Double Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was one of several stars that was present at the presentation of the course for the 2014 Tour de France and the Spaniard had mixed feelings. He liked the short mountain stages but would have preferred fewer flat kilometres of time trial and a less nervous start to the race.
Alberto Contador's hopes of reclaiming the throne at this year's Tour de France were dashed by an invincible Chris Froome but the Spaniard has no intention of giving up on his hope of once again winning the world's biggest bike race. Having already made it clear that the Tour will be his major target in 2014, the Spaniard was watching today's unveiling of the route with great attention.
One of the main features of the route is that the first mountains will be tackled rather late in the race. The first 9 stages may contain a few ascents in the Vosges and will feature the feared cobbles but the first real battle between the uphill specialists will not come until the 10th stage. While Contador liked the versatility of the route, he feared that the close GC in the opening stages would make for a nervous start.
“[It is a] fairly balanced course on which it will be very important to see how everybody comes out after the
first nine flat stages, especially the 5th with the cobblestones," he said. “[The start will be] very nervous so we cannot make a balance until we have finished these first stages."
In addition to the usual mountain ranges of the Alps and the Pyrenees, next year's Tour will have stages in the Vosges. Many of the mountain stages, especially those in the Pyrenees, are rather short and such stages have been the scene of some aggressive racing in the past. Contador was one of the animators on a similarly short stage to Alpe d'Huez in 2011 when he risked everything in a big attack on the first climb.
He praised the idea of limiting the distance.
"As for the mountains, they are distributed among the three mountain ranges, but I would like to highlight the short stages because they encourage risky moves," he said.
When Contador's main rival was Andy Schleck, he was favoured by the presence of time trials. With Chris Froome now being his biggest opponent, he is at a disadvantage in the race against the clock and so would have liked fewer flat kilometres in the individual discipline than what's on offer next year. The race has only one individual time trial but at 54km, it is a long one which is mostly flat.
“It's long, very long," he said Although there is only one, I would have preferred something like this year when there were two but one of them was mountainous," he said.
Prior to the presentation, most focus had gathered around the possible inclusion of cobbles. Contador faced the rough surface in 2010 when he lost time to Schleck and was hampered by a mechanical.
While Froome has expressed concerns over their inclusion, Contador doesn't fear the famous pavés.
“Despite the risk of falls and mechanical problems, it is a very nice stage for the spectators although it is a very nervous one for us," he said. "I hope to get through it well. In 2010 I lost a few seconds due to a mechanical but the key is to be focused."
In general, Contador was pleased with the route.
“[I hope] it will be a good one me but the most important things are the legs and to arrive in the best possible form because the rest has only little influence,” he said. “It gives me motivation to know the route so that I can start to think about next season. I think the route is fairly balanced and I hope to the route to be well-suited to it."
"We're going to prepare as much as we can," he added in an interview with Eurosport. "On such a balanced course, it will be important to have a strong team around you and I will have that. We'll see what we can do."
Unsurprisingly, he expects Froome to be the man to beat.
"We have to try to win but Froome will not be easy to beat, " he said. "This year he was incredibly strong. He has become stronger and stronger and I hope that he has now peaked ."
Contador won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009 and was disqualified from his 2010 win.
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Team...|
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Youn...|
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Moun...|
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Poin...|
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Gene...|
|30.04: Tour de Romandie - General classifi...|
|29.04: Tour du Sénégal - Team classificati...|
|29.04: Tour du Sénégal - Young rider class...|
|29.04: Tour du Sénégal - Point classificat...|
|29.04: Tour du Sénégal - General classific...|
|28.04: General classification tilmelding Ø...|
|28.04: GP Himmerland Rundt|
|28.04: Rosh Haayin XCO|
|22.04 - 29.04: Tour du Sénégal|
|29.04: Tour de Yorkshire Women's Race|
|29.04: Grand Prix Lviv|
|29.04: GP Viborg|
|29.04: ZODC Zuidenveld Tour|
|29.04: Beograd - Banjaluka I|
|29.04: Øresunds Cup 1. afdeling|
41 years | today
28 years | today
22 years | today
33 years | today
29 years | today