Ivan Basso says he believes his former Tinkoff teammate Alberto Contador would have been able to challenge Chris Froome for the Tour de France title this year if it wasn't for his crash on the opening stage.
Contador hit the ground hard on the first stage from Mont Saint-Michel to Utah Beach, and never looked on top form as he lost time in the next few stages and was put in particular difficulty on stage five climbs to Le Lioran.
Coupled with a reported illness, the crash injuries saw the Spaniard finally call it quits after putting in one last attack in the Pyrenees.
But Basso, who now works as a technical coordinator at the Tinkoff team, believes the form the two-time winner showed prior to the Tour would put him in the mix to challenge the dominance of Froome.
“I’m sad to not see Alberto in this game," Basso told Cycling Weekly. "I saw how Alberto prepared for this Tour and I am 100 per cent sure without this bad crash he had he can really be on the game to win this Tour de France.
"We had to ride in a different way in the first week because Alberto didn’t feel OK – he crashed on the first day on the second stage so we had to ride in defence not how we wanted to ride."
Watch: Tour de France preview: The final week
Roman Kreuziger has since lead the Russian team through the Tour, although there was a clash between him Contador after stage five when Kreuziger failed to slow down and help his stricken leader.
Since then the race has been dominated by Froome and his Team Sky squad, with his closest rival Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) 1-47 down in second place and very few attacks from the contenders further down the classification on stage 15's mountainous parcours.
But two-time Giro d'Italia winner Basso believes Tinkoff were never able to gain the kind of control Sky had, with Contador's injuries putting them on the back-foot from day one.
"When you see a strong rival, I’m a sport man so it’s nice when you see good action, a good [team] effort – I want to look at this also from a sport [perspective] not only from a manager of the team. Looking from this side, Sky ride fantastic.
"But also I know we can’t ride like we want because Alberto had a problem. I spent all the six months before the Tour with him and what I saw in this Tour, Alberto had the form to be in the fight to win the Tour de France."
Contador has already confirmed that he won't be appearing in the Olympic Games road race in August because of his injuries, with an eye on returning for a shot at a fourth Vuelta a España title at the end of that month.
The 33-year-old is set to join Trek-Segafredo next year after initially considering retirement.
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