Tour de France champion Alberto Contador of Spain will look to continue venting his frustration on the bike when he saddles up for the five-day Tour of the Valencia Community on Tuesday.
Contador and his Astana team are still digesting the bitter pill of being left out of the Tour de France, and the Giro d’Italia, this year due to controversial decisions by the respective race organisers.
Astana, which has new management – and a new anti-doping philosophy – nine months on from their eviction from the Tour after Alexandre Vinokourov’s positive blood doping test – is determined to show they deserve to feature in the world’s biggest bike race.
However Contador already seems resigned to missing out on trying to defend his yellow jersey this year, and is looking ahead to 2009.
“I’m really optimistic and I’m sure they will change their mind. We (Astana) are a model team and have nothing to do with last year’s team,” the Spaniard told EFE radio.
“I am not talking about this year, because that situation is still too complicated, but next year.”
Astana’s non-invitation to some of the season’s big races seems to have added a fuel injection to a bunch of already talented riders.
American Levi Leipheimer, who finished third on the Tour behind Australian Cadel Evans, won his second Tour of California on Sunday.
Contador’s rivals are likely to witness a strong performance from the Spanish climber during this week’s five stages, beginning with the two-climb 157km stretch from Sagunto to Port de Sagunto on Tuesday.
Contador will be joined in the race by fellow Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, who was crowned the 2006 Tour de France champion last year after American Floyd Landis was finally disqualified for doping.
Lampre’s former Tour of Italy winner Damiano Cunego will also be in attendance, while Milram will be hoping their star sprinters, Italian Alessandro Petacchi and German ace Erik Zabel, can take out some sprints.
© AFP 2008