Contador ready to take Giro-Tour gamble

Fri May 8, 2015 9:58am EDT
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Alberto Contador, gunning for his seventh major tour title at the Giro d'Italia, embarks on Saturday on a three-week journey that could either cement his reputation as one of the best grand tour riders or signal his downfall.

The Spaniard, who has not won either the Giro or the Tour de France since 2009, is looking this season to achieve the first Giro-Tour double since the late Marco Pantani of Italy in 1998.

Success would give him his second Giro triumph after 2008 and boost his confidence ahead of the July 4-26 Tour de France.

Yet defeat against opposition that does not feature his biggest Tour rivals would cast doubt over his ability to win the biggest race in the world for the third time.

With 12 mountain stages, six uphill finishes and an unusually long individual time trial, this year's Giro is expected to be one of the toughest in recent history.

Only Eddy Merckx (11), Bernard Hinault (10), Jacques Anquetil (8), Fausto Coppi and Miguel Indurain (7) have won more grand tours than Contador.

The Spaniard, who said he would retire at the end of 2016 when his contract with Tinkoff-Saxo ends, admitted he is taking a big gamble.

"At the end of my career, I want to be remembered as someone who did something truly special, who made history,” he said in January.   Continued...

Tinkoff-Saxo team rider Alberto Contador of Spain crosses of the 161-km (100 miles) eighth stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Tomblaine and Gerardmer La Mauselaine, July 12, 2014.     REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen