Contador eyes Giro before Tour de France defense

Murcia: Provisionally cleared of doping Alberto Contador said Saturday he has fixed the Tour of Italy as his first major objective of the season with an eye on a bid for a fourth Tour de France title later in the summer.

Contador tested positive for traces of the banned muscle-building substance clenbuterol during last July`s Tour de France, which he won, but was cleared last month by the Spanish cycling federation who accepted his claim that he ate contaminated meat.

"The Giro d`Italia (May 7-29) is my first big objective," said Contador, who took the lead in the Tour of Murcia on Saturday. It is the Saxo Bank rider`s second race of the season after finishing fourth in the Tour of the Algarve last month.

"I`ve seen the (Giro) stages on the internet. It`s tough, really tough. There isn`t one standout stage, there are six! But the Tour de France (July 2-24) remains in my plans. If I can, I`ll race it."

The Spaniard must still wait to see whether the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to have the Spanish cycling federation`s judgement overturned.

But he insists he is slowly recovering from the trauma of his positive test.

"I`ve gone through a difficult time .... People said nasty things, stupid things in the media," he said.

"But I have a lot to thank my fans for, without them maybe nothing would have been resolved. They forced me to clear up the situation. I don`t think I can be as I was before, I`ve suffered a lot and now I`m more reserved, I`m more careful."

The UCI and WADA have until March 15 to decide whether to appeal to CAS.

And Contador said: "I`d like them to carefully read the complete (Spanish cycling federation) file without any preconceived idea and without giving in to pressure. I believe in the system and they should believe in it too."

In the coming months he plans to compete in the Tour of Catalonia, the Tour of Castilla and Leon and the Fleche Wallonne before the Giro.

Bureau Report

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