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Contador makes steep comeback
Aug 17th, 12. Cleared to ride again after a two-year doping ban he blamed on a contaminated steak, Alberto Contador launches his big comeback this weekend in a mountainous Tour of Spain.
He has kept his silence for months since the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport handed down a two-year ban to the Tour de France winner on February 6.
But now he seems more determined than ever.
Contador has stuck to his story: the trace of banned substance clenbuterol detected in his urine at the 2010 Tour de France came from a contaminated steak he ate on the eve of the test.
The 29-year-old two-time Tour de France winner -- he was stripped of the third win in 2010 along his Tour of Italy title of 2011 -- believes it is time to turn a new page.
Only in the past few days has Contador spoken of his feelings during the doping suspension.
"These have been long months of suspension when I did not always want to go out and train," he said in an interview with reporters at his home in Pinto, just south of Madrid.
"People's affection helped me. I have tried to alternate my training routes around different parts of Spain, I have checked out the stages of the tour so that I am not always at home in the same area," he said.
Beyond that, he won't comment.
The injustice that Contador says he has suffered will now serve only as a spur to expand his collection of trophies. And the 2012 Tour of Spain could be the first morsel of a comeback feast for the Saxo-Bank cyclist.
The race, which Contador won in 2008, the only time he has previously taken part, looks to be well within his grasp.
The cyclist is even more favoured because the route this year is especially mountainous -- the type of terrain he enjoys.
For the first time, one of three summit finishes in the Asturias region will be Cuitu Negru, a peak with some inclines at more than 20 percent, and this has not gone unnoticed by Contador.
Two obstacles lie the path of his comeback.
One of those pitfalls is Britain's Chris Froome, of Team Sky, who came second in the Tour de France behind winning team-mate Bradley Wiggins and was also an impressive second in the last Tour of Spain.
Contador takes the threat seriously.
"Froome already showed last year that he could have won if they had let him. That motivates me and for that reason the Tour will be special and will be remembered for a long time."
And the English cyclist is not the only rival to the "Pistolero": Contador's compatriot Alejandro Valverde, with Movistar, and Dutchman Bauke Mollema, with Rabobank, could also give him a tough run.
The second unknown for the Spaniard is his own fitness. Back in competition since August 6, he has only been able to test himself once in race conditions, in the Eneco Tour of Benelux.
On the flat route of the Eneco Contador only came in fourth but that doesn't say much about his fitness because his speciality is conquering mountain roads.
"It was perfect for preparation but it did not help much to see how I am doing," he admitted.
But there's little doubt the Spaniard will spare no effort in his next race. A victory in front of the home crowd would probably be the best way to close the chapter on his doping ban.
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