Alberto Contador is trained and ready to start his season at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal today.
The two-time Tour de France winner will face David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack).
“It’s the first race and there is always the desire to get the season going,” said Contador’s sports director, Giuseppe Martinelli. “A lot of what Alberto is able to do will depend on the weather. The course itself is hard, but not difficult enough to make big differences.”
Last year Spain’s Contador made his season debut by winning the five-day stage race. He dominated the short time trial to secure the overall victory.
This year, though, the time trial is shifted one day later, on the final day.
“If it comes down to that final day’s time trial,” continued Martinelli, “then I see RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden as the most dangerous rivals.”
“I am looking forward to it,” said Contador. “I am a rider who likes to compete and that’s what motivates me. I came with a good level, but not with that of 2009 when I won. I’m fine, but what I want is to have [some] good preparations for Paris-Nice.”
Contador is building towards next month’s Paris-Nice in France, but also to arrive at the Tour de France in July at his optimum weight, 61.5kg. After the off-season, he is currently two kilograms heavier. He said, “You can feel that.”
Scot David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) will also start his season today, supporting team-mate Christian Vande Velde. The final day’s time trial will suit the duo, so much so, Contador named Vande Velde as a race favourite. Contador previewed the final stage after he arrived yesterday with team-mate Jesús Hernández.
He considers that, besides RadioShack and Vande Velde, the overall favourites are Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step).
Jeremy Hunt will support a Cervélo TestTeam, which will likely ride for stage wins with Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd.
Sean Kelly will direct his team An Post-Sean Kelly, with leader Niko Eeckhout and Irishmen Ronan McLaughlin, Mark Cassidy and David O’Loughlin.
17/02 Estadui Algarve – Albufeira, 157.5km
18/02 Vila do Bispo – Lagos, 207.5km
19/02 Castro Marin – Alto do Malhao, 173.7km
20/02 Vila Real Santo Antonio – Tavira, 169.0km
21/02 Lagoa – Portimao TT, 17.2km