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.
Richard began working with Cycling Weekly in 2013 alongside the then web editor, Nigel Wynn. Taking over as digital editor or Cycling Weekly and mbr in 2014, Richard coordinates site content and strategy with the team.
DT Swiss GR1600 Spline gravel wheelset review
Reliable, robust, and respectably zippy – they’d not be out of place bought as an upgrade or a workhorse.
By Stefan Abram •
Egan Bernal and Adam Yates lead super-strong Ineos Grenadiers team for Clásica San Sebastián 2021
The Giro d'Italia winner returns to racing for the first time since taking pink in spring
By Tim Bonville-Ginn •
Alberto Contador says he can't see Julian Alaphilippe winning the Tour de France
The two-time Tour champion maintains that Egan Bernal will win the French Grand Tour
By Jonny Long •
Alberto Contador says Egan Bernal is ‘clear favourite’ for the Tour de France
The multiple Grand Tour winner says the 2019 Tour will be the most open edition in years
By Jonny Long •
Alberto Contador took the KOM on the last climb of stage 17, and only three Tour de France riders went faster on Strava
Alberto Contador took the chance to test himself against the current pros on the Col de Portet, setting a time on Strava that only three were able to beat.
By Henry Robertshaw •
Alberto Contador backing Chris Froome to hold on for overall Tour de France victory
Two-time winner Alberto Contador things Froome will do enough in the final mountain stage and the time trial to win a fourth Tour title
By Vern Pitt •
Five talking points from stage 17 of the Tour de France
Roglic takes it in style, Kittel breaks, Contador gives it one last throw of the dice and more talking points from stage 17 of the Tour de France
By Craig Cunningham •
Alberto Contador uncertain about Tour de France return in 2018
Two-time winner of the Tour de France Alberto Contador has suffered through the 2017 edition with a stage win his best hope of success in the final week
By Gregor Brown •
Alberto Contador looks for positives in 'better than expected' Tour de France stage 12
Alberto Contador described stage 12 of the Tour de France to the Peyragudes summit finish as "better than expected" after four crashes in previous days.
By Gregor Brown •
Chris Froome prepared for long-range attack from Alberto Contador in Tour de France
Although Alberto Contador has lost time to rivals so far in the 2017 Tour de France, Chris Froome says you can never count him out
By Gregor Brown •