|With Contador, centre, out of the frame for this year’s race, Andy Schleck, second left, will take on 2011 champion Australian Cadel Evans [GETTY]|
Alberto Contador’s absence will not make it easier for Andy Schleck to win the Tour de France this year, the Luxembourg rider said on Saturday.
Spaniard Contador will miss this year’s race after being banned for failing a dope test in 2010 but his absence means that many riders will now be gunning for Schleck.
“Riders who were against us will not just ride for a podium finish but they will ride against me,” Schleck, who was named 2010 Tour de France champion after Contador was stripped of the title two weeks ago, said at the Tour of Oman.
Contador’s 2011 results were also wiped out after his ban was backdated to January last year.
Hence Schleck believes that had Contador, who finished fifth overall, missed the 2011 race, he would have won the Tour.
Contador broke away in a descent to Gap, prompting the pack led by Cadel Evans to chase in the rain with Schleck unable to follow on a tricky downhill.
“I lost a minute when he attacked in the descent to Gap. If it wasn’t for Contador, Evans would not have moved,” he said.
Schleck is confident he has the ability to win the race on the road despite also losing out to Australian Evans last year.
This year’s Tour will feature long time trials, a discipline Schleck has struggled to master.
“The Tour will not be won in the time trials but in the mountains. There will be 25 climbs against 23 in 2011,” he explained.
“I will try not to lose too much time in the prologue. The Besancon time trial (stage nine) is tough and suits me well. I just have to improve for the final time trial.”
The final effort against the clock will be a 52-km ride between Bonneval and Chartres where Schleck is expected to lose significant ground on Evans and Britain’s Bradley Wiggins.
Schleck added he was still bitter with the way Contador acted during the 2010 Tour. The Spaniard beat him after attacking him in the ascent to the Port de Bales when Schleck’s chain had snapped.
“We are not friends, we just say ‘hi’, talk a bit. That’s all. What he did on the Port de Bales, I will never forget it. It cost me the Tour,” he said.
“Great champions have to show fair play. He did not. He had the right to do it but it’s something you just don’t do.”