Contador currently sits sixth overall in the Tour, 4-04 minutes behind race leader Froome (Sky) after the first round of mountain stages in southwest France. The greatest grand tour rider of this generation must now forget about the overall victory and focus on the podium.
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“Of course it’s disappointing, but it is like it is,” sports director and Contador’s trainer, Steven De Jongh told Cycling Weekly.
“He can still realise the double podium – with the 2014 Vuelta a España win, the Giro and a podium in the Tour – that’s still a great result. Of course, you have to adjust your dreams a bit.”
Fans circled the bright yellow Tinkoff-Saxo bus this morning in Muret, where the mercury was already pushing over 30°C. Contador, 32 years old, came out and was one of the last riders to sign on at the start in Muret this morning. He would not speak when approached.
The feeling around the Village Départ, after the three days in the Pyrenean mountains, is that Contador does not have it in his legs to win a third Tour and to double with his Giro win in May. If he did, he would be only the eighth cyclist, the first since 1998, to win the double.
Contador fell behind the Sky-led group before Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on Tuesday when the race went up the La Pierre-Saint-Martin. Yesterday (Thursday) he attacked Froome but could not stay clear.
“We need to be realistic,” his helper Michael Rogers told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The podium is still possible, but the general classification [win] in my opinion is difficult.”
De Jongh saw Contador off the bus and ride away to the start in Muret. He said that the problem was not fatigue, but that Froome was in the race.
“Without Froome? Then we would still be in the running. Yes,” explained De Jongh.
“Froome is very strong, also the other opponents who focused on the Tour could not keep up with him.”
Froome and the other Tour favourites skipped the Giro and designed their seasons around the Tour. Contador had a relaxed June, racing only the Route du Sud, but still had to attack and defend his pink jersey in the Giro for 21 days.
“We said we would not make that an excuse,” De Jongh said. “The Giro was hard, especially after the crash [and dislocated shoulder], but if you already start complaining about that before the Tour…”
Many experts say that winning the double is nearly impossible in modern cycling with specialised and finely-tuned calendars. Pantani’s double win in 1998 was particular because seven teams left due to the Festina Affair in that year’s Tour.
Spanish journalists that know Contador well say that he will not give up easily, but try to catch Froome and his rivals off guard. His team, however, appears to accept that his double dream was just that – a dream.
Video: Pro bikes of the Tour de France – Alberto Contador