Contador slightly disappointed with stage 14, but has upper hand
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Contador slightly disappointed with stage 14, but has upper hand

by Conal Andrews at 8:20 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Narrow time gaps bode well for exciting race

Alberto ContandorOne of the most peculiar sights in recent Tour history was the near-track stand race leader Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador made close to the finish of today’s first Pyrenean mountain stage.

After his Astana team had earlier softened up what remained of the peloton, Contador made three efforts to distance Schleck on the final climb up to Ax 3 Domaines. Each time the Saxo Bank rider was able to respond, as was the Russian rider Denis Menchov (Rabobank).

Contador was being shadowed closely by his main rival and, frustrated by this, tried to coax Schleck to pass him on several occasions. That culminated in a nears-stop by the two, a rapid time loss to the other GC contenders, and a platform for Menchov and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) to tear away and gain 14 seconds by the finish line.

“We watched each other, while the others went ahead, but this is only the first Pyrenean stage”, he said afterwards, relieve that they caught the other GC riders by the finish. “Once we saw they were going too far away we have agreed [to work together], because at the end they could take so much time.”

Sanchez and Menchov finished second and third, gaining a quarter of a minute, but Contador didn’t seem too worried. “We are concerned that they got time back, but it hasn’t been too much,” he explained. “This climb is quite easy for racing on the wheels and attacks were fairly predictable. It was hard to get away from people ... and maybe I have not had my best day.”

“Vino and all the team have done a magnificent job, but it was a relatively to go on the wheels and that’s the reason the differences are much smaller than in other climbs” he added.

Schleck and he have been very equally matched thus far in the mountains, although the fact that Schleck didn’t try anything today may have been a sign that he didn’t feel super. Contador is a far stronger time trailist and because of this, his rival undoubtedly needs to attack if he is to win the Tour. He missed out today, but can be expected to make a strong bid in the days to come in order to try to increase his buffer.

“It was a battle between him and me until we saw that we had to collaborate among us in order not to lose much time to the others,” the Spaniard explained.

“We both are watching each other [during the race], but last time trial favours me. With respect to Andy there are others who are very strong, such as Menchov and Samuel. They go well in the time trial and can be dangerous for him”.

He agrees that things could boil down to what happens on the final summit finish of the race, that of the Tourmalet, but feels there is no room to be complacent beforehand. If there’s a chance to make a move, before, he’ll go for it.

“It is clear that this stage will be very important, but there are still another two before many things can happen”, he said, then warned. “This position favours me for the last time trial.”

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