Alberto Contador may have picked out Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali as his two favourites for the Vuelta a España, but the three-time Vuelta champion also insisted he will be racing with his focus very much on victory in what is set to be the final event of his career.
“As far as the favourites go, you have to start by looking at Vincenzo Nibali, who rode the Giro and has had time to prepare for the Tour,” the Trek-Segafredo leader said in his eve-of-Vuelta press conference in Nîmes.
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“But the big favourite for me is Chris Froome. He’s very strong, the time trial will suit him and he has a very strong team. Most of them could be leaders in other teams. We’ll have to see how Aru, Bardet, Yates and the others who did the Tour have recovered.”
Contador affirmed, though, that he hasn’t come to the Vuelta simply to do a final lap of honour before retiring.
“I’ve come to this Vuelta determined to enjoy myself, but I always give the maximum in competition. I will be professional to the very last day of racing,” he stated.
“This Vuelta is special and I want to enjoy it to the max. I’m fortunate to have this opportunity to say goodbye. I’ve come here with the idea of fighting for victory, but I’ll have to see how my legs are and how my rivals are going as well.”
This is the first time in his career that Contador has ridden the Vuelta on the back of finishing the Tour de France, and he admitted he’s unsure what his form will be like.
“My preparation has been quite different coming into this Vuelta. I’ve tried to rest as much as possible at home in Madrid. I’ve done a few good training rides and I’ve recovered well, but there are some questions over my condition,” he said.
Watch: Vuelta a España 2017 essential guide
Speaking about his decision to retire at the end of the Vuelta, Contador revealed he had been 70 per cent sure about taking this step before he started the Tour. Events there cemented the decision.
“I’d been talking with Trek about a deal to run through to the 2018 Giro d’Italia, but I was not really sure that I wanted to continue that far. The most important thing going into the Tour was to arrive at the start in the best possible condition and I managed to do that,” he said.
“My condition, the numbers from training were as good as they had been in 2014, and my weight was better than it had been throughout my career. But stage nine proved the key moment.
“The crashes and setbacks I had on that stage into Chambéry made me realise it was time to stop. I also wanted to give the team time to think about its future.’
The Spaniard confirmed he’s happy with the decision and nothing will now change his mind, not even a fourth victory in Madrid.
“There is no better place than this for me to finish my career, with the support of this team behind me and with all of the fans on the road to Madrid,” he concluded.