Spaniard Alberto Contador will return to race the Giro d'Italia stage race this May. Assuming he avoids a doping suspension, he will use it prior to racing for a fourth Tour de France title.
"The Giro is my first big goal of the season," Contador told newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I looked at the stages online last week. It's very hard, incredibly hard. There is not a queen stage, there are six."
The Giro d'Italia starts on May 7 in Turin with a team time trial and ends on May 29 in Milan with an individual time trial. It includes seven mountain stages, three consecutive stages on the third weekend: Grossglockner, Zoncolan and Val di Fassa.
Contador used the Urbino time trial in 2008 to gain an advantage on his rivals, defended himself in the mountain stages and won the race overall. It was his first and only participation in the Giro d'Italia.
"It's the stage race that I enjoyed the most. Along the roads, there's passion like nowhere else. The people don't just come down to see the race pass, they understand cycling and how it works."
He's won three editions of the Tour de France: 2007, 2009 and 2010. He said that he can win both the Giro and Tour in the same year and that he plans to race the French Grand Tour this July.
"It's in my plans," he added. "If I can race it."
Contador may be forced to stop racing as he tested positive for banned drug, Clenbuterol at last year's Tour de France. The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) acquitted him on February 15, but the International Cycling Union (UCI) or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is likely to appeal the decision. If found guilty, he faces a one- to two-year ban and the loss of his third Tour title.
"I would like only that, without bias and yielding to external pressures, that they read well the entire [legal] dossier," said Contador. "Among the biological passport and anti-doping controls, they have tons of data collected throughout my career. I believe in the system, they also must demonstrate that they believe in it."
The UCI is reviewing the documents it received from the RFEC's investigation. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, there were 600 pages of evidence presented by Contador's lawyer. The UCI is expected to announce soon whether it will appeal.
Contador's programme heading towards the Giro d'Italia includes three stage races - Murcia, Catalonia and Castilla & Leon - and one-day classic, Flèche Wallonne on April 20.
Contador works on time trialling with suspension looming
Contador's lawyer explains U-turn over proposed ban
Contador: I have never cheated
Contador now cleared of clenbuterol charges
Spanish media claims Contador could avoid ban
Contador could use 'Gasquet's Kiss' theory to back case
Contador says he will fight on despite provisional ban
UCI awaits final Spanish decision in Contador case
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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