Alberto Contador’s attacks have had a limited effect at the Tour de France this year. He faces one of the last major mountain stages tomorrow in the Alps nearly two minutes down on favourite Cadel Evans.
“If he wants to win the Tour,” said Saxo Bank general manager, Bjarne Riis, “he needs to attack. He needs to attack everybody.”
Riis’s team leader, Contador lost time on the opening day to Les Herbiers when he was caught behind a crash. The next day, he lost more time to some of his rivals in the team time trial.
Three separate crashes caused him a knee problem in the following days. He was unable to launch his trademark attacks in the first round of high mountains last week in the Pyrenees. As a result, he’s scrambled to gain time in the medium-mountain stages ahead of the second round of high mountains in the Alps.
Riis explained that Contador hadn’t wasted energy attacking on the stage to Pinerolo today or to Gap yesterday.
“The others have to follow him,” said Riis, “and spend energy too.”
Yesterday, Contador gained 18 seconds on Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek), 51 seconds on Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) and 1-06 minutes on Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek). He tried again today, but was unable to get free on the climb. He worked his way free on the descent, but was chased down by his rivals before the finish in Pinerolo.
Current race leader, Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) lost 27 seconds time today. He’s likely to lose the overall lead tomorrow and is not considered an overall contender.
Contador’s attacks indicated that his right knee may be improving. He had complained about it on the first rest day, but after the second reset day on Monday, he came out firing.
“It’s not a problem, he’s ready,” Riis continued. “It’s not time to complain, it’s time to attack and go for the top.”
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) sits on top of the list of Tour contenders. He’s four seconds ahead of Fränk Schleck and within one to two minutes of his other rivals.
Contador trails by 1-57 minutes. He won the race only by 39 seconds over Andy Schleck last year. The result is still in doubt as Contador failed a doping test during the race. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will hear his case after the Tour ends, from August 1 to 3.
“I’ve got a good advantage over Alberto now, but Alberto has shown in years gone by what he can do when he is at his top,” Evans said. “So, the more time the better.”
If Contador fails to shake off Evans in the next two mountain stages, he looks unlikely to win his fourth Tour de France. Evans is the best time trial rider of the overall contenders and should excel in the 42.5-kilometre time trial on Saturday in Grenoble.
Tomorrow, the race covers the Agnel, the Izoard and the mountain-top finish to Galibier.
The Tour’s contenders
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) 4″
Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) 1’18”
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 1’41”
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) 1’57”
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) 2’04”
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index