Classic route to the pinnacle

Alberto Contador takes a different approach to the Tour de France

Classic route to the pinnacle

Alberto Contador believes competing in smaller events is ideal preparation for the biggest race of them all  — the Tour de France. AFP

The twice Tour de France champion, who also has Giro d'Italia and Tour of Spain triumphs under his belt, came close to another victory when he finished third at the recent Fleche Wallonne, a one-day race.

Contador, 27, also competed in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege last Sunday, a far cry from the glamour of the Tour de France although the world's greatest race will also go through the same region in its first week.

"The big objective is the Tour de France. So although I want to win every race if I can, I never forget about that," the Astana rider told Reuters following a morning ride to Maastricht where he stopped to enjoy a hot chocolate in the sun with his team mates.

Right preparation

Contador, whose appearance at the Fleche Wallonne was his first in a classic since 2007, is set to remain in the Ardennes where he rides the cobblestones he must tackle in the opening week of this year's Tour.

"I will stay and go there to check the roads. I might also come back later this year so I can check the prologue route in Rotterdam," said the Spaniard, the right side of his skull showing a big scar from a life-threatening bike crash six years ago. "This is going to be a tricky because of the cobblestones and all the wind."

The Astana riders arrived late at their hotel but it did not stop them joking around before going up to their rooms for a quick shower. Wearing his team uniform, a light blue polo shirt and black trousers with a 1. Leader tag on the right leg, Contador looked relaxed in the hotel lobby as he signed an autograph for a reporter's delighted son.

While Lance Armstrong focused solely on the world's greatest race during his years of domination from 1999-2005, Contador has a slightly broader approach.

"I am here to learn (about the classics)," he said. "When I start my season, during training, I'm thinking 'competition', I need to have big objectives quickly."

Contador has already won this year's Tour of Algarve, the ultra-competitive Paris-Nice race and the Tour of Castille and Leon.

However, once his job is done he is happy to chill out and relax on the beach.
"There are two sides to me," said Contador. "I need to be 100 percent focused (when I ride) but also, afterwards, to be 100 percent disconnected. I am happy to put the bike in the garage and see normal people."

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