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Tour de France: Alberto Contador says route is hardest in years

Alberto Contador, Tour de France 2016
Image: Alberto Contador does not expect a runaway winner of the Tour de France

Alberto Contador believes the 2016 Tour de France will be one of the hardest in years and will not be decided until the final mountain stage.

The 3,545km route contains only four summit finishes over its three-week duration, but the riders will also have to tackle five other mountain stages and two hilly time trials.

The race could hinge on four back-to-back days in the Alps from stages 17-20, the last of which contains four categorised climbs and then a breakneck descent to the ski resort of Morzine.

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Speaking at a press conference ahead of Saturday's opening stage in Normandy, Contador said: "It will be open until the last moment, and in fact, I consider that last stage the hardest.

"It's one of the hardest Tours in years, and that means recovery is going to be the most important factor of all.

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Chris Froome expects Nairo Quintana to be his main rival at the Tour de France

"I know I'm in a good condition to fight for the Tour, but although it's a good route for me, it will definitely take 25 days before we know for sure what the outcome of this Tour is."

Contador is aiming to win the Tour for the third time but goes into the race as only the third favourite behind defending champion Chris Froome and last year's runner-up, Nairo Quintana.

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While the bookmakers favour Froome over Quintana, Contador believes there is little to choose between them.

Froome: I won't fade this time
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Chris Froome is determined not to lose time in the final week of the Tour de France

He said: "I think Froome stands out as the top contender, for sure, and has a very strong team, but Nairo's team and his ability to finish grand tours strongly make him almost as big a favourite."

While Froome and Quintana will both be supported by powerful teams packed with climbers, one of Contador's eight team-mates will be Peter Sagan.

The world road race champion has his own ambitions on the Tour's flatter stages and is unlikely to be of much use to Contador in the mountains, but the Spaniard is adamant he is pleased to have Sagan in the line-up.

Alberto Contador, Peter Sagan, Tour de France 2016
Image: Contador insists he is happy to have Peter Sagan as a team-mate

Contador said: "I am really lucky to be sharing a team with Peter because we are very compatible. Peter is the rider with the most innate class, I think, that I've ever raced with in my career.

"He will be a key component at a tactical level, and apart from that, I'm very proud to have him in my team. It's a privilege."

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