UTRECHT, Netherlands (Reuters) - Sean Yates knows a thing or two about leading a rider to the Tour de France title and the Briton feels his protege Alberto Contador has the required experience to prevail in a demanding race this year.
Yates, who guided Bradley Wiggins to his Tour triumph in 2012, left the sport that year but he is now Contador’s sports director at Tinkoff-Saxo.
The Englishman believes Contador has what the other big favorite do not have -- experience he can take confidence from.
“He’s got history on his side, he’s won more grand tours than all the others combined. Experience is a major part,” Yates told Reuters at his team hotel on Thursday.
Yates was Contador’s sports director at Discovery Channel the year the Spaniard won his maiden tour in 2007 and directed Froome in 2012 when the Briton finished second in the Tour.
He reiterated that Contador was an all-rounder who never gives up, the seven-times grand tour winner having won many races in which most had written him off.
“We’ve seen a number of times, it’s never over with Alberto even when people think it’s over,” he said.
The Giro/Tour double challenge Contador is aiming for this year, however, has not been achieved since 1998 and this season’s Giro was a punishing race.
“It’s more a mental challenge,” Yates said.
One thing for sure, however, is that Contador will be in the mix.
“Pretty much every race Alberto does he wins or at least he finishes top five,” Yates added.
Since Contador won the Tour in 2007, he has only finished three times outside the top five in a stage race he completed.
”He’s always there. The other riders are great but they’re nowhere near the palmares Alberto’s got. He takes his opportunities, he’s an all-round bike rider.
“Alberto’s got the edge in that he’s more experienced,” Yates added of the 32-year-old.
One of his main rivals will be Froome, like Contador back on the Tour after crashing out last year. Both raced the Vuelta afterwards and Contador won with Team Sky’s Froome ending up second overall.
“In 2013 he was flying, last year it just all went pear- shaped; this year he’s won the Dauphine but he’s been up and down again so in my opinion he has to re-confirm that he’s a grand tour winner and a grand tour great rider,” said Yates.
“Achievement-wise he’s a long long way behind Alberto and even (defending champion Vincenzo) Nibali. From what I’ve seen this year he’s not at the level he was in 2013.”
Editing by Ed Osmond