LE PUY-EN-VELAY, France (CT) – Following on from a statement made yesterday by Trek-Segafredo directeur sportif Steven De Jongh saying that this was definitely Alberto Contador’s final Tour de France, the team’s general manager has said that no decision has been made.
“As normal, a sports director like Steven is, they are always working on long/medium term analogies,” Luca Guercilena told CyclingTips at the stage 16 start on Tuesday. “So this was an idea coming from Stephen. From my side as management, I think that a rider such as Alberto has the right to make the choice.
“Right now we are focussed on the Tour de France, to make good this last week. Then we will sit down together after the Tour to define a plan.”
Contador won the Tour in 2007 and 2009, and was also first in Paris in 2010. However he lost that result due to his positive test for Clenbuterol. He said that he wanted one last big performance in the race before he retired and structured his season around being in his best form for the event.
However, following several crashes, things didn’t work out. He is currently ninth overall, over five minutes behind race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), and has only shown brief flashes of form.
Speaking to Dutch broadcaster NOS on Monday, De Jongh said that he was competing in the race for the final time.
“He is riding his last Tour de France. Maybe he will still ride the Giro d’Italia next year but that will depends on his result in this Tour,” he said.
“I think that he really wants to win a stage in this Tour, to say goodbye to France in the most beautiful way.”
Guercilena’s viewpoint is different. “It is always a possibility [that he returns], yes. Here we are talking about one of the top riders of all time. In this case, the rider needs to define by himself first what he would like to do, and then the team should support him. That is the way we need to do it.”
He also dismissed talk that the Spaniard had decided to focus on the Giro d’Italia in 2018. “It is premature talking now about the Giro,” he said. “I think the calendar is not defined for this season yet, because we want to see how we go out from the Tour. So for sure we are not talking about next year’s calendar.”
In fact, before any decision about his racing programme is made, Contador needs to finalise his team plans for 2017. Earlier in the Tour his spokesman Jacinto Vidarte told CyclingTips that this could end up being his final season. He said that nothing was decided, and it was possible that the rider will stop.
He also said that continuing his career was also an option.
Asked on Tuesday to clarify if Trek-Segafredo would continue with Contador, Guercilena confirmed that it was interested in continuing to work with him.
“Essentially Alberto has an option for the whole of 2018. We will talk about that after the Tour. If he wants to go on with us, we are happy with him. I can’t give a percentage [probability], but we would like to work together.”
Right now, though, the priority is to finish the race as well as possible. Guercilena told CyclingTips before the Tour that he hoped a lighter Critérium du Dauphiné and different approach to the Tour would enable Contador to be in his-best possible form, but he hasn’t shown that.
Crashes in the race affected his condition, but Guercilena also admitted on Tuesday that his rider was perhaps too far behind others in the buildup to the event.
He did see a possible silver cloud, though. “We need to see how things are going in the third week,” he stated. “If you come in a big Tour a bit low in condition in the first days, then you can have a big benefit in the last week.”
He hopes that the Spaniard will finally reach top form in the Alps, and land the victory he went close too on stage 13.