Contador’s participation in the 2011 Tour has been surrounded in controversy after he tested positive for banned performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol during the final rest day of last year’s Tour de France, which the Spaniard won overall.
Contador blamed the positive test on a tainted steak brought by a friend from Spain to France. He has consistently maintained that he has never knowingly taken any banned substance.
The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) acquitted Contador in February and left him free to return to racing. He won the Giro d’Italia in May.
However, both the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lodged appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against RFEC’s decision to clear Contador.
The appeal was due to be heard before the Tour, but was postponed by CAS until after the race to allow ‘all parties’ sufficient time to prepare for the hearing.
Although Contador failed an anti-doping test and is awaiting a hearing with CAS he is free to ride as he was cleared by his home cycling federation.
If CAS impose a back-dated suspension on Contador he risks losing his 2011 Giro title and any results from the 2010 and 2011 Tour de France. It is this point that many fans find hard to ignore. The result of any race Contador takes part it may well be decided in courtroom rather than on the road.
In a poll on the Cycling Weekly website last week, 64 per cent of respondents thought that Contador should not be allowed to ride the Tour.
Contador is joined by Jesus Hernandez (Spain), Dani Navarro (Spain), Benjamin Noval (Spain), Richie Porte (Australia), Chris Anker Sørensen (Denmark), Nicki Sørensen (Denmark), Matteo Tosatto (Italy) and Brian Vandborg (Denmark).
“We’ve obviously tried to pick the team that fits the best to our overall strategy,” said Saxo Bank-Sungard team manager Bjarne Riis.
“It is no secret that we are in the race to win it, so our job have been to identify the rider group, that will be able to give Alberto the best possible support through the three weeks.
“We have come up with a team that can both protect and be aggressive and defend, and we are strong both on the flat roads and in the mountains. I think it’s an exceptionally strong team.”
“It’s never an easy job to tell people, they didn’t make the team. Some of the riders, we turned down, really deserved a spot on the team.”
Contador starts the 2011 Tour de France as clear favourite for the overall win. He transferred from Astana to Saxo Bank-Sungard at the end of the 2010 season.
The 2011 Tour de France starts on Saturday, July 2, and concludes in Paris on Sunday, July 24.