Tour de France - Contador taunts Schlecks to attack
Alberto Contador, nursing a troublesome knee problem, has nevertheless piled the pressure on major rivals the Schleck brothers by declaring that the duo must attack soon if they are to have any chance.
The Spaniard, a three-times Tour champion, has crashed twice since the race started on July 2 but on Monday was enjoying the first rest day of the three-week race as the Tour prepares to head towards the fearsome Pyrenees climbs.
"Yesterday, I hurt the same knee as the first time I crashed. This time it was on the internal side, though. I am a bit worried," the 28-year-old told a news conference.
Contador lies 4:07 minutes behind leader Thomas Voeckler after nine stages.
"The rest day is welcome. The doctor put a lot of ice on his knee and he spent as much time as possible with his leg lifted," his Saxo Bank team sports director Bradley McGee told Reuters.
Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis added: "It's normal that he's worried, but it's not very serious."
Contador, who is racing the Tour while waiting for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to rule on last year's failed dope test, remained "optimistic".
"I must control the pressure and transform it into motivation," he said.
"Evans is the best placed rider and the Schleck brothers know that there is a time trial at the end of the Tour so they are the ones who have to attack," he said.
The Tour de France could be decided one day before the Champs Elysees parade in a 42.5-kms time trial that should favour the Spaniard and Evans as the Schlecks have always failed to shine in efforts against the clock.
"I will, depending on my knee, choose the right moment to attack," he said.
The 10th and 11th stages will be relatively flat and should not change much in the overall standings.
The battle between the overall contenders should start on Thursday in the 12th stage with a finish in Luz Ardiden at the end of a 13.3-km climb at an average gradient of 7.4 percent.