Leeds, United Kingdom – Tour de France contender Alberto Contador admitted he was surprised at how tough Sunday's second stage around Yorkshire appears.

The 31-year-old has only seen the route from York to Sheffield on video but said the numerous short, steep climbs will make it an unexpected early difficulty that could see some of the overall challengers lose time.

“I have seen a video of this stage, it will be very tricky and there could be time gaps between the riders,” he said at a pre-race press conference in Leeds on Friday.

“You have to consider that wind can also play a very important role. There are many climbs for a second day stage, it will be very tough and tricky so I hope to have good legs that day.”

The two-time former winner, widely expected to be reigning champion Chris Froome's main rival, said Wednesday's stage five that goes over the cobblestones usually reserved for Paris-Roubaix will also prevent some challenges.

But otherwise he feels the first week should remain fairly calm and that the real fireworks will happen in the mountains.

“For sure it's very, very important to be in good shape but this Tour's first week will not be as decisive as in other years,” he said.

“We have two very important stages in the second and the fifth with the cobblestones. I think there will be some time differences but the most important will be the mountains this year.”

Contador has had his best start to a season since 2010, winning two stage races and finishing second in three others.

But he still thinks Froome, whom he beat at the Tour of Catalunya and the Criterium du Dauphine, is still the favourite.

“Froome is the one to beat this year because he's been the best rider the last two years and has shown he's a very strong rider in the last two Tours,” said the Spaniard, leader of the Tinkoff-Saxo team.

“He's the number one favourite but I'm in better shape than last year. I don't know if it's enough to beat him but I think others could also beat him.” – Sapa-AFP