x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Contador 'needs a good day'

The Saxo Bank manager wants the Tour de France defending champion to improve.

LOURDES, France // Bjarne Riis, the Saxo Bank team's manager, concedes that Alberto Contador must have at least one good day in the mountains soon if he is to have any chance of defending his Tour de France crown.

Contador came into the race with high hopes of becoming only the second rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to achieve the Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double, having won the Italian race in May.

However, since the start of his campaign, Spain's three-time champion has encountered misfortune on nearly every stage.

The climbing specialist lost over a minute to his rivals due to a spill on the opening stage and then proceeded to hit the deck three more times in a crash-marred first week of racing.

During those crashes he has picked up a knee injury.

On the first day in the high mountains on Thursday, Contador's knee lasted the pace, but the Spaniard lost 33 seconds to Frank Schleck and 13 to two other yellow-jersey rivals, Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans.

Going into today's 14th stage, when the peloton rides to a second high mountaintop finish at Plateau de Beille, Contador is four minutes behind the leader, Thomas Vockler of Europcar.

Crucially, he is 2:11 behind Frank Schleck, 1:54 behind Evans and 1:43 behind Andy Schleck.

With yesterday's stage finishing downhill in Lourdes, the 168.5km stage from Saint-Gaudens to Beille today is expected to host another attacking frenzy from the Schleck brothers.

Riis admits much could depend on the state of Contador's knee, but he said the Spaniard can afford to lose a little more time before the panic starts to set in.

"If Alberto had a bad day [Thursday], when the good day comes then I believe that the whole Tour can change again, and he can suddenly be in the game," Riis said before yesterday's stage.

"But he needs a good day."

Riis denied that Contador's bid for a sixth consecutive victory in a Grand Tour would be over if he was again left trailing today.

He would "still be in the game", Riis said.