- Tour de France
Contador: Wiggins rivalry has helped Froome
Alberto Contador believes that Chris Froome's Tour de France prospects have been enhanced by the season-long leadership tussle with absent champion Sir Bradley Wiggins.
But the five-time grand tour winner is happy to have avoided the favourite tag before the race begins on Saturday, and plans to throw the odd curveball at Team Sky during what he believes to be a more unpredictable route than the 2012 race.
Contador, one of five riders to have won all three grand tours during his career, arrives in France in the middle of a difficult season on the bike but still believes he is a dark horse for the yellow jersey.
In contrast Froome has had a stellar season to date, most recently winning the Criterium du Dauphine, the traditional warm-up event for the Tour de France.
"I've no desire to be 'the bad guy' in this year's Tour," Contador told The Independent. "But I do want to be one of the people who make it an interesting, spectacular race.
"Compared to the last time I did the Tour [in 2011] I'm starting it feeling more rested, very, very motivated, with the route checked out much more thoroughly and with a team that is way stronger.
"I've no intention of being a conformist in this race. Not in the slightest."
The Saxo-Tinkoff rider accepts that Sky will be the team to beat, identifying Richie Porte as Froome's key lieutenant and a potential podium finisher in his own right.
And rather than being weakened by the protracted power struggle between Froome and Wiggins, which only ended when the 2012 Tour winner pulled out of the race through injury, Contador believes the challenge of proving his worth ahead of Sky's de facto leader has drawn the best from Froome this season.
"If my experiences with Lance Armstrong [his Astana team-mate and rival at the 2009 Tour, won by Contador] are anything to go by, it'll have given him extra motivation," the Spaniard added.
"Had Wiggins been there, he'd have been a sure-fire candidate for the Tour victory. But, to be honest, if Froome had pulled out, say, it would have affected things for me more, because the 2013 route suits him better."
But with fewer time trials and more key mountain stages, the two-time Tour champion is adamant that simply having the strongest team will not be enough to guarantee victory in this centennial edition of the race.
"Cycling is not all about mathematics," Contador said. "You have to see what your rivals are doing. Fortunately, we're not machines and circumstances inside a race can change so fast.
"This Tour, in particular, could continue to be wide-open right up until the final mountain top finish at Annecy on the second last day."