Contador’s rivals vow that Paris-Nice isn’t over yet
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Contador’s rivals vow that Paris-Nice isn’t over yet

by VeloNation Press at 6:37 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
 

Despite his stage win and yellow jersey, Alberto Contador has a hard fight on his hands before he wins Paris-Nice, insist some of his main rivals.

The Spaniard dropped the peloton on yesterday’s fourth stage, soloing clear on the finishing climb of the La Croix Neuve - montée Laurent Jalabert. He reached the finish in Mende ten seconds clear of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel – Euskadi), 18 ahead of Joaquim Rodriguez (Team Katusha) and 20 seconds or more ahead of his other rivals.

When the time bonuses were factored into the general classification standings, he started today’s stage 24 seconds clear of Valverde, 25 ahead of Kreuziger and 28 up on Luis León Sanchez. Samuel Sanchez and Jens Voigt are 29 and 34 seconds back, respectively.

However his rivals are not planning on giving up any time soon.

“I have been feeling well since the beginning of the race and I will go on with a fighting spirit, even I lost a few seconds today”, declared defending Paris-Nice champion Luis León Sanchez.

“The level is very high here and today Contador showed everybody that he is in great condition. As for me I believe I must be satisfied because in such a hill to finish less than thirty seconds behind a climber like Contador is really a good result…. Anyway, we will keep on fighting in the next stages and take advantage of the opportunities.

His team-mate Valverde was the closest to Contador, taking second on the stage. At one point it looked like he was coming back to his compatriot, but the double Tour de France winner accelerated in the final kilometre and pulled away again.

“I believe that I must be satisfied with my second place here in Mende,” he said afterwards. “This kind of hill is just perfect for Contador. Alberto made the difference when he attacked but after that when I attacked behind him the gap was unchanged.”

“I felt well and I am most of all happy and at the same time surprised because I am not suffering too much from the cold weather. And believe me it is every day colder. In the Côte de Chabrits there were minus four degrees Celsius.”

He promises to fight on, inspired by the memory of Contador suffering the hunger knock last year and losing his race lead.

“The race is not finished yet. Just remember what happened last year. The next stages will be difficult too. I am second overall at 24” and my team-mate Luis León Sánchez is fourth, at 28 seconds. We will see what we can do to try and change the current ranking.”

German rider Jens Voigt had been race leader but lost his yellow jersey on the steep, ten percent slopes. He recovered slightly in the final kilometre and passed several riders who had been ahead of him. He will draw on that kind of never-say-die attitude in the days ahead, doing what he can to win the race.

Team director Kim Anderson said that the steepness of the climb plus the harsh weather conditions made it a tough day for Voigt, and also for Frank Schleck, who cracked and finished in 30th place.

“Jens fought persistantly to avoid losing too much time. But this is terrain for Contador more than for Jens and naturally we expected the stage to be difficult with these odds,” he said. “If you take a good look at the stages in general you see that most of the top riders have had an off-day and the cold weather simply makes it harder for some riders. Especially Fränk (Schleck) is more vulnerable in the cold.”

The Historic Calendar event continues today with a flatter stage, the lumpy 153.5 kilometre race from Pernes-les-Fontaines to Aix-en-Provence. The 10.5 kilometre category two ascent of the Col de Murs comes early on in the stage and could well set things up for a long range attack, as well as enabling the Caisse d’Epargne and Saxo Bank teams of Valverde, Sanchez and Voigt to put pressure on Contador’s Astana squad.

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