and ambitious rider and I want to be remembered at the top level. If I see that I have no options in the Tour, I will put my bike to one side.”