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Alberto Contador confirmed on Saturday that he will defend his title in this year’s Tour de France despite ongoing doping allegations, according to reports in the Spanish media.
Contador made the announcement during the Marcha Alberto Contador, a cycling event organized in his name in his home town of Pinto, near Madrid.
“Yes, I’m going to the Tour,” said Contador, who is seeking to complete the first Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.
The 28-year-old won the Tour de France in 2007, 2009 and 2010, but his last success is still awaiting ratification from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Contador tested positive for a trace amount of the banned substance clenbuterol during last year’s Tour but was subsequently cleared by his national cycling federation. That decision prompted an appeal to CAS from the UCI and the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA), which will be heard in August after the end of the Tour de France.
“It’s a challenge,” Contador said of the Tour. “For that reason I’ve thought about it, I have been talking to the team, it has been a decision that I have taken together with (SaxoBank team manager) Bjarne Riis. There’s no doubt that for the team it’s essential that I’m there, and for the sponsors.”
He said he plans to now get as much rest as possible before then.
“Those who have been in the Giro can attest to how difficult it is,” he said, admitting that he had felt “not as good as on other occasions” during the Giro.
Contador leaves on Sunday to reconnoiter the final three mountain stages of the Tour and to ride the Grenoble time trial course, which many of his chief rivals rode this week in the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. Contador also announced that he will compete in both the road race and time trial in the Spanish national championships.
A classic rematch?
The announcement will not change the plans of two-time runner-up Andy Schleck his Leopard-Trek team said Saturday. Schleck has been Contador’s biggest rival the past two years, and finished
just 39 seconds adrift in 2010.
“Whether Contador is there or not, it doesn’t change anything about how competitive we want to be,” Leopard-Trek team manager Bryan Nygaard told AFP at the Tour of Switzerland Saturday.
“The riders are really trying to focus on what they can influence, and be as strong as they possibly can,” Nygaard said. “You cannot go into the Tour and think, ‘OK I might have to be more strong or less strong than certain guys.’ This can’t be part of your approach.”
A poll released in France on Friday showed that two-thirds of French cycling fans would rather Contador does not race in this year’s Tour de France.