By Gregor Brown
Alberto Contador, in an interview with France's L'Equipe newspaper, denied rumours that he will join Fernando Alonso's team next year and confirmed he will respect his contract with Saxo-Tinkoff.
"I have a contract that I respect," he told L'Equipe at the GP de Fourmies on Sunday. He added that his relationship team owner, Bjarne Riis is "excellent."
After the Tour de France, where Contador placed fourth, their relationship reportedly deteriorated. Riis urged a reluctant Contador to race the Vuelta a España. After a difficult Tour, however, Contador wanted to back off and return to focus on the World Championships.
F1 pilot and Spain's star, Alonso announced last week he is taking over Euskaltel team for 2014. Since the two are friends and they had already tried to form a team in 2009, rumours began circulating that Contador would end his contract two years early. Contador shot down that idea.
"My team was incredibly supportive of me in the Tour de France and I have a contract to respect," Contador continued. "Of course, I'm keeping an eye on how things will evolve [with Alonso]. It is a wonderful opportunity to see a sponsor come in with a reasonable budget to create one of the best teams in the world."
Contador is rumoured to be the highest paid cyclist. Riis reportedly signed him for €4.5m a year in 2010, just before news broke that Contador failed a doping test in that year's Tour de France. The Dane could stand to free up funds with co-sponsor Tinkoff Bank departing at year-end. Russian businessman, Oleg Tinkov reportedly contributed €7m that helped the team bring in Michael Rogers, Nicolas Roche and others.
Riis said while visiting the Vuelta a España that he is looking for a new sponsor and trying to keep his current riders on board for 2014. He added that it was best to let Contador race where he wishes. Skipping the Vuelta a España, Contador planned a different race programme: GP Plouay, Paris-Brussels, GP Fourmies, GP Quebec, GP Montreal, Worlds, Milan-Turin and Tour of Lombardy.
"My team never orders me to go race here or there, I'm free. It's not fair to suggest otherwise. Plus, it's important that those riders that sacrificed themselves for me in the Tour [Roche and Roman Kreuziger] have their own chances in the Vuelta," added Contador.
"My goal is the Worlds [September 29], and after that Lombardy [October 6]. It's true that the Vuelta usually proves to be the best route to the Worlds but it's possible to be in form without it. This programme is unusual for me, with only one-day races, but the idea is to go over for the weekend in Canada [Quebec and Montreal] and to have my highest level two weeks later in Florence."
Alonso's idea is to keep team Euskaltel largely the same for 2014, with Samuel Sánchez the star rider and Kiko García becoming manager. In 2015, he said that there is room for change. And in 2016, who knows, maybe Spain's top stars will unite.
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