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Tour champion Contador appears in trouble

Updated: July 03, 2011, 19:51


LES ESSARTS, France (AP) Two-time defending champion Alberto Contador was in danger of falling from contention after only two days of racing in the Tour de France.

The Spaniard, also the 2007 winner, is 75th overall - 1 minute, 42 seconds behind leader Thor Hushovd.

"My opponents are still ahead of me in the general classification and I might not even be the biggest favorite to win overall anymore, but there's a long way to Paris and we will do anything to gain time to get back in the overall classification,'' Contador said.

Contador tested positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol during last year's race. He denied any wrongdoing, but could be stripped of all his titles back to last July if the Court of Arbitration for Sport rules against him next month.

"This situation is not good for anyone,'' Contador told French TV. "All the experts know this is not a doping case. The past year has been difficult for me. I would like the whole process to be over. It's very hard for me, my family and my friends. The wait for a decision is difficult, but I'm really optimistic.''

Hushovd isn't a contender for the overall title, but Contador trails chief rival Andy Schleck by 1:38. Schleck finished second behind the Spaniard the past two years.

"(Contador) has the right to race,'' Schleck said. "I have more supporters than him, but one has to respect the great riders. He is doing the same efforts as anyone else, and maybe more.''

Contador got off to a nightmarish start to the Tour, losing more than a minute during the first stage when he was slowed down by a pileup that split the peloton. Contador lost 24 more seconds to Schleck, two-time runner-up Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins on Sunday in a short team time trial.

Regarded as the best climber in the world, Contador will have to make it up during the last two weeks of the race when the peloton will reach the Pyrenees and the Alps.

Bjarne Riis, Contador's manager at team Saxo Bank, was however satisfied with his riders' performance in the team effort. Most of the Saxo Bank riders are not specialists of the race against the clock and have been selected for their abilities to help their leader in the mountains.

"I'm absolutely content with the guys' performance today,'' Riis said. "They did a great team time trial and finished in an impressive time. We entered Tour de France with an overall victory as the main objective and we will stick to our plan. Today we demonstrated that we are able to ride as a team and we did an even greater time that I had hoped for.''

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AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report.

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