Defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) admitted to being concerned by his injured knee and a lack of freshness.
He injured it in Sunday’s ninth stage between Issoire and Saint-Flour after getting tangled with Vladimir Karpets (Katusha).
“I have pain in it. Fortunately that fall with Karpets wasn’t a big one, but I fell on the same knee affected by the first crash,” he told journalists at an afternoon press conference in his hotel in Murat.
Contador trained a little this morning, but rivals have noticed too: Cadel Evans remarked on the Spaniard riding with a “limp” following the initial crashes.
“I’m a little bit worried because the Tour is a very demanding race, and because my pace and cadence is very high,” Contador said. “It’s not the same because there’s pain in it. I’ll have to wait till the Pyrenees or maybe tomorrow to test it.”
A different Tour to recent years
It’s been a difficult opening nine days for Contador, who has crashed four times and lost 1-20 on the opening day – and that’s without considering August’s CAS hearing for his clenbuterol positive, which could yet take away his Tour win from last year.
“This Tour is probably a bit different to others; it reminds me a lot of my first in 2005. There are circumstances you can’t control: sometimes you have no problems, other times not,” he said.
Saxo Bank-Sungard team manager Bjarne Riis added: “I think it’s a little frustrating for him – he isn’t used to crashing, and he’s had four this first week.”
“Everyone knows he has a little problem with his knee, but it’s not the worst. We had a talk, we’re still here to win the Tour with Alberto.”
Contador also mentioned the Giro d’Italia as contributing to tiredness: “For sure you notice it, because I’m not as fresh as usual. But that’s not an excuse for me.”
The finger was also pointed at the rawer riders in the bunch. “There’s a lot of young riders this year. Everyone should have experience at the Tour, but you can’t have experience from all the riders.”
No closer to making up the arrears from the first day crash, Contador knows what he and his biggest rivals must do. “I have to attack if I want to win the Tour. Evans is well placed, he’s very strong; the Schleck brothers will have to attack to get time before the [Grenoble] time-trial, as well as Basso,” he said.