“Being here now is great news. Had been told I’d be here three weeks ago, I would’ve not believed it,” Contador told Spain’s Marca newspaper in southern Spain for the start in Jerez de la Frontera. “I’m excited, but I’m not at my best.”
The Spaniard appeared at his best when he was at the Tour de France in July. Though losing time in the cobbled stage to Arenberg, he appeared the best candidate to upset eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). A fall in the 10th stage on July 14, however, ruined his chance.
Contador crashed going around 76.8kph on the wet roads leading to La Planche des Belles Filles. The 2007 and 2009 winner climbed back on his bike but the pain forced him to abandon nearly 20 kilometres later.
The good news was that his right tibia did not require surgery when he returned home to Madrid. He was able to heal faster and return in time for his first race, the Vuelta a España.
“The fracture is a good fracture,” team manager, Bjarne Riis told Cycling Weekly last month. “It’s in the middle the tibia top and that’s not where the pressure is, if it was on the side it’d be more complicated. That’s also why they don’t want to operate on him.”
Contador was able to train in Spain and at his home in Lugano, Switzerland, but he said that it might not be enough to repeat his Vuelta 2008 and 2012 wins. He faces Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Chris Froome (Sky), who is also coming back from a fractured hand and wrist.
“If my legs work, I’ll keep going,” Contador said. “With this great list of participants do not think I can fight for the win, but I’ll give it all.”
The 2014 Vuelta, running August 23 to September 14, features eight summit finishes and three time trials. It kicks off with a 12.6-kilometre team time trial in Jerez de la Frontera.
“With Alberto we have the chance to compete on a high level in the high mountain stage finishes and on the medium mountain stages,” said sports director, Philippe Mauduit. “I’m not sure of it’s plausible to aim for the overall win after only a few weeks of hard training in the mountains, but we’ll [show off our team jersey] in the race and you will notice us.”
Defending champion Chris Horner withdrawn by Lampre-Merida team after cortisone treatment for bronchitis
Spanish star Alberto Contador has recovered sufficiently from Tour de France knee injury to start the Vuelta a Espana