DUBAI // Alberto Contador believes Chris Froome, the British rider who was his conqueror at the Tour of Oman yesterday, is his biggest rival to win this year’s Tour de France.
The Spanish rider will be pursuing a third title in the race this summer, but he acknowledges his greatest threat will come from Team Sky.
Bradley Wiggins, the defending Tour champion, has intimated he is likely to be superseded by Froome as Team Sky’s leader this time around.
And Contador, the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider, feels that makes the Kenyan-born Briton the leading candidate out of a group of riders who could win the Tour.
“I think that for the next Tour de France there are maybe five or six riders who will be fighting for the victory,” Contador said.
“If I can pick one name it would be Christopher Froome. I think this guy is very strong on the climbs and also time trials.
“But there are others, too, like [Cadel] Evans and Wiggins. There are many guys who have an opportunity for the victory.”
Bjarne Riis, the 1996 Tour winner who is now the owner of Contador’s Saxo Bank team, says Froome’s Team Sky are setting a tough standard for the chasing pack to follow.
“Team Sky have done a great job,” Riis said. “They have been really professional. It has been important that the money has been there.
“To do the project they are doing takes a lot of money. I have always tried to build a professional organisation with my team, but they have been able to take that further.”
SAXO CHIEF: SPORT IS MOVING ON
Cycling deserves credit for the attempts it has made to combat doping, according to the chief executive of Saxo Bank, the sponsors of Alberto Contador’s team.
The Danish investment bank has continued to support the sport despite the overwhelmingly adverse publicity it has suffered in recent years.
Cycling’s credibility has been tarnished by a string of doping controversies, from the Festina Affair to the Lance Armstrong scandal and Operation Puerta.
Contador rejoined the Saxo-Tinkoff team after his own doping suspension concluded last August.
He was stripped of the 2010 Tour de France title after testing positive for clenbuterol.
Yet Lars Seier Christensen, the founder and chief executive of Saxo Bank, says the sport has moved on from the days of systematic drug cheating.
“This team has been groundbreaking in terms of introducing anti-doping programmes and that is very important for us,” Christensen said.
“Sadly this discussion is about things that are many years back in time. I feel for the current generation of riders that they constantly have to face issues that were [caused] for a large extent by a different generation of riders.
“I think we need to credit cycling for being one of the sports in the world that has absolutely done the most to wipe out doping in the past five years. We are very comfortable with that and we think it is going to be an ever smaller problem in the future.”
The Saxo-Tinkoff team bankrolled by Christensen’s company is run by Bjarne Riis, the Danish former rider who won the 1996 Tour de France but later admitted to doping.
“Cycling will do what it takes [to rectify its problems],” Riis said yesterday. “If the sanctions need to be tougher, they will be tougher.”
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