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"This year I would highlight, if we analyze it in detail, that it is different from the others in the sense it doesn't have mountain finishes that are very, very hard."

Photo: Sirotti




01.05.2015 @ 01:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alberto Contador will wrap up his preparation for the Giro d'Italia in the V Marcha Alberto Contador, to be held on Saturday in Plasencia, Spain. After spending three weeks at the high-altitude training camp on Teide in the Canary Islands, the leader of Tinkoff-Saxo is ready to tackle the first part of his daunting challenge of the season, which is to try winning the Giro-Tour double.
With one week left until the start of the season's first Grand Tour, his team caught up with our team leader to talk about his form, his thoughts on this year's race course, his rivals and the strong squad that will support him.
Tinkoff-Saxo will officially unveil its lineup for the 2015 edition of the Giro d'Italia on Monday, May 4th.
How are you feeling a week before the start of the Giro?
Today, I'm in a moment of recovery and assimilation, because I carried out a huge block of work during the last three weeks on Teide, with even more meters of elevation gain than I will have in the Giro. I have confidence in the work done and I will be in optimal condition.
How was the training camp on Teide?
It was a very good training camp with a great working environment among all teammates. We had grueling training sessions, with more than 5,000 meters of elevation gain and over 200 kilometers, covering all levels of intensity. At the same time, we had there the calm and tranquility needed to dedicate ourselves solely to training and resting. We also tightened the screw even further in terms of nutrition, because it gets more difficult every year to reach the optimal weight and we have to make incredible sacrifices in order to be in the best condition.

Did your plans play out as expected in the first part of this season?
Yes, more or less, regardless of the results, with days, where I was in front and others, where I wasn't. However, my fitness level was the one I had planned this year, one or two points below that of other seasons, always thinking I would do the Giro and the Tour. I knew that the first races of the year, in addition to competing for them as always, would serve to build a solid training base and achieve the rhythm that you cannot get solely by training.
Are you heading into the Giro the way you wanted? Are you in top form or do you still have some road ahead?
I come in a pretty good shape and I'm happy with that. It is true that we must wait and see the race and I'm not at the same level I had at the beginning of the Tour last year but slightly lower. Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind that if I were at the same level it would be difficult to keep in good shape until the Tour. In any case, we must wait for the race to see how I am in comparison to my rivals.
You raced in the Giro twice. How would you compare this year's parcours to the other two?
This year I would highlight, if we analyze it in detail, that it is different from the others in the sense it doesn't have mountain finishes that are very, very hard. They are rather smooth climbs, with gradients of 5%, 6% or 7% at most. Such are the finishes of the fifth stage (Abetone), eighth (Campitello Matese), fifteenth (Madonna di Campiglio) and nineteenth stage (Cervinia). Perhaps the most demanding mountains this year are on the stages where the finish is after the descent or when there is still another mountain pass to climb, as is the case of Finestre, the day we finish in Sestriere, or the Mortirolo with the finish in Aprica. I think that until the long time trial on the 14th stage, the differences will basically come from the bonuses on the mountain finishes, because they are not very hard, open, and if it is windy, they will favor a bunch finish between the favorites.
What would you highlight in this parcours? Is it a Giro that you like?
I would probably single out the final week, in which the hardest mountain passes, with steep climbs, can provide a very nice show, with possible attacks from afar. This year, however, I miss a final on summits such as Marmolada or Zoncolan.
What is the hardest stage?
It will surely be the Mortirolo stage, with successive climbs on Campo Carlo Magno, Tonale, Aprica, Mortirolo and then Aprica again to the finish. It will not be only due to these climbs, but also the stage's place in the race as a whole, five days before the end.
What do you think of the 60-kilometer time trial? What can happen there?
I went to see it after the Volta a Catalunya, taking advantage of the fact that it isn't too far from my home in Lugano. It is a flatter course than I thought. The final rolling hills can be done even in time trial position. I would have liked the hills to be tougher, which is where I really can make a difference, but I don't dislike them either. In this training camp we carried out efforts over an hour simulating that stage and I have confidence in my possibilities.

Who are your rivals in this Giro? Who are the most dangerous?
The strongest opponents are those that come up in all the bets. One has to point out the great season of Richie Porte, who has proved very strong from the outset. He will be a tough opponent to beat, like Rigoberto Uran, who already knows what it is like to be close to winning a Giro, especially this year, with a parcours that suits him better than the one in 2014, in which he was second, with that long time trial. Also noteworthy is Fabio Aru, who has already finished third in the Giro and fifth in the Vuelta. If he shows just some slight improvement, he will be fighting for victory. Nevertheless, we also need to keep in mind that in the Giro, there will always be riders, who surprise. Among the three Grand Tours, the Giro is the most open, due to the performance of riders that weren't considered favorites at the start. In any case, it will be very difficult to win this race and it will require my maximum effort.
How do you assess the Tinkoff-Saxo squad for the Giro? Are you happy with the team that will support you?
I am very, very happy with the teammates I will have in the Giro. They are all highly motivated and everyone has given their outmost to earn a place in this team. The basic pillars in the mountains will be Ivan Basso, Roman Kreuziger and Michael Rogers. Just by mentioning their names we can get an idea of their quality and the huge experience they have. I have the maximum confidence in them.
Before traveling to Italy, you will ride the V Marcha Alberto Contador. What does this event mean to you? Will it be a good final set-up?
It will be a really important day for me. We always go fast in that ride and this year it takes place in a perfect time to do a good job. It also makes me especially excited because this year it takes place in Extremadura, the land of my parents and all my family. It will be a very special moment to enjoy with all the fans that I will find there. In addition, the course is demanding and will be a good setup in order to get speed into the legs before packing up and traveling to Sanremo.



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