Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
June 1, 2016 – Alberto Contador believes the stage is set for him to finally add to his two Tour de France victories. The most successful rider of his generation, Contador has won seven Grand Tours — and been stripped of two more after failing a doping test — but his last official success in the Tour was in 2009.
Since then he’s been forced to watch on as British Sky riders have dominated with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome winning three of the last four editions.
Contador won the Tour in 2010 but was stripped of it for doping. He missed the 2012 race due to his ban, crashed out on the 10th stage in 2014 and paid for his Giro d’Italia efforts in both 2011 and last year.
Yet even in 2013, when not hampered by any such external circumstances, he failed to impress and faded to fourth. Yet in the meantime, he has won the Vuelta a Espana twice (2012 and 2014), beating Froome in both, and triumphed at the Giro d’Italia last year.
Even at 33, he remains one of the best climbers and three-week stage racers in the world. And Contador himself believes this season he can push Froome all the way. “I have the conditions to fight for the victory. It’s a good Tour for me,” said Contador of the mountainous route this year’s Grand Boucle will take.
“I’ve been here many years, I’ve prepared this race many times.” However, there remains a question mark over his ability to win the greatest race of them all. On the one hand, he is in good form having won the Tour of the Basque Country for the fourth time this year, finished second at both Paris-Nice (to Froome’s Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas) and the Volta a Catalunya (to Nairo Quintana).
But he was less impressive in June’s Criterium du Dauphine, despite winning the opening uphill time-trial. He then fell away and finished fifth. “It was a difficult race where I lacked speed, but since then I’ve had almost three weeks to recover,” said ‘El Pistolero’ (the pistol).
But what cannot be questioned is Contador’s desire and motivation. He may be more decorated than any of his rivals, but he hasn’t finished yet, despite previous talk that he is close to retirement. The Tinkoff rider keeps putting that back. “I’ve decided, no. I’m going to continue,” he said when asked about calling it a day. He may be leaving Tinkoff at the end of the year but he plans on continuing to compete “probably for two more years”.
This year’s Tour route suits him while the decision to skip the Giro, which he’s won twice, has proved wise. “I feel better, fresher (than last year), more confident.” Contador will continue to attack and ride in his all or nothing style. Including those where his results have been annulled, Contador has finished first at the end of nine of his 14 Grand Tours.
But he has never come second or even third. A podium finish holds no interest for Contador, it’s about winning and when he can’t win, he’s prepared to take suicidal risks to try to break his opponents. “I have a way of racing which is difficult to change,” he said.
“What’s different this year is that it’s Sky’s responsibility to make the race.” As for his two main rivals, Contador sees Froome as having a slight edge “because he’s already won (the Tour) and he’s got a strong team. “Nairo is almost his equal but due to his team, Froome is a slight favourite.” Whoever comes out on top, Contador expects the race to go down to the wire. “The last week will be the most important. It will be open right up to the Queen stage 20. It’s the ability to recover (from tough stages) that will be decisive.”