Seeking to rebound after an illness-provoked withdrawal from the Tour de France, Alberto Contador once again finds himself aiming for Vuelta success to make up for disappointment in France.
The Spaniard won on home soil two years ago after crashing out of the Tour de France. He has also used the Vuelta to reboot after two other disappointments, namely his Astana team being blocked from riding the 2008 Tour and his Clenbuterol suspension which ended in 2012.
If all goes to plan, he’ll use this year’s race to once again turn things around.
“Certainly, my goal at the Vuelta is to fight for victory,” he said on Tuesday, four days before the race start. “That’s the idea with which I am going to Galicia. We will then see if we can achieve it, because I will have to face very strong opponents with powerful squads. We will have to take it day-by-day and I just hope I’m a little bit luckier to enjoy the race and the fans.”
He said that he would draw encouragement from two other factors.
“At the Vuelta, the affection of the public has always been amazing and reliving that is something I look forward to. Furthermore, this will be my last Grand Tour with Tinkoff and I would like to finish it in the best way.”
Contador crashed hard on the opening day of the Tour de France and then fell again on stage two. He battled on but was below par, being unable to fight for yellow. He then withdrew on stage nine, citing fever as the reason.
He returned to training before the end of the Tour and won a stage plus the overall classification in the Vuelta a Burgos this month.
“I think I’m well, but the good thing is that I am keen to go on the bike, which is important,” he said. However he admits being a little unsure about his form, having just competed in Burgos and the previous Clasica San Sebastian.
“I haven’t had many tests to see how I am, practically only in Burgos,” he said. “From there I focused on recovering from the effort and doing some quality training, but that race is very different from the Vuelta, in terms of days of competition and the level of its line-up.”
Contador gives a thumbs-up to the Vuelta course, saying the short, explosive finishes will guarantee a show for the fans. He has fared well on such parcours before, although he will be up against stiff competition. Tour winner Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) are just two of many who will line out aiming for the winner’s red jersey.
Rather than being nervous about the quality of the field, Contador says it is “a great motivation. The level is very high, because in the end, each year the favourites of the Tour are in the Vuelta and that makes me happy. This marquee line-up will raise great expectations.”
Although he plays down any notion of the Vuelta being some sort of platform for revenge after missing out in the Tour, he does state that he often replays the disappointment of what happened in July.
“It was a time that was particularly difficult until I started competing, since the Tour was my number one goal of the year and it started on the wrong foot and finished by retiring.
“That really comes often back to my head and is hard to beat psychologically.”
While winning the Vuelta won’t undo his withdrawal from the Tour, he knows it is the best possible response to the bad luck he suffered in July.
Just as he did two years ago, he will come out fighting and aim for success above Froome and the other big guns in the race.