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July 29, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
Although initial indications were that he would be out of competition for a longer period of time, Alberto Contador is set to return to racing on Saturday.
The Spaniard crashed twice during the Tour de France and was far off his best, then abandoned stage nine after contracting a fever.
Following that withdrawal on July 11, doctors indicated that it would likely take him four weeks to recover from his injuries, which included muscle tears to his left thigh and bruising to his right shoulder.
However, less than three weeks after that Tour retirement, he will pin on a race number again in Saturday’s Clasica San Sebastian.
“I watched many stages of the Tour on television, but it was not easy to follow the race because I knew almost every corner of the parcours and I found it difficult to accept that I wasn’t there,” he said on Friday. “However, sports is like that, and I’m already feeling better and working towards my next goal, the Vuelta a España.”
Contador said that he took complete rest after his Tour withdrawal. He then started “slowly going on the bike for a spin. Although the discomfort was always there and I had a slower rhythm longer than I expected, I haven’t been worried about it.”
As was the case in 2014 when he crashed out of the Tour de France, he has set the Vuelta a España as his new objective. He won that race two years ago, beating Chris Froome (Sky), who had also crashed out of that Tour.
After San Sebastián on Saturday he will compete in the Vuelta a Burgos from August 2 to 6.
“I am aware I will lack a bit of pace in San Sebastián and Burgos, which will probably raise my pulse a lot,” he said. “But I know the best is to think about the Vuelta a España. I will tackle these two races with a bit of calm and with a longer-term objective.”
He will miss the Olympic Games, which had been his season’s second-biggest objective after the Tour de France.
Contador will co-lead the Tinkoff team on Saturday, joining forces with Roman Kreuziger. Team directeur sportif Patxi Vila talked about their roles.
“Alberto has been training well and recovering,” he said. “However his race form will remain a bit unknown until Saturday, but the idea is to go out and race hard. We have Roman too who finished the Tour well and if he’s recovered he’ll be another card to play.
“The final climb of the race suits Alberto’s capacities as a climber better but it’s not that easy to guess how they’re feeling. Then alongside these two we have a strong team to support them.”
Contador said that he is feeling “pretty good, but not perfect yet. Of course, there is no comparison with how [sore] I was in the Tour, but I still don’t do any stretching in order not to risk a relapse. Otherwise I’m already almost back to normal.”