Armstrong vs. Contador? Make it Evans vs. Contador
Alberto Contador: "Several riders are in better shape than Lance (Armstrong), right now."
Alberto Contador is not even regarding Lance Armstrong as one of his rivals for this weekend's Criterium International in Corsica.
The pair were not supposed to face each other before the Tour de France but twice Tour winner Contador changed his mind after a commanding win in Paris-Nice earlier this month.
The Spaniard decided to drop the Tour of Catalunya and travel to Corsica for the two-day Criterium International, where he will challenge seven-times Tour winner Armstrong, who has not been at his best since the beginning of the season.
"There is no message to Armstrong," a relaxed Contador told reporters at his hotel facing the Porto Vecchio bay.
"I just came here because it is better for my preparation ahead of the Tour. I got very good results from my previous race, Paris-Nice was very tough and I did not want to race seven days in Catalunya.
"The Criterium is only a two-day race and it suits my characteristics," he added, naming world champion Cadel Evans as his top rival in Corsica.
"Several riders are in excellent condition. I don't like to name names because I might forget one of them. However, one who is very strong is Cadel Evans," said Contador before posing for photos in the hotel's garden.
It seems it is not all about Armstrong v Contador after all.
"Several riders are in better shape than Lance, right now," Contador explained.
Australian Evans, staying in the same hotel as Contador, had yet to fully focus on the race.
He went for a smooth training ride in the morning wearing his world champion rainbow jersey before heading back to the hotel to share a meal with his BMC team mates.
"It's incredible, it (the rainbow jersey) gets recognised everywhere you go," he told Reuters. "I'm getting used to it, I'm not getting sick of it."
After eating pasta, mashed carrots and a tuna salad, a cheerful Evans left his seat and went to congratulate the chef.
It will be back to business on Saturday when the peloton start the first of three stages, a 175.5-km trek from Porto Vecchio to the Col de l'Ospedale, a 14.2-km climb at an average gradient of 6.2 percent that should perfectly suit Contador.
Armstrong, who landed in Corsica in a private jet in the morning wearing casual jeans and sunglasses, rushed into a car driven by his RadioShack manager and long-time mentor Johan Bruyneel.
He then played hide and seek with photographers before going on his bike to check Saturday's climb.
"Off the plane and went for a spin here in Corsica," he wrote on Twitter.
"Checked out the final climb from tomorrow. Col de l'Ospedale. Tough one. Long & windy."