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Contador unlikely to defend Giro d'Italia title

Updated: October 16, 2011, 13:50

MILAN (AP) Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador isn't planning on defending his Giro d'Italia title in 2012.

Contador said Sunday at the unveiling of next year's course that he is likely to skip the Italian classic to focus on regaining the Tour de France title. The Spaniard won this year's edition of the Giro but followed it up with a disappointing Tour, where he finished fifth.

"I don't think I will ride in the Giro, it will be very difficult,'' said Contador, a three-time Tour champion. "It's very difficult to do both the Giro and the Tour. Maybe in two years' time. I still have to talk to the team managers and discuss it with them, but at the moment it's not in my plans.''

Next year's Giro will have a solemn tone, with the third stage to be dedicated to Wouter Weylandt, the Belgian cyclist who died after a fall during this year's race. Weylandt crashed on the descent of the Passo del Bocco on the third stage of the race - the same stage he won the previous year.

The jersey No. 108, which Weylandt wore during the Giro, has also been retired.

The 2012 Giro will run from May 5-27 and starts with an individual time trial in Herning, Denmark. It finishes with another time trial in Milan.

It is the 10th time in 95 races that the Giro has started abroad, and on this occasion the first three stages will all be held in Denmark.

The Giro will heat up in the last week when it reaches the mountains, with the penultimate stage from Val di Sole to Passo dello Stelvio likely to be decisive.

The 218-kilometer stage finishes on the highest point of this year's course, the Stelvio, and also includes the Mortirolo, which has an average gradient of 10.5 percent - climbing up to 22 percent in some parts.

Stage 17, a 187-ride from Pfalzen to Cortina d'Ampezzo, is also one of the most difficult, with five brutal climbs.

"It's a nice course, a bit different to last year and maybe a bit more even,'' Contador said. "For me the Giro is the best race in the world. It has a particular fascination for me. And if it was only up to my heart I would race it. But next year I will think of other objectives, such as the Tour de France.''

Contador also won the Giro d'Italia in 2008, the only other time the Spaniard entered the competition.

Liquigas rider Ivan Basso, the 2010 winner, said it would be a pity not to compete against Contador again.

"I think it's too early to talk about who'll be there and who won't because we're in a bit of a particular situation, in that they've only revealed the route about 15 minutes ago so the cyclists have to still look at it properly, talk to their teams,'' the Italian said. "We also have to still finish this season. But I would definitely prefer him to be there. I want to race against him.''

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