Alberto Contador: Suspension may have cost me the chance of Vuelta victory
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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Alberto Contador: Suspension may have cost me the chance of Vuelta victory

by Ben Atkins at 3:27 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Doping
 
2008 race winner lacking sharpness where it counts after six months out of the peloton

alberto contadorAlberto Contador’s suspension from racing following his positive test for Clenbuterol in the 2010 Tour de France may have been for two years but, since the legal process took so long, most of it was backdated and he only actually spent six months away from the sport. This might have been enough to prevent the 29-year-old Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider from winning his first post-ban Grand Tour however, as he appears to lack his former edge where it counts in the mountains.

“How many times has Contador attacked? I don’t know, 32 or 33, isn’t it?” said race leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) after the tough stage finish at Lagos de Covadonga. “I suffered and fortunately, I was on a good day.

“Responding to his attacks made me suffer but I was able to resist,” he added. “At the end, he got some advantage but I knew that it was less difficult by then and I still had the ability to accelerate and make it across. Tomorrow’s finale at Cuitu Negru is very hard but I wouldn’t say it’s the queen stage of the Vuelta: that’ll be at Bola del Mundo.”

In recent years, fans of cycling have been used to watching Contador attack in the mountains and disappear up the road to victory. He has been unable to do so in this Vuelta; today’s stage saw him repeatedly try to escape his rivals, only to be chased down again; last Sunday’s stage to the Collada de la Gallina, in Andorra, saw him run out of steam before he reached the line, and he was caught on the line by Rodríguez and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who took the stage.

“I wasn’t going well today, that’s why I asked my team-mates to attack,” he said of today’s Lagos de Covadonga finish. “I also attacked on five or six occasions because I’m fighting to win the Vuelta.”

Contador is even using SRAM’s new WiFLi rear derailleur, whose mid-length cage allows him to use larger sprockets - and this smaller gears - on the steep mountains of the Vuelta. This is not proving to be enough however, and he was chased down by Rodríguez and Valverde each time.

“Purito [Rodríguez] is stronger than ever,” Contador explained. “Because of my six months break, I’m missing the little extra strength that I’d have liked to have. I imagine the crowd has enjoyed the spectacle. I hope to be better tomorrow but in any case, I’ll fight till the last metre.”

So far, Contador has just been able to take a stage victory in the 2012 Vuelta; or any victory since his return from suspension at the beginning of last month. He remains poised behind Rodríguez however, just 22 seconds in arrears, and, with plenty of mountains to come in the race’s closing week, has plenty more chances to take the race.

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