Contador goes close to first win since return to cycling
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Contador goes close to first win since return to cycling

by VeloNation Press at 6:21 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Rodriguez extends lead over closest rivals, but needs more

alberto contadorWith 150 metres to go on today’s stage of the Vuelta a España, Alberto Contador looked set to take his first victory of his return to professional cycling after his suspension. The Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank rider countered a move by Chris Froome (Team Sky) inside the final kilometre, attacking approximately 800 metres from the line and steadily opening a five second gap.

It appeared to be the Contador of old but, inside the final 150 metres, he faltered. He suddenly appeared to be turning a gear that was far too small and, from behind, an accelerating Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) raced by fifty metres from the line.

The Spaniard was disappointed, but also encouraged by the time gained on his British rival. “Today I have taken a step forward. We have distanced Froome a bit and I've been a little better…that's what I hoped for,” he said.

Contador hopes to continue the progression shown today. “I have not had a day super, but it was a good punch. Considering that each day I go up, I am happy”.

He said the time gain was more important than the victory. “I was focused on Froome, I wanted to distance him. It is true that you always want to win and I would have loved it, but sometimes you can, and sometimes not. As I have said, the goal is in Madrid.”

Contador finished in the same time as the other two riders but lost out in terms of time bonuses; stage winner Valverde picked up 12 seconds, Rodriguez eight and Contador four. However he got that bonus over Froome and also opened a fifteen second advantage over the Briton.

That reduced his GC gap to just seven seconds from Froome’s second place.

The day’s big winner – apart from Valverde of course – was Rodriguez. The race leader went from ten and 36 seconds ahead of Froome and Contador respectively to 33 and 40 seconds clear. Valverde gained that four seconds but because he lost time in the crash on stage four, is still 50 seconds behind. In other words: not an immediate threat.

“I’m happy to keep the red jersey. For me, today was a special stage because it’s where I live,” he said, referring to his native season. “All the people along the route supported me so I had strong motivation to win, but Valverde was great and deserved the victory.

“Anyway, I’m not disappointed, I did my best, I fought with some of the best riders of the world. I gained some more seconds in general classification so I’m satisfied. Also, this morning I knew this stage was very suitable to Alejandro too.”

He seems in a strong position but admits he’s concerned by next Wednesday’s 39.4 kilometre Pontevedra time trial. “For me the main favourites are Contador and Froome, also because of the time trial. I really have to do a great race performance against the clock if I want to have a chance to win the general classification,” he said.

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