Rumours during the Tour de France linking Alberto Contador to a move to Trek-Segafredo have translated into reality, with that team announcing on Thursday that a deal has been finalised.
The seven-time Grand Tour winner has inked a contract with the team and will try, once again, to land what would be his third Tour de France victory.
“I am thrilled about the opportunity that is in front of me,” he said. “Trek-Segafredo is a very attractive and ambitious project that really inspires me. I had some excellent conversations with the team management, and we have a lot of goals and priorities in common.
“The big objective is to try and win the most important races on the calendar – first and foremost the Tour de France.”
Contador won the race in 2007 and 2009 and has long made it clear that returning to the Champs Elysees in yellow is the biggest goal for the final years of his pro career. He has been aiming to achieve that for several years with the Tinkoff setup but lost his chances due to crashes in 2014 and again this year.
In 2015 he was below par after winning the Giro d’Italia, and knows that with time passing, next year might be his last chance. Having a squad that could help him achieve the goal was important to him.
“The sporting side was the key point in my decision,” he said. “This team is focused on performance, and there’s a really strong group of riders with experience in all kinds of terrain, not only the mountains. I like that it’s such an open, international group of riders.
“I am convinced that this team can provide me with the best structure and bring me in the best conditions to the races. I race to win, and I am determined to get intensely invested in this team.”
The team had a strong Tour campaign this season with Bauke Mollema. He was second overall for almost a week, although he then weakened in the final stages and dropped to 11th overall.
It is unclear if Mollema will ride the Tour de France in support of Contador or if he will target the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a España instead.
In order to boost Contador’s chances of Tour success, Trek-Segafredo has also signed his teammate Jesús Hernández and directeur sportif Steven de Jongh.
“I am really happy to come back to Trek because I also rode a Trek bike in 2009,” said Hernandez. “Alberto is like my brother and coming back with him to the Trek family is really something special. It means a lot to me.
“2017 will bring once again a new experience and so I am really looking forward to starting the next season with renewed ambition. Obviously, my main ambition is to support Alberto and the other leaders of the team. When they are happy with my work, I will be happy as well.”
Luca Guercilena, the team’s general manager, described Contador as “a formidable rider and a real fighter.
“He’s a champion. There is really no one like Alberto in the current peloton, and we are very happy to welcome him to the team. With Alberto, I believe we are taking the next step in developing our team. Next year we’ll be stronger and all-around better and broader.”
His comment about Contador as a fighter ring true; although he was below par in the Vuelta a España, he sparked off a crucial break on stage 15 to Formigal which changed the outcome of the race. It helped then-race leader Nairo Quintana build the buffer he needed to fend off the stage 19 charge by Chris Froome (Sky) in the time trial, and to win the race.
De Jongh has been part of formulating Contador’s tactics in recent years and Guercilena said his arrival is important.
“It goes without saying that I am very happy to welcome Steven de Jongh to our team. We were looking to enlarge our group of directors for quite some time now.
“Next year the race calendar will be more extended, and we will have more riders on the team. With an excellent director such as Steven, our group of very experienced and equally outstanding directors will be more versatile.”
The duration of Contador’s new contract was not specified by Trek-Segafredo. He had originally indicated that 2016 would be his final season, but he changed his mind and said that he would continue racing.