TWO-TIME winner Alberto Contador is confident of denying Britain’s Chris Froome a maiden Tour de France victory and believes inside information could hold the key to beating his Team Sky rival.
Froome is the clear favourite for the 100th edition of the celebrated race, which begins in Corsica tomorrow, having won four events already this year including traditional Tour warm-up the Criterium du Dauphine.
The Kenya-born 28-year-old is bidding to become only the second Briton to win the Tour, after absent colleague and rival Sir Bradley Wiggins, who took the crown last year during his annus mirabilis.
But Contador, one of only five men to win all three Grand Tours and returning to the race after a two-year drug ban, is refusing to be intimidated by Froome’s dazzling early-season form.
“We have seen Froome have a strong season so far,” he said. “But if I thought I could not beat him I would not have the motivation to be here at this moment.”
The Spaniard, two years Froome’s senior, believes new Team Saxo-Tinkoff colleague Michael Rogers, who was part of Wiggins’ Team Sky support 12 months ago, is the ideal weapon to counteract his former employers.
“To have Michael on the team is very important. He is a rider with very good experience,” Contador added. “He can be our captain on the road, and guide us everyday in the world tour. He knows very well how to race with Sky, how it works. He will be a very big help for us.”
Froome’s other main rivals include his own team-mate Richie Porte, Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, Australian Cadel Evans, American Tejay van Garderen and another Spaniard in Alejandro Valverde.
Schleck finished runner-up three years in succession, from 2009-2011, and was retrospectively awarded the 2012 yellow jersey after Contador was found guilty of doping.
Contador, who has also won the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, has retained his 2007 and 2009 titles from the third and biggest Grand Tour.
■ African-born Brit was second to Wiggins last year, despite only having a nominal supporting role, and is the rider in form, with four wins from five stage races in 2013
■ Decorated former Tour champion returns from a two-year drug ban but was 10th as Froome won June’s Criterium du Dauphine
■ Won 2011 Tour but, at 36, another looks beyond him, while BMC Racing team-mate Tejay van Garderen could also usurp him