Although he said in July that he would not be able to ride the Vuelta a España due to the fracture he suffered in the Tour de France, Alberto Contador has confirmed Thursday that he will in fact be in the Spanish Grand Tour.
The Tinkoff Saxo rider states that his recent training is going well and that he will be at the start in Jerez de la Frontera. However he plays down any thoughts of going for the overall classification, saying that a stage victory is his target.
“I’m riding the bicycle for ten days and yesterday was the first day I could climb a mountain pass without knee pain,” he said, speaking from his base in Lugano.
“It excites me, motivates me and has led me to make the decision to ride the Vuelta a España. I know it will be a Vuelta that I’ll have to do in a very different way than I had imagined earlier on in the season and during the first part of the Tour. But I think it’s the right decision considering the end of season and the start of next season”.
Contador suffered a fractured tibia exactly one month ago when he hit the deck between the first category climbs of the Petit Ballon and the Col du Platzerwasel on the Tour’s tenth stage. On July 23 he said via Twitter that his recovery wasn’t going well. “Bad day, the wound healing gets complicated, I’ve no date to take the bike. Goodbye to the Vuelta.”
Team manager Bjarne Riis sought to downplay this, telling media it was still too soon to say that Contador wouldn’t do the Spanish Grand Tour.
However Contador’s spokesman Jacinto Vidarte subsequently said that the rider had no interest in riding for riding’s sake. “The injury is not really good,” he told CyclingTips at the Tour de France. “The most important [factor] is that he doesn’t know how much time he will need to recover properly and, especially, to start riding the bike again. He has no time to take the start in a good condition, to fight for the victory.
“He doesn’t want to be at the Vuelta just to be there.”
Last week Gran Fondo New York CEO Ulrich Fluhme told CyclingTips that he saw Contador training near Lugano on July 28th and July 30th. He said that he saw the rider tackling climbs at that point, which may suggest that his condition is more advanced than today’s announcement states.
If so, Contador and the team have been downplaying his form, perhaps to take pressure off the rider. On August 1st, four days after Fluhme said he saw the rider training on climbs near Lugano, Contador indicated he was only then able to start pedalling. “Hello all, I’m going on with recuperation, I can already flex the knee and am starting to take contact with the bike!!!”
More details have emerged about the measures taken to help the rider’s recovery. He worked with the team’s physiotherapists plus technicians from Indiba and Compex, who use devices to speed recovery. He also worked with doctors from the CEMTRO clinic in Madrid. The latter decided that surgery was unnecessary to bind the bone together, although a doctor subsequently travelled from Madrid to Lugano a week after the accident, reopened the wound and cleared out more dirt and small stones which the team said had been left inside.
“Thanks to the work of the specialists who have treated me so I could recover in record time. Am deeply grateful to them all,” said Contador.
“Perhaps in the last week I can be fighting for a stage win. I’ll try to do my best in this last week before the start and see you all in Jerez.”
Riding the Vuelta a España will also set Contador up for a tilt at the world road race championships, which also takes place in Spain.