"It's the best race of the year," says Alberto Contador about the Tour of Spain in this video by GCN. The winner of the 2008 and 2012 editions of Spain's grand tour tells Matt Stephens that he still has some knee pain after crashing out of the Tour de France in July, but thinks he can still take stages in the 2014 edition of his national race, which starts Saturday.
Contador tells Stephens who he thinks will win the Tour of Spain and reveals which rider was his boyhood hero as he came up through the ranks of cycling. He also discusses the imminent arrival of Peer Sagan and Ivan Basso on the Tinkoff Saxo team.
The video is shot as Tinkoff Saxo prepare for the opening stage of the race in Jerez de la Frontera where it's forecast to be 32°C tomorrow. We're sure everyone else shivering through the UK's current very un-August weather will join us in having no sympathy at all for Matt Stephens when he complains it's a bit warm.
Meanwhile, the other crash-casualty of the Tour de France, Chris Froome, says he is fine after his recent crash while reconnoitring the course of the Tour of Spain's opening time trial.
"The first thing that went through my mind was 'here we go again,'" Froome told the Team Sky website. "There were flashbacks from the Tour. There was just a bit of oil on the road and I'm sure that whoever the first guy was heading into that roundabout would have gone down too. It's one of those things but I didn't get hurt. It was very slow speed. I'm fine and ready to go on Saturday."
Froome described Sky's squad for the race, some of whom he hasn't ridden with since Sky's January training camp, as "a really well-balanced team … and a good bunch of guys."
Their first challenge will be that team time trial course, which will hopefully be free from oil when the riders roll out on Saturday evening.
"The team time trial is going to be a tough stage, especially with the start on the pave and the number of roundabouts," said Froome. "We're one of the last teams off so we'll be able to see what we're up against and to see how other teams fare before we go off. The stage is a big objective for us and it would be a really great for us to start off with a good result in the TTT."
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.