Riis says Spaniard's best years ahead of him, but CAS appeal hearing still casts a shadow...

Alberto Contador has revealed that he does not plan to defend his Giro d’Italia title next year, and will instead focus on trying to win the Tour de France for the fourth time – although his taking part in any race next year does of course depend on the outcome of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing regarding his positive test for clenbuterol at last year’s Tour.

Speaking to the Danish news agency Ritzau, Contador, who struggled during last month’s Tour, finishing fifth overall, 3 minutes 57 seconds down on winer Cadel Evans, insisted that his powerhouse performance in the Giro had taken its toll and that the blame for his lacklustre performance in France did not lie with his team.

“After the Tour, I read in the newspapers that the team was not good enough, but I do not understand that,” he said. “The team works hard and always gives 100 per cent for me. I am very happy for the team's efforts during the Tour. So I need not say it again.”

Explaining his decision not to race in next year’s Giro, despite it starting in Henning, the Danish town that produced Saxo Bank-Sungard owner and manager Bjarne Riis, Contador said: “When I participate in races, it's hard for me not to run for the win.

“It is therefore better to train during next year's Giro,” he added, an admission that taking part in the Italian Grand Tour had taken its toll and that he had found it impossible to fully recover for the Tour de France, in which he also struggled with a knee injury.

However, he insisted, “Our goal is clear for next year. It is to win the Tour.”

Riis, who said last year when he signed Contador from Astana that he believed Contador was capable of winning all three Grand Tours in the same season, said that at 28 years of age, the best stage of Contador’s career was yet to come.

“The next four or five years should Alberto garden its best years, so I have not seen the best of him yet,” he maintained.

“This year has been instructive,” continued Riis. “I have analyzed him much this year and we've talked a lot about what we can improve,” although he did not expand on what that might mean, adding only, “it's all about diet and better work on the mental plane.”

Contador is contracted to Saxo Bank-SunGard until the end of next season, although ahead of that there is his long-awaited appearance at CAS for the much-delayed appeal by the UCI and World Anti-doping Agency into the decision of the Spanish cycling federation, the RFEC, earlier this year to clear him following that positive test in the 2010 Tour, which he went on to win.

Contador has always maintained that the presence of clenbuterol in his system was due to his having eaten a contaminated steak, but the fact remains that there is no minimum threshold in relation to the substance.

The RFEC had initially said that it planned to ban the rider for one year, and its subsequent about-turn has been attributed by some to undue political influence after high-profile figures including the Spanish prime minister made public statements of support for Contador.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.