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Cycling | International Cycling

Alberto Contador © Gallo Images

Contador reluctantly tackling the Ardennes

Alberto Contador will be one of the main draws at the Fleche Wallonne classic on Wednesday but the former Tour de France winner claims he wanted to skip the event.

The 30-year-old Spaniard's participation comes as something of a surprise after he recently said he was tired.

His main aim for the year is a third Tour title in July.

The champion from 2007 and 2009, who was stripped of a third victory in 2010 for doping, admitted the Fleche Wallonne had not featured in part of his original planning.

But he said his Saxo-Tinkoff team has told him to ride.

"The idea is to test my condition and increase my team's chances," he said.

"This last week had been set aside mostly for rest, I needed it. I've only done two training sessions.

"Saxo-Tinkoff really wanted me to be here. Of course, these are races that everyone wants to take part in but to prepare for the Tour de France it's maybe better to miss it.

"Even so, it will extend my programme by a week. I'll therefore try to do my best and then take some holiday time before starting my Tour preparation."

Contador will also line up at Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege as his team look to build on their strong start to the three Ardennes classics after Roman Kreuziger claimed victory at the Amstel Gold race last Sunday.

Contador will not be expecting to win a race in which his best ever finish was a third place in 2010.

He has also been struggling to capture his best form of late.

Despite finishing second to Chris Froome at the Tour of Oman and coming third behind Vincenzo Nibali and Froome, possibly his two main Tour rivals in July, at the Tirreno-Adriatico, Contador has not been able to shine in the early part of this season.

He recently finished only fifth at the Tour of the Basque Country.

While Contador may not be vying for the race win on Wednesday, a countryman who would have been may not even be on the start line.

Joaquim Rodriguez, who finished third behind Contador and another compatriot Alessandro Valverde at the Tour of Spain last year, faces a race against time to be fit.

Rodriguez, the winner last year following successive second place finishes, fell during the Amstel Gold race on Sunday last and has hurt his hamstring.

One of the favourites who will definitely be there is Slovakian Peter Sagan, who is hoping to make up for a poor showing at the Amstel Gold race.

The Cannondale rider found himself exposed without any support from his team and suffered cramps on the final climb as he could only manage a 36th placed finish.


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