Reuters - Sat, 06 Mar 16:35:00 2010
Spain's Alberto Contador returns to the Paris-Nice race on Sunday, having learnt an important lesson from the 2009 edition.
The Tour de France champion looked set to win the 'Race to the Sun' last year before cracking suddenly on the penultimate stage to hand victory to countryman Luis Leon Sanchez.
"I think I learnt a great lesson that day, not only for the rest of my season but also for my career as a whole," the Astana team leader said.
Contador tired dramatically with 4km of the stage left, crossing the line on his own two minutes 53 seconds adrift of Sanchez after he "forgot to eat and drink as I should have".
The mistake led then-team mate Lance Armstrong to dub him an "amazing talent but still (with) a lot to learn".
The rivalry between Contador and Armstrong was one of the main talking points in last year's Tour de France and the Spaniard acknowledged he was more relaxed this season with the American having left to create his Radio Shack team.
"The big difference from last year is I will have a very competitive team this season. They were incredible on the Tour of Algarve and I'm now confident I can rely on them," Contador said.
The 2007 and 2009 Tour de France champion, who also won Paris-Nice in 2007, made a perfect start to this season by winning the Tour of Algarve last month.
"Paris-Nice is a race which means a lot to me especially as I'm in great shape," said Contador.
"It is one of those races where you feel the same tension as on the Tour," he added before singling out compatriots Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde as his main rivals.
Paris-Nice starts with an 8km prologue in Montfort l'Amaury on Sunday and ends in Nice a week later.
Paris-Nice: Sunday 2.50pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 421) and Eurosport Player