UTRECHT (Netherlands) • The Giro de Italia-Tour de France double would be a career-changing achievement, Alberto Contador said on Thursday as he embarks on the world's greatest cycling race, which starts today in Utrecht.
The Spaniard, who has bagged seven grand tours since his maiden Tour title in 2007, is one of four pre-race favourites, along with Britain's Chris Froome, Italian defending champion Vincenzo Nibali and Colombian Nairo Quintana.
The last rider to win the Giro and the Tour in the same season was the late Marco Pantani in 1998.
"The most important thing is motivation - this is what you need to achieve this double," said Contador, who won in Italy less than two months ago. "If I win just another grand tour, it's not going to change my career but if I achieve the double, this is something people are going to remember."
Of the 12 grand tours he has completed, the rider has never finished outside the top five, ending up first on nine occasions.
NOT A JOY RIDE
It's a tough Tour and in the first nine days, there are at least six very intense stages, maybe some more. It's going to be a Tour with no rest and regularity will be the most important thing. ''
ALBERTO CONTADOR, the Tinkoff-Saxo leader, on this year's Tour de France
He lost two of those titles following a positive doping test for clenbuterol in 2010.
He attempted the Giro/Tour double once, in 2011, but both his results - first in the Giro, fifth in the Tour - were annulled because of his positive test.
How he has recovered from a brutal Giro, during which he was pushed to the limit by the Astana team, will be key this time.
Asked what would matter most, Contador replied: "Maybe how my body responds to this race because it is new for me.
"It's a tough Tour and in the first nine days, there are at least six very intense stages, maybe some more.
"It's going to be a Tour with no rest and regularity will be the most important thing."
The 32-year-old takes five riders who rode the Giro with him as Tinkoff-Saxo appeared a bit weak in supporting their leader.
But the Spaniard is confident it is going to be a different story when the Tour starts today with a 13.8km individual time trial.
"They're experienced and strong, and I hope they have the capacity to recover well from the Giro," he said.
"I trust them and I hope that the level of the team will be better than in the Giro."
His team will be expected to take him safely through a treacherous first week that features cobbles and possible bunch-splitting winds.
"The first objective is to try and avoid. The most important is not to lose the Tour (in the first week)," observed Contador.
A canary breeder before he turned professional, he was offered a canary during Thursday's news conference by Dutch reporters.
The bird was yellow - which is the colour of the overall leader's jersey on the Tour.
TOUR DE FRANCE
Stage 1: StarHub Ch212, 8pm