"It's not easy to pick a winner because you don't know the shape each competitor will be in when they arrive," he said.

"If I have to choose, I would say that both Roglic and Superman López are two cyclists especially motivated for La Vuelta. I think that perhaps they are the two top favourites."

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The three-time winner of La Vuelta knows just how special it is to compete in the race - and also what hard work it will be.

"For Spanish fans it is obviously special, and internationally I think that of the three big tours of the year it is the most comfortable," he reflected.

"In La Vuelta it is key to be at 100% every day and not fail - it is essential not to have bad days. But I think the stage of Andorra is going to be very hard in which you can lose a lot of time. The Machucos area is also going to be very hard. In Madrid, we will also have a very complicated stage that together with that of Gredos will be the most important. The time trial will logically be a good opportunity to see the status of the squad."

And despite some fans urging him to return, Contador is happy to have retired professionally after a historic victory at Angliru in 2017.

"That stage in Angliru for me was a dream come true," he recalled. "I didn't think about it but finishing my sports career in that way was something totally impressive. It was 21 days of authentic hard work and I loved it that way. I also faced it as a countdown knowing that I had 10, stages, 9 stages, 8 stages left in my career... and I enjoyed it in an incredible way.

"I feel very lucky for it and now, two years later, many people keep telling me to come back and that makes me excited, but I don't want to change the extraordinary way I retired."

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