Alberto Contador is adamant he can beat odds-on favourite Chris Froome in this year's 100th running of the Tour de France.
Two-time winner Contador, returning to the event after missing last year's race due to a suspension for using banned substances, is seen as Froome's most likely challenger but question marks over his form this season mean he is a distant second favourite.
When Froome won the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month for his fourth stage-race win of the year, Contador was a distant 10th after suffering through the time-trial, claiming he was only at 75 per cent of his capabilities.
But with the riders now assembled on Corsica ahead of Saturday's Grand Depart, the Spaniard - who has a record of finding form when it matters most - is in more bullish mood.
"We have seen Froome have a strong season so far," he said through a translator. "But if I thought I could not beat him I would not have the motivation to be here at this moment."
How exactly that will be done, Contador would not say. Froome's Team Sky squad is surely the strongest in the field, but Contador believes his own Team Saxo-Tinoff unit has improved considerably, and is confident they will create opportunities.
"This is a good team, the team is stronger," he said.
"That gives you more tranquility, you're more calm because they can put you into a strong position going into the mountains. I think it will help me very much."
One major reason Team Saxo-Tinkoff can feel more confident about their squad this year is the addition of Australian Michael Rogers, a key part of the Team Sky squad who propelled Sir Bradley Wiggins to victory last year - and therefore a man valued not only for his abilities but also his insider knowledge of their rivals.
"To have Michael on the team is very important," Contador added. "He is a rider with a very good 'palmares', with good experience.
"He can be our captain on the road, and guide us everyday in the world tour.
"He knows very well how to race with Sky, how it works. He will be a very big help for us."
No matter how many questions centred on Froome and Team Sky, Contador was keen to emphasise there are other contenders in the field.
To beat them all, he mapped out a patient strategy - being prepared to wait until after stage 11's individual time-trial to Mont-Saint-Michel before worrying about tactics.
"I think in this Tour there will more factors than just Chris Froome and me," he said.
"We will think about tactics after the second time-trial. It will depend on the situation in the general classification at the time.
"It will depend on the situation whether we go more aggressive or defensive, but in any case I think there will be more action than last year."
Contador, who won the 2007 and 2009 Tours before having his victory in the 2010 event annulled for a failed doping test, was also asked about the event's reputation after Lance Armstrong's admission of doping, which led to the American being stripped of his record seven titles.
"The Tour is the most important cycling race in the world," he said. "It is an important event in sport. Its magic will remain always."
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