Alberto Contador will attempt to gain time on GC rivals during this weekend's Vuelta a España climbing stages, say riders and team staff
The Spaniard sits low on the classification standings but shows improving form, which viewers saw in the last two mountain days.
“If he feels good, for sure he will make war,” LottoNL-Jumbo Sports Director Addy Engels told Cycling Weekly.
“It’s possible that we have two days in a row with the same scenario with a big break fighting for the win and behind a fight for the GC. Based on what we saw few days ago from Contador, especially with the rest day coming up, he will try to use these stage finishes to send a message.”
Contador sits 24th overall at 3-10 minutes behind Chris Froome (Sky) in the red jersey. The eighth stage ends on Saturday to Xorret de Catí ends with ramps over 18 per cent and a sharp and technical three-kilometre descent. Sunday is more straightforward with the four-kilometre summit finish to Cumbre del Sol.
“It will be more or less the same riders that we had the last couple of days,” Sky’s sports director, Nicolas Portal explained. “As you saw with in Andorra a few days ago, a few people have the punch and the pure climber does not, they can follow and maybe just lose 5 to 10 seconds. In general, these suit a climber who has a punch. Guys like Contador who has that kick, or even Froomey.
“Today the finish is downhill, so in general, when you’re in your limits and you see the best guys moving now you say, ‘OK I have maybe 40 seconds to push and even if I’m in the red zone, I can recover.’ The next day is clearly different, the guys are already on their limit already with one or one and a half kilometres to race you are not going to recover and so you need to pace yourself.”
“I think Contador will try in both of the days,” Froome’s helper, Mikel Nieve added. “The other guys in the GC Steven Kruijswijk, David De La Cruz, and the other guys in the top 10 will try to do something.
“It’s mostly Contador who needs to attack because he lost much time in Andorra and he has to try every day. They are not long climbs but explosive and that’s pretty good for Contador. Maybe in the second week it’s better for Nibali and other riders. Nibali is our biggest opponent.”
“It’s hard to say but Esteban Chaves looks really good,” Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) said. “He is kind of fresh after what has been a hard season for him. I expect him to be good especially on the steep climbs. And then of course, Sky will be good.”
Chaves sits second overall at 11 behind Froome, moving up after Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) crashed.
Contador, 34, is racing his last race. After a disappointing season, he announced he would retire earlier than planned with the Vuelta, a race he won three times already.
“They all said Contador? He has time to make up in the GC. That’s for sure,” Trek-Segafredo sports director, Steven De Jongh said.
“They say his name because he hurt them a lot in the last two occasions so that’s why his name is popping up. It’s not up to us to control the race, but we are here to do the GC.”