Two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador fears the crosswinds on tomorrow’s stage from York to Sheffield could cause havoc in the peloton.
The Spanish rider, seen as the biggest challenger to Chris Froome, says the second stage in Yorkshire, coupled with the cobblestone stage in northern France on Wednesday, makes for a potentially decisive first week of the Tour de France.
Contador, 31, who won the Tour in 2007 and 2009, but was stripped of his title the following year because of a doping offence, said: “I have seen a video of the stage and I think it will be very tricky.
“There can be differences between riders and we have to consider the wind which can play a very important role.
“There are many climbs for a second stage, and it will be very tough. I hope to do well on that day.
“This first week is more decisive than other years. We have two very important stages in the first week, the cobbled stage and the second stage.
“We will see some differences in the general classification.
“You have to face the cobblestone stage with a lot of respect. It’s a stage that means survival for everyone. You have to be confident because you can lose the race there, but you cannot win it.”
Contador says he is in the best shape he has been in on the eve of the Tour since 2009, the last time he won the race.
And while he admits Britain’s Froome is the favourite, Contador said: “Froome has been the best rider the last two years and he’s shown he’s a very strong rider in the Tour de France.
“This year I’m in better shape than last year, but I don’t know whether that’s enough to beat him. I am feeling in the same shape as 2009. In that year I was always feeling very well. I have fared very well this season, but it was not until after the Dauphine that I was in the right shape. I’ve done altitude training and my preparation has been good.”