Contador ready for Tour of Catalonia challenges

Alberto Contador at the Tour of Murcia (AAP)

Alberto Contador will have a lot on his mind when he begins his challenge to be crowned champion of the Tour of Catalonia which is celebrating its centenary.

The 28-year-old has been in good form this season finishing fourth in the Tour of the Algarve and winning the Tour of Murcia.

However, his mental strength as well as his physical strength will be tested as aside from competing against a strong field he will also learn whether the International Cycling Union intends to appeal the decision by his national federation to exonerate him over a positive doping test.

Spain's three-time Tour de France winner, though, was more focussed in the riders that will be competing for the title.

"The riders who are here are some of my main rivals for the Tour de France," said the Saxo Bank rider.

"There will be Cadel Evans (recent winner of the Tirreno-Adriatico), Ivan Basso (two-time Tour of Italy winner), Dennis Menchov (Russia's two-time Tour of Spain champion), Michele Scarponi (fourth in last year's Tour of Italy) and others I forget," he said.

"They will be very difficult adversaries. They have begun the season in very good form and that is going to be clear in this race."

Contador, whose positive test came at last year's Tour de France where he claims it emanated from a piece of contaminated meat he ate, pinpointed Wednesday's mountainous third stage as the pivotal one.

"The third stage will be the key day, with the finish in Andorra, but the other days will be complicated as well," he said.

Contador's first major objective this year is the Tour of Italy, which runs from May 7 to 29.

Last 10 Tour of Catalonia podiums:

2010: 1 Joaquim Rodríguez (ESP), 2 Xavier Tondo (ESP), 3 Rein Taaramäe (EST)

2009: 1 Alejandro Valverde (ESP), 2 Daniel Martin (IRL), 3 Haimar Zubeldia (ESP)

2008: 1 Gustavo César Veloso (ESP), 2 Rigoberto Urán (COL), 3 Rémi Pauriol (FRA)

2007: 1 Vladimir Karpets (RUS), 2 Michael Rogers (AUS), 3 Denis Menchov (RUS)

2006: 1 David Cañada (ESP), 2 Santiago Botero (COL), 3 Christophe Moreau (FRA)

2005: 1 Yaroslav Popovych (UKR), 2 Leonardo Piepoli (ITA), 3 David Moncoutié (FRA)

2004: 1 Miguel Ángel Martín (ESP), 2 Vladimir Karpets (RUS), 3 Roberto Laiseka (ESP)

2003: 1 José Antonio Pecharromán (ESP), 2 Roberto Heras (ESP), 3 Koldo Gil (ESP)

2002: 1 Roberto Heras (ESP), 2 Aitor Garmendia (ESP), 3 Luis Pérez Rodríguez (ESP)

2001: 1 Joseba Beloki (ESP), 2 Igor González de Galdeano (ESP), 3 Fernando Escartín (ESP)

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