Spaniard Alberto Contador is on track to take a third Tour de France win next month, adding to his wins in 2007 and last year. He needs to be cautious, explained his sports director, Giuseppe Martinelli, because rivals like Bradley Wiggins are waiting to attack.
"The Wiggins we saw at the Giro d'Italia won't be the same rider we see at the Tour de France. He will arrive at the Tour de France at 100 per cent, plus he has a super team at his disposal," Italian Martinelli told Cycling Weekly, "Even if the level is high at the Tour, I see him amongst the strongest."
Team Sky's Wiggins is coming off a successful Giro d'Italia, where he won the opening time trial stage and wore the leader's jersey for one day. He training in Spain and visiting some of the Tour de France stages this month to be ready to top his fourth place of last year.
The Tour de France starts in just over two weeks in Rotterdam with an 8.9-kilometre time trial prologue. Martinelli sees Contador ready for the challenge, he just finished the Critérium du Dauphiné second overall and won two stages: the prologue time trial and the mountain stage to Alpe d'Huez.
"He wanted to have a good prologue and he did it. It his first race since Liège-Bastogne-Liège, almost two months, but he shows up and immediately wins the time trial. It was short, but demanding and Alberto faced guys like David Millar, Brajkovic," continued Martinelli.
"I wanted him to put in a good effort and test himself on Alpe d'Huez, but then he goes on to win it. It was really more than we imagined. It means he trained well and is psychologically ready for the Tour de France."
Only Slovenian Janez Brajkovic went better. He won the overall by 1'41" and likely earned himself a spot alongside RadioShack team-mate Lance Armstrong for the Tour de France.
Brajkovic gained the overall lead when he won the 49-kilometre time trial by 26 seconds over Millar (Garmin-Transitions) and 1'46" over Contador in sixth.
"Alberto knew right away it was not a super day," said Martinelli, "and so he tried to just limit the damages."
Contador won three stage races this spring, including his first race of the year at Volta ao Algarve in February. Wiggins, Armstrong and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), in comparison, had a slower spring. Martinelli, though, argues that Contador is a different style of rider who wins by default.
"Alberto is stronger than everyone on the climbs or at least doesn't lose ground, and in the time trials he goes stronger than everyone - it's hard for him to lose a race. It's a hard life for his rivals, but it is good for Alberto. To win Grand Tours, you need to go strong in the time trials and not lose ground in the mountains. This is why he winning so many stage races."
The next race on Contador's list, the Tour de France. Martinelli and team manager, Yvon Sanquer will select this week the eight men who will support Contador. In the eight selected should be Contador's Dauphiné team-mates - Benjamin Noval, Paolo Tiralongo, Daniel Navarro, David De La Fuentes and Jesús Hernández - plus Alexandre Vinokourov.
Contador will not defend his national time trial title next weekend; instead, he will train near his home in Pinto.
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index - stage guide, maps, profiles and more
Bradley Wiggins: Rider Profile
Alberto Contador: Rider Profile
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