Alberto Contador makes it four career titles in Basque Country (Colin Flockton)
Stage 6, April 9: Eibar - Eibar, 16.5 km
Alberto Contador dealt the fatal blow to his rivals today in the sixth and final stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco, carrying off the ITT stage win and the general classification triumph in one fell swoop.
Contador dominated the climb to Arrate as surely as did the deity of local folklore who ascended the mountain in just three steps, then down the iconic puerto he flew in a textbook-perfect descent of a wet and sinuous parcours.
Both Henao and Quintana put up a good fight. “They told me over the radio that I had some pretty big gaps,” said Alberto. “They told me that I had more than 50 seconds on Henao and twenty-some on Quintana – and he was way back in the GC.
“More than anything, I was thinking about the GC, but in the end I was also able to win the stage. I did’t want to make any mistakes and end up on the ground. That was the worst thing that could’ve happened. When opportunity knocked, we pushed it to the max, and so I managed to get the win.”
Contador has shined in all of his races this year, but has not, until today, managed to finish one off. He was third in the Algarve, second in Paris-Nice and second in Catalunya. “In all the races that I’ve ridden, I’ve felt well,” he said, “but a couple of them have eluded me by mere seconds, maybe because there was no time trial, or due to some other factors, but today I’ve gotten the victory and I’m very happy.”
Alberto continued: “The fans were crazy today at the time trial. I consider the Basque fans probably to be the best in the world and since my amateur days I have strong links to this place. For me it was a pleasure racing and winning the Vuelta al País Vasco. It's a very hard race, one that’s difficult to control and where a thousand things can happen. When I think about it, it still seems incredible that I won. I'd like to dedicate this victory to all the fans and to Oleg Tinkov for his support, his passion and for making this team a reality. This victory goes to him.”
Contador has now finished the season’s first block of races “in the best way possible. I got close in Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya. In Nice I wasn’t able to win but the final stage left me with a great feeling. I think that it was a nice stage for all the fans, and I came here with the clear objective of getting the overall title. The other day I started thinking that there are quite a lot of races that I’ve won, of different types, but I’d never won the same one four times.”
As if today’s double victory were not enough, Alberto saved the best news for last. “I’m re-thinking my future and, maybe, we’ll continue a little while longer. We’ll see.”
Later he returned to the topic: “I’ve talked with the people close to me and we’re evaluating the possibility of continuing for one more year.”
When asked if this was his last Vuelta al País Vasco, he replied succinctly, “Certainly not.”
Sean Yates, Tinkoff DS: "It's been a long week, with the time trial looming at the end, and as we predicted it was always going to be the deciding stage of the race. Before this you have to bide your time, not lose time and take time where you can - this is exactly what Alberto and the team did here and it all came together today.”
"Alberto laid out his effort well today, he went really quick up the climb and had a good cushion there over the next riders over the summit going into the downhill - not only for the GC but for the stage too. Then when we saw Quintana was coming back he had to really go for it as we wanted the stage win along with the GC.”
"He's in great shape and deserves this win after his second places in Algarve, Paris-Nice and Catalunya. We had a few injuries and illness coming into the race and lost three guys along the way but the team stayed solid. Things played into our favour this race, and never taking the leaders jersey worked for us, as we didn't have to ride and defend. And now the stage win is the icing on the cake.”
"It's Alberto's fourth win in this race, and as always he dedicated a lot of time and effort to be in great shape. The whole team is really happy with the result today."
Sergio Henao (SKY), 2nd place overall: “The climb was very hard, and then the descent, with rain, very dangerous. Contador risked it, too, it’s his way of riding: with pride and honor. He’s a great rider. El señor Alberto Contador is a great rival.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 6, 1st (29:13). Contador in GC, 1st (22:44:43)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Henao (0:12), 3 Quintana (0:37), 4 Pinot (1:13), 5 Rodríguez (1:22), 6 S. Sánchez (1:29), 7 Costa (2:19), 8 Spilak (2:47), 9 Craddock (2:52), 10 Kelderman (3:14)
Follow us at @Contador_Notebk for news and live race coverage from start to finish of every stage.
Alberto Contador and Sergio Henao worked together to drop the other favorites in the Stage 5 finale (Colin Flockton)
Stage 5, April 8: Orio - Arrate (Eibar), 159 km Alberto Contador attacked with authority on the road to Arrate today in Stage 5 of the Vuelta al País Vasco, launching himself toward the finish line at a pace that only Sergio Henao could follow. Henao managed to catch Contador’s wheel on the slopes of Usartza, then the two set up a smooth collaboration that netted the leader’s jersey for the Colombian and second place overall for Contador, just six seconds back. Diego Rosa won the stage after a long solo escapade.
“It was an extremely hard day, one of those that really illustrates just how tough cycling really is,” said Alberto after the stage. “It was a stage for staying attentive at every second, even more than ever because of the tremendous downpours and the terrible cold that we had to endure. The pace was fast, and the most important thing was to stay bundled up to keep warm, and to eat correctly.”
Kelderman, Landa, Quintana and others suffered significant time losses on the day. Aru crashed out, Dan Martin abandoned, but Contador was strong. “My team always responded perfectly and were excellent at protecting me,” he said. “There were a few hectic moments at the end, but what’s good is that I moved forward and was able to take time on some of the favorites. However, the GC remains totally open.”
The daunting 16.5-km time trial at Eibar tomorrow will decide who wears the txapela on the final podium. The first half is uphill towards Arrate over a steep path via Azitain, with sections of up to 22%. Alberto said, “Now, everything relies on my legs functioning well in the time trial, and we’ll see what kind of result we get.”
Stephen De Jongh, Tinkoff DS: "It was a cold day out there as expected, but it was a big day in the race and a big one for the team. The boys really worked hard today. Michael Valgren worked well before the third-to-last climb to keep the pace up for Alberto. On the top of that climb Roman Kreuziger was just behind the group with Alberto and Robert Kiserlovski there, but he already worked hard yesterday and didn't manage to get back to it.”
"Now it’s all down to the tomorrow's race. We've already looked at the first part of the climb for tomorrow, and the descent goes down today's final climb. It's a decent climb and then a technical descent, being fast with an average gradient of over 9% average, and it will be very technical if it's wet again. We will wait and see what tomorrow brings."
Sergio Henao, new race leader: “I’m very happy because I’ve fought very hard every day to wear the leader’s jersey and, finally, I’ve got it. When Alberto and I went, we wanted to gain time going into the time trial tomorrow and we worked well together.”
Nairo Quintana, 2013 winner: “Not just Arrate: The whole race was very hard. The weather conditions all day were difficult, and because of a little carelessness, I got quite cold. I paid for it in the end. I rode my own pace after Contador and Henao’s attack, I knew that I was riding close to my limit, and I knew that if I went with them in the end I'd blow up. I followed my own pace to minimize losses."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 3rd (3:13 Rosa – 4:19:15). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:06 Henao – 22:15:24)
TOP TEN: 1 Henao, 2 Contador (0:06), 3 Pinot (0:10), 4 Rodríguez (0:12), 5 S. Sánchez (0:31), 6 Quintana (0:38), 7 Craddock (1:00), 8 Kelderman (1:07), 9 Costa (1:09), 10 Reichenbach (1:11)
Alberto Contador on point in Stage 4 (Colin Flockton)
Stage 4, April 7: Lesaka - Orio, 165 km
Alberto Contador maintained fifth place and even picked up a second today in Stage 4 of the Vuelta al País Vasco, although, in the end, the day was not his. Contador was constantly on the prowl in the difficult late kilometers, sizing up his rivals, answering and initiating attacks. His springiness out of the saddle, easy accelerations and chary descending on twisting wet roads say good things about his condition, both physical and mental.
However, the hero in today’s absolutely cracking finale was Samuel Sánchez. After more than 1,000 days without a victory, the stars came back into alignment for the Asturian ex-leader of the now defunct Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi team. The demon descender attacked Contador and Quintana in the final kilometers and escaped on the last descent. He beat it for the finish line with the best of the professional peloton hot on his heels. That the victory came as a blessing showed on his face as he posted up.
Contador finished in the same time as Sánchez, no harm, no foul.
“It was a complicated day due to the rain, which fell intermittently all day,” Alberto explained after the stage. “Besides that, the start was pure madness: no breakaway was formed until kilometer 80. The average speed was very high despite the fact that we had been over several climbs, and that made for a hard day.”
“On the final ramps of Aia, we gave it a try, but with the rain and the painting on the road it was hard to ride out of the saddle. We got over the summit with a gap, but there was little mutual agreement and in the end we were caught by the main group,” he said.
Alberto continued, “There was no change in the GC, with the exception of Landa losing a few seconds. This was one more cumulative effort for the legs, which will have its consequences. Tomorrow will be another hard-fought stage and people are going to try to get into the breakaway because they know that there’s a chance that it will make it to the finish line.
“On the other hand, we’ll have to see how it goes in the play for the GC. There will be a few opportunities to create time differences. Arrate is a tough climb but it’s hard to get any distance, so I hope that the differences are slight. Everything will be in play in the time trial.”
Wilco Kelderman took over the leader’s jersey, Landa sank to third place. Contador’s indispensable gregario Tosatto abandoned, but super domestique Roman Kreuziger more than earned his keep.
Stephen De Jongh, Tinkoff DS: "Alberto was feeling good, he knew the last climb and tried to get away after some good work by Roman Kreuziger. Roman was on a good day and helped to make it really hard in the front group in the final, and the other guys also worked hard to stay in position to prepare for the climbs.”
“We are down to five now though as Matteo Tosatto left the race, he was just empty today and got dropped early in the day when the speed was really high so there was no coming back. Tomorrow is going to a be a hard day and we'll see what we can come up with. The responsibility is still off us to control the race so we can make our own strategy and hopefully we can be in the best possible position ahead of the final time trial."
Samuel Sánchez (BMC), stage winner: “I saw that people were on the limit. Contador attacked, Quintana answered him, they opened a gap. Then Henao caught their wheel. I bridged to them and, I didn’t think about it, I attacked them with everything I had to try to leave them behind.”
“At my age, you enjoy everything much more. I’m close to quitting the bike, maybe this year, maybe next year, and doing this at age 38, I think, makes it worth even more.”
“It’s the eighth stage that I’ve won in my Vuelta, because in the end, it is my favorite race, in which I’ve won, I’ve made the podium three times, and which I enjoy the most, since I grew up here – as a person and as a cyclist – so for me, it’s like home. Winning today, in front of all those who were here, after the traumatic disappearance of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team, which was a huge blow for everybody, it’s a dream come true for me, and it seems incredible that with all my experience and all the years that I’ve spent on a bike, it’s made me emotional to the point of tears.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 7th (s.t. S. Sánchez – 4:13:12). Contador in GC, 5th (0:10 Kelderman – 17:52:48)
TOP FIVE: 1 Kelderman, 2 Henao (0:04), 3 Landa (0:07), 4 S. Sánchez (0:08), 5 Contador (0:10)
Alberto Contador finishes safely in the pack in Stage 3 (Colin Flockton)
Stage 3, April 6: Vitoria-Gasteiz - Lesaka, 193.5 km
Alberto Contador spent Stage 3 of the Vuelta al País Vasco riding easy in the pack. The peloton enjoyed a respite from bad weather in the longest, and as Contador put it, “one of the calmest" days of this edition. He finished safely in the pack behind stage winner Steve Cummings. There was no change in the top places in the GC.
The action finally heated up over a set of three climbs in the final 35 kilometers. A strong escape group got away, out of which Dani Navarro launched a swashbuckling attempt at the stage win. But it was Cummings, firing on all cylinders, who just managed to outrun the peloton to the line.
Unlike the adventurers, Contador’s concerns were of the main pack and the GC men. “The finale was fast because there were teams interested in the group arriving together,” said Alberto, “and others who insisted on moving the race. We had to be well-positioned so we stuck to the front. We were able to spend the whole day like that, without any problems.”
Contador expects more of the same tomorrow, and even though worsening weather conditions might detract from the calm, he hopes to save his strength for the next two key stages. “I think that it will be Friday and, above all, the final time trial that will define the race,” he concluded.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 16th(s.t. Cummings – 5:01:57). Contador in GC, 5th (0:11 Landa – 13:39:35)
TOP FIVE: 1 Landa, 2 Kelderman (0:01), 3 Henao (0:05), 4 S. Sánchez (0:09), 5 Contador (0:11)
Alberto Contador reaches for support from the barrier after the steep Stage 2 finale (Colin Flockton)
Stage 2, April 5: Markina-Xemein – Baranbio-Garrastatxu (Amurrio), 174.3 km
Alberto Contador moved into fifth place overall today in Stage 2 of the Vuelta al País Vasco after finishing among the best on the explosive final climb. The Tinkoff leader opted out of leading a chase to catch the two-man breakaway that attacked on the final slope and launched Mikel Landa to a stage win on home soil. Contador did, however, accelerate out of a select group and managed to gain a few seconds on most of his direct GC rivals.
“It was a difficult stage, mainly owing to the weather, since it rained in the first part and was pretty cold,” said Alberto. “We knew that we had to be well-positioned towards the front on the final climb and that’s what we did,” he said in reference to the tricky entrance to the finale, an abrupt exit from the highway onto a steep, narrow track.
When Landa and Kelderman attacked, the main GC men stayed together in a knot, eyeing each other. “During the ascent nobody took any responsibility. I felt good, but I was reluctant to assume all the responsibility and to do the pulling in order to catch up to the two escapees. That’s why I decided to wait,” Alberto said.
“I think that I was wrong in Catalunya to take too many things upon myself, so I was a little more leery of doing that here,” he explained.
Looking strong and smooth, Contador did strike out to catch the two, but he sat back and was, in the end, the fifth man to reach the finish line, behind Landa, Kelderman, Henao and Samuel Sánchez. The biggest names – Quintana and Purito, for example – lost time to him. “At the end, we lost a few seconds to some riders,” said Alberto, “but what I take away from the day is that my legs are there and the race is still open.
“It’s always best to have a few seconds of advantage, because that way it’s up to them to get back that time. There are still three stages ahead of us, and the final time trial. Even though we have to take the race one day at a time, taking into account the weather conditions, I think that the time trial will decided the Vuelta al País Vasco.”
Stephen De Jongh, Tinkoff DS: "The finish was really tough - really steep and every man for himself. The boys put all their efforts into getting Alberto Contador into position, and he was at the front as the road kicked up. Then there was the early attack of Kelderman and Landa, and not much interest to pull from behind. Alberto took up the chase early on but didn't want to do all the pulling so they ended up getting a gap.”
"What Landa and Kelderman showed was very impressive. But the pressure is with them now to control the race and to defend the jersey. I think we're still in a good position for the overall with some tough days ahead and then the difficult final time trial, and there are lots of riders in the same time at the top.”
"Unfortunately we lost Sergio Paulinho today - he was just empty. He came into the line-up at last minute, and did a strong ride yesterday but didn't have anything in the tank today. We had some horrible weather early in the stage, cold and wet, and so he stepped off the bike. The other guys all did a strong job. Jesper Hansen was already better than yesterday and we hope he can improve further tomorrow as he also comes back from sickness.”
"Tomorrow has a bit of an easier start compared to the other days. Then in the final we have some climbs and tricky descents so we have to stay attentive and be aware of the situation on the road."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 2, 5th (0:11 Landa – 4:43:17). Contador in GC, 5th (0:11 Landa – 8:37:18)
TOP FIVE: 1 Landa, 2 Kelderman (0:01), 3 Henao (0:05), 4 S. Sánchez (0:09), 5 Contador (0:11)
Tinkoff lead the pack in chilly Basque Country (Colin Flockton)
Stage 1, April 4: Etxebarria - Markina-Xemein, 144 km
Alberto Contador rode aggressively today in Stage 1 of the Vuelta al País Vasco, accelerating off the front to test his legs and to keep a tight rein on any significant moves from his rivals. Luis León Sánchez (Astana) won the stage after sparking a duel with countryman Dani Navaro (Cofidis) that came within a whisker of being stomped out by the peloton at the line. Contador finished safely in the pack in spite of appearing to motion for assistance in the final kilometers.
“I felt good today in spite of the first day always being the most difficult for getting back into race mode, especially when you get here following a week of rest after Catalunya,” said Alberto after the stage. “I feel like I’m in pretty good form. The team also did well today, and protected me at all times. We always had the stage more or less under control.”
Rain, the mixed blessing that both creates slippery roads and quells Contador's allergies, is forecast throughout the week. The midday showers at the start line came as no surprise. “The day started out wet, but, fortunately, we got lucky and later there were dry conditions,” said Alberto. “In general, I’m happy with the day, and now the most important thing is to avoid catching cold and to recover for tomorrow, when we’ll have an important day.”
About tomorrow’s finale, Alberto said, “Tomorrow we have the first summit finish, but, honestly, I’m not sure what might happen. I saw that it has a tough profile but I don’t know what factors could break the race. Obviously, we’re going to have to be on guard, with the goal of not losing time, because as we’ve already seen in Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya, every second is really important.”
How does the competition stack up in Basque Country? Contador is playing his cards close to his chest. “There’s no doubt that the roster is top-notch, with some very strong riders who’ve come here with the intention of winning,” he said. “We’re going to have to wait and see our position.”
Sean Yates, Tinkoff DS: “When an early break went, we contributed to the chase together with a few other teams and always kept the lead under 3:30 minutes, so it was under control. On the final climb Navarro was strong and kept going after an attack, and Luis Leon joined over the top with the two of them just staying away. Behind, Alberto finished in the front group with Roman Kreuziger.
"At the end of the stage there's no time bonuses at this race so that's not something we have to deal with, so all favourites are still in the same situation ahead of tomorrow, which is another day.
"Sergio did a good job today on his first race back (from injury) - when you're riding on the front you have extra motivation and was good to see him back in action, while Jesper Hansen is still recovering from sickness and did what he could to survive here. Thankfully the weather turned out well today. It was raining at the start but it did clear up and wasn't too cold. Potentially tomorrow could be a different picture but we will be ready.
"Tomorrow will be much different and at the end we'll be doing our utmost to win the stage. Astana will have to control the race now they have the lead and it's a question of being at the right place at the right time, principally at the end when we hit the final climb. We've recce'd the stage, and the finish is evil - 2.7km averaging over 13% so it's going to be very, very hard.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 24th (s.t. LL Sánchez – 3:54:21). Contador in GC, 24th (s.t. LL Sánchez – 3:54:21).
TOP THREE: 1 LL Sánchez, 2 Navarro (s.t.), 3 Gerrans (s.t.)
Alberto Contador looks to make a giant mark in Catalunya Stage 6 (Colin Flockton)
Stage 6, March 26: Sant Joan Despí - Vilanova i la Geltrú: 197.2 km
Alberto Contador survived Stage 6 of the Volta a Catalunya today after hours of rapid and tense riding in the pack. The only real chance to take back seconds on race leader Quintana occurred at the first intermediate sprint, at kilometer 10, but other ambitious riders, including Dan Martin and Romain Bardet, got there first.
“Nevertheless, the race is far from over,” said Alberto at the finish line. “It’s true that Nairo Quintana is ahead, but tomorrow we have a stage in which a great many things could happen. With Movistar and BMC attacking constantly today, it was very difficult to control the race. However, I feel very satisfied with the form I find myself in this year.”
After a breakaway was established, the race proceeded according to a familiar pattern: Escapees scooped up points and bonuses in the intermediate contests, and were later scooped up themselves by the peloton, this time very near the end. Davide Cimolai of Lampre was the surprise winner of the day; Contador’s team brought him safely to the line.
The Volta ends tomorrow in a short stage of 138 kilometers that will send the riders up and down the climb at Montuïc (3rd category) eight times within 50 kilometers. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” said Alberto. “It’s a demanding circuit and anything could happen. We’re going to do everything possible, but I don’t think I’ll be the only one. There are other riders all within a few seconds of one another, and tomorrow’s stage will be a free-for-all.”
Only seven seconds separate Contador and Quintana. Picking up a scant few seconds at the sprint points early in the stage is a possibility, but pulling off a victory after eight trips up Montuïc will be tricky indeed. “It’s a shame that the profile tomorrow isn’t suited for attacking from a distance,” said Alberto. “If we had the right parcours we could launch an attack earlier. That will be very complicated tomorrow.”
“I’m very happy with my condition, and regardless of whether or not we win, my preparation for the Tour de France is coming along perfectly. I’m optimistic and very motivated about the Tour.”
Stephen De Jongh, Tinkoff DS: “It was actually a hard stage, fast and with quite a lot of wind so the bunch was splitting up quite a lot at times and you always had to be aware of the situation.”
“The team kept Alberto close to the front when the pressure was on to the finish, and it sets up an interesting final day tomorrow. Unfortunately we lost Jesper Hansen this morning with fever so he couldn't start, meaning we were down to six, but the team did a really good job again of keeping Alberto out of trouble.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 6, 21st (s.t. Cimolai - 4:35:13). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:07 Quintana - 23:07.41)
TOP SIX: 1 Quintana, 2 Contador (0:07), 3 Porte (0:17), 4 D. Martin (0:18), 5 Van Garderen (0:27), 6 Bardet (0:31)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATIONS, PHOTOS
Stage 4, March 24: Bagà - Port Ainé, 172.2 km
Alberto Contador slugged his way to within 8 seconds of the leadership today in a ferocious dogfight on the slopes of Port Ainé in Stage 4 of the Volta a Catalunya. Until the final two kilometers the fighting aces merely snarled and circled, but from that point on it was war. Contador took all comers, but in the final duel it was Nairo Quintana who made the decisive move. The Colombian is now the race leader.
“In the final kilometers I tested Daniel Martin, who, you could see, was already on the edge,” said Alberto from his seat on the rollers after the stage. “Then Van Garderen attacked and opened a pretty big gap on us. He just kept going. I gave it a big push to catch him.”
Alberto then returned the favor, and distanced the American as the other GC men nipped and swirled. “Then Porte took off,” he continued, “then Quintana... then I gave it a try. But at a certain moment, Quintana upped the pace and held it. I tried to catch my breath, but by the time I did, it was impossible to catch back up.”
“I had the chance to put myself into the leadership but, never mind, I can only congratulate him,” Alberto said.
The high mountains are behind them now, so any bid for victory will have to rely on strategy. "We'll have to see from here on,” continued the Tinkoff leader. “Movistar has a great team and it seems difficult to catch them out. Now I have to recover, and we're already thinking about the days that are left."
Note: The stage was won by Thomas De Gendt, the surviving member of the day’s breakaway. And, Porte appeared from nowhere and pipped Contador at the line, robbing him of a few bonus seconds that would have made the margin to Quintana even narrower.
Stephen De Jongh, Tinkoff DS: "It was a real close and tight finish, and the situation was always changing with the bonus seconds available. For a long time there were three riders ahead on the climb, so no bonus seconds available. Then by the end there was six and four which was more important. Alberto worked hard to bring Tejay van Garderen back, but in the final Quintana was too strong. And then Riche Porte beat him on the line, which was a pity as he would have been four seconds closer on GC – but he put a strong ride in today.
"Pawel Poljanski was sick and so he stopped the race. He was dropped early on the climbs and it didn't make any sense to keep pushing on so he stepped off. Jesper Hansen did a really good job today which was great to see - when Sky sent a rider up the road he started working to bring the gap down, and did a really good ride there."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 4th (1:23 De Gendt - 4:52:04). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:08 Quintana - 19:01:43)
TOP FIVE: 1 Quintana, 2 Contador (0:08), 3 Porte (0:17), 4 D. Martin (0:24), 5 Van Garderen (0:27)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATIONS, PHOTOS
Stage 3, March 23: Girona - La Molina (Alp): 172.1 km
Stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya today turned out to be a good day at the office for Alberto Contador, who latched on to a glory-bound attack by Dan Martin and finished second, collecting some bonus seconds and distancing all of his direct rivals. Alberto is now second overall, only six seconds behind the new race leader, Martin.
Contador, still recovering from a cold, looked good but not great at the freezing summit of La Molina, but nevertheless managed to outstrip all but the Irishman. “At the end, unfortunately, the stage win was not possible,” he said afterwards. “However, I’m happy, even if I didn’t feel great today and I wasn’t riding comfortably. In spite of everything, I was there in the attacks and on my toes in the finale, and was able to get second place.”
“The important thing now is to see how I recover going into tomorrow,” Alberto continued. “I came here with a cold from Paris-Nice and in that sense it’s positive. The worst is over, otherwise I couldn’t have gotten this result. Anyway, I don’t think we can draw many conclusions from today’s climb. We were in a group, a strong wind was blowing, and the climb – with the exception of the first three kilometers – was pretty doable.”
What about the queen stage tomorrow? Two hors-categorie climbs, among others, are on the docket Thursday in Stage 4, which ends at the summit of Port Ainé. “Tomorrow’s stage, in principle, is better adapted to my characteristics and we’re going to try to do better. Daniel Martin is a strong rider and he knows what it’s like to win on tomorrow’s ascent, since he won the GC there in 2013. It’s no surprise that he won today either, so that he’s now the best-placed in the general classification. Even so, I think that Martin has the best options for the GC right now,” Alberto concluded.
Sean Yates, Tinkoff DS: “It was the first mountain stage today, with nice weather and a good test. The early break went and the lead quickly grew to 10 minutes, then behind, Sky took control and rode the whole day. There was a counter attack later on but it was a controlled stage behind until the final kilometres. All the action really came under the one kilometre banner at which point it was every man for himself - Alberto went toe to toe, and came up just short of the win.”
“There's now a six second gap, and the GC will come down to tomorrow, being the last summit stage after which final days only offer up some time bonuses. All in all it was a good result for Alberto. The guys did a good job during the stage, and it was a case of following the pace as long as possible in the wheels. We're happy with the performance, and tomorrow will be tougher which should be to our benefit - so all is still to play for.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 2nd (0:02 D. Martin – 5:00:27). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:06 D. Martin – 14:08:18)
TOP FIVE: 1 D. Martin, 2 Contador (0:06), 3 Bardet (0:08), 4 Van Garderen (0:12), 5 Quintana (0:19)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATIONS, PHOTOS
Alberto Contador in Stage 2 of Catalunya (Quique García)
Stage 2, March 22: Mataró - Olot: 178.7
It was another day, another dollar for Alberto Contador today in Stage 2 of the Volta a Catalunya. The Tinkoff team kept him safe throughout another stage that, judging by the result (a second deft victory by Nacer Bouhanni) was just like the day before. Contador finished in the pack in the same time.
Alberto was under the weather during the week between Paris-Nice and Catalunya, so now he is monitoring his condition as the parcours toughens. "I feel in good form, even if it's too soon to draw any conclusions after two flat days,” he said after the finish. “Tomorrow starts a different race, the mountains, where we'll see the first time differences."
"I'm going to have to see how much I've recovered since Paris-NIce, and how I feel. My health is better every day, and that's positive. I still feel a little congested, and I hope that it doesn't cause me any problems," said Alberto.
Today’s stage was somber. The terrorist bombings in Brussels in the morning that killed and maimed many left a mark on the race. After observing a moment of silence at the start line, the peloton went forward with a strange calm reminiscent of the terrible day that the cyclists formed a cortege for Wouter Weylandt, the Belgian rider who was killed in the 2011 Giro. Today the Belgian teams wore black arm bands.
Tomorrow will be different. The race begins in earnest with a route peppered by four first-category climbs, ending with La Molina (Alp). According to Contador, "La Molina is unpredictable and you never know what's going to happen. It's not an especially taxing climb and I think that the time differences will be slim."
Stephen De Jongh, Tinkoff DS: “It was another pretty straight forward day today, with no surprises and everyone getting through safe. With the stages to come we didn't want to use too much energy, so it was a day of keeping out of the wind and looking after Alberto before tomorrow and making sure that we didn't lose any time.”
“After a small break went clear Cofidis took responsibility and won the stage again so hats off to them. And our guys did a good job in sticking to what they had to do.”
“Tomorrow we will see what happens - it's the first stage where the GC riders will play their hands, and we're ready for this with Alberto. The guys are motivated, only Pawel Poljanski is still suffering from a bit of sickness but we're hoping that he'll fight through and come good for the second half of the week. So we're just looking forward to tomorrow's stage now.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 23rd (s.t. Bouhanni - 4:39:10). Contador in GC, 25th (0:20 Bouhanni - 9:07:41)
TOP THREE: 1 Bouhanni, 2 Swift (0:14), 3 De Gendt (0:14)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATIONS, PHOTOS
Stage 1, March 21: Calella - Calella: 175.8 km
Alberto Contador survived Stage 1 of the Volta a Catalunya today, The Tinkoff boys kept Contador to the front and safe from the start line to the bunch sprint and victory by Nacer Bouhanni.
From sunny Calella on the coast, the race set out on a long loop into the mountains where the riders faced narrow, twisting roads and an early spring rain. They descended back through nasty conditions into the sun, and there were attacks, and there was a bunch sprint - the first day.
Sean Yates, Tinkoff DS: "It was largely a straightforward stage today - a few guys went away early on and everything was kept under control by the peloton as other teams were looking for a sprint. This meant that we could sit back and look to keep Alberto Contador safe. It was complicated by a bit of rainfall on the downhill of the last climb where the bunch split considerably, but the guys stuck around Alberto and were up the front.
"As expected the race came back together after this and when the counter attacks came it always looked like ending in a bunch sprint." "The only mishap was that Matteo Tosatto had a puncture which was unfortunate as he was looking after Alberto in the finale, but it worked out fine and the guys stayed safe."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 44th (s.t. Bouhanni - 4:28:51). Contador in GC, 47th (0:10 Bouhanni - 4:28:41)
TOP FIVE: 1 Bouhanni, 2 Swift (0:04), 3 Impey (0:06), 4 Vervaeke (0:07), J. Moreno (0:08)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATIONS, PHOTOS
Alberto Contador attacked and dropped everyone on the final climb today in Stage 5 of the Volta ao Algarve, taking his third career win on the Alto de Malhao.
The decisive stage win bumped him up to 3rd place overall.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 1st (4:24:47). Contador in GC, 3rd (0:26 Thomas - 18:34:15)
TOP TEN: 1 Thomas, 2 J. Izaguirre (19), 3 Contador (0:26), 4 Pinot (0:34), 5 Roglic (0:49), 6 Gallopin (0:50), 7 Zakarin (1:03), 8 Pantano (1:04), 9 Aru (1:25), 10 Amaro (1:27)
Alberto Contador and Jesús Hernández at work (Tinkoff)
Stage 4, Saturday, February 20: S. Brás de Alportel – Tavira, 187.3 km
Alberto Contador arrived safely in the pack five seconds behind the sprinters' group today in Stage 4 of the Volta ao Algarve. Marcel Kittel took his second stage win of this edition, while Contador and the other GC men focused on staying safe.
Now, all eyes are on Sunday´s summit finish at Malhao, where Contador has won twice. He said, "The confidence that I have in my form is growing every day and I feel that my condition is on the uptick. It's true that I'm not satisfied with my result in the second stage, but I've gone without competing for many months, so it was something that I knew could happen. We have to take each day as it comes, and we'll see what we can do tomorrow."
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff DS: "It was a long day and like I already said there was going to be a bunch sprint. There was a lot of control from Etixx-Quickstep for Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin and at the end it was Kittel that took the stage. Our guys worked well to keep Alberto in a safe position, and that was it. Tomorrow is an interesting day because we have a top mountain finish and we're motivated for this."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 42nd (0:05 Kittel - 4:46:35). Contador in GC, 10th (1:07 T. Martin - 14:08:57)
TOP TEN: 1 T. Martin, 2 Thomas (0:03), 3 J. Izagirre (0:20), 4 Gallopin (0:46), 5 Pinot (0:47), 6 Roglic (0:52), 7 Machado (0:59), 8 Zakarin (1:04), 9 Pantano (1:05), 10 Contador (1:07)
Alberto Contador in the Stage 3 ITT (Bettini/Tinkoff)
Stage 3, Friday, February 19: Sagres – Sagres, 18 km (ITT)
Alberto Contador put in a strong performance in the Stage 3 ITT today in the Volta ao Algarve, in spite of windy conditions at the southwestern tip of Portugal. The 18-kilometer mostly-flat stage was won by Fabian Cancellara, but Contador showed increasing form, finishing 13th and managing to climb to 10th overall. Tony Martin finished 2nd and moved into the leader’s jersey.
"It was a very, very windy time-trial and the heavier riders could use spoke-front wheels," said Contador. "I had to use a 40-mm rim depth for more stability. When I went to recon the route this morning with a deeper depth, in the end I had to focus more on avoiding being blown away by the wind. We tried a 60-mm rim depth and a tri-spoke wheel, but after 10 kilometers I had to change the wheel since it was getting too difficult for me. Then I opted to go with less depth in order to focus on the race and not worry about crashing.”
The danger of a wind-induced crash was no joke. Luis León Sánchez began the day in the yellow jersey, but a gust of wind caused him to crash heavily on the irregular pavement in a roundabout while riding flat out to defend the leadership. The Murcian had to abandon and was taken immediately to the hospital. He received stiches to a deep cut on his chin, but luckily avoided any broken bones.
Contador got off to a solid start, passing the intermediate check in fifth place, 26 seconds off the pace of Cancellara. “The first part went quite a bit better because it was more or less uphill, and being lighter gives you a slim advantage, maybe a couple of percentage points,” said Alberto. “However, the heavier riders were able to gain time in the second part, slightly downhill and at a faster pace. That's where they gained time on me," he added.
"I didn't feel bad physically today, obviously, but not excellent, either," he continued. "I recovered well from yesterday and I think that I´ll ride quite a bit better in the final stage than yesterday. Sunday's stage is straightforward. It will be quite explosive, and we have see how we perform tomorrow and what form we have on Sunday. We don't have any options on the GC, so we'll see if we can aim at a stage win.”
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff DS: “In the time-trial we had two riders that went full gas, Michael Valgren and Alberto Contador. Michael finished in 29th place so he was okay considering the competition here, and Alberto in the end took 13th, and if you look at his rivals, I think he did a very decent time trial. It was very hard with the wind and with a quite flat parcours and little climbing, I think he did his best. Tomorrow will be a stage for the sprinters, so we're going to try to save some energy, because the last stage is quite hilly".
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 13th (1:03 Cancellara – 20:57). Contador in GC, 10th (1:07 T. Martin – 9:22:17)
TOP TEN: 1 T. Martin, 2 Thomas (0:03), 3 J. Izagirre (0:20), 4 Gallopin (0:46), 5 Pinot (0:47), 6 Roglic (0:52), 7 Machado (0:59), 8 Zakarin (1:04), 9 Pantano (1:05), 10 Contador (1:07)
Alberto Contador and team in command (EFE)
Stage 2, Thursday, February 18: Lagoa – Fóia, 200 km (summit finish)
Alberto Contador and his Tinkoff team drove hard in an attempt to break the race over the penultimate climb today in Stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve. Contador was first over the Alto da Pomba with his eyes on a summit-finish victory at Fóia, but the effort proved too much. He flagged in the final kilometer and finished in 21st place, 24 seconds behind stage winner Luis León Sánchez.
Contador philosophically analyzed the factors that held him back. “It was a complicated stage and very hard. I think that it’s obvious that I still lack a little rhythm. The finale was hard due to the strong wind. When the race accelerated in the final kilometer, I couldn’t follow and I lost time. Now I have to keep improving how I feel physically,” he said.
“There are riders with better legs because they’ve competed. Nevertheless, the Volta ao Algarve is serving as preparation for Paris-Nice, where my goal is to get a good result. I feel pretty much how I expected to feel. The work that we did in Tenerife was focused on power, and what I lack is race rhythm. That is precisely what I’m here for,” he said.
He admitted that it might have been a mistake for the team to shoulder so much responsibility in the peloton. “We wanted to keep the escape under control as a means to fighting for the stage win, but, in retrospect, it was probably a mistake to be in front all day with these wind conditions. Probably we expended more energy than necessary.”
“On the penultimate climb, I tried to make the race a little harder because the group was pretty large, but it was difficult to break the race with so much wind,” he said.
On the docket for Stage 3 on Friday is an 18-kilometer time trial. “We’re going to tackle a time trial and, even though it will be long and flat, it will be a very useful training session for my upcoming objectives,” Contador concluded.
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff DS: "Today the team worked hard to put Alberto in a good position. It was a very tough day with a lot of wind of course, and in the finale Alberto was super. The result was not what we hoped for, and he was a bit isolated because some riders left him a bit earlier than weplanned. It wasn't a top day but some of our riders did their work really well, that was good work. Tomorrow, we have a time trial and Alberto wants to have a good race. We will see how it goes."
Sean Yates, Tinkoff DS: "I think Alberto was going well, but he took too much wind. It was a long day, a very windy day and he tried his way until the final climb, but in the end the strongest man won and he was excluded. We had hoped for better."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 2, 21st (0:24 LL Sánchez - 5:08:25). Contador in GC, 20th (0:34 Sánchez - 9:00:50)
TOP FIVE: 1 LL Sánchez 2 Thomas (0:05) 3 Roglic (0:09) 4 J. Izaguirre (0:13) 5 Machado (0:15)
Stage 1, Wednesday, February 17: Lagos – Albufeira, 187.6 km
Alberto Contador's 2016 season got off on the right foot today in Stage 1 of the Volta ao Algarvez. He negotiated the tricky lead-in to the bunch sprint and finished in 29th place, avoiding several crashes in the final kilometers. Marcel Kittel won the day.
Alberto, a veteran of many campaigns, took the jittery finale in stride. "It was a good day," he said, "taking into account that it's one of the first races of the season and that there's always a little tension. With a peloton of almost 200 riders, the race can be tense. So there were some crashes, but, luckily, Tinkoff wasn't affected."
"It was windy, but that didn't cause many problems," he continued. "Last year, the beginning of the Ruta del Sol was pretty similar, with accidents and crashes."
Contador's first contact with the mountains in 2016 comes quickly - tomorrow, buffered only by today's rolling hills. Thursday's final climb to Fóia is a 7.5-km effort at 6.6% average gradient that comes after a 200-km day's work. It could see a show by the GC men, but the time for serious action might come later.
"It's not very hard, one of the climbs before it is even more gruelling," Contador said, "and there's a headwind at the end, so I don't think it will influence the GC very much."
"Yesterday, we reconned tomorrow's stage and I expect it to be tough," he said, not to take any summit finish lightly, "although, in my opinion, the main hopefuls for the general will reach the finish together. We're going to have to wait for the time trial and the final stage to see how the general takes shape," he said.
That final stage ends with the Algarve's signature climb to Malhao, where Alberto has won twice. "I like it better because it could be possible for a pure climber to open a more of a gap than a cyclist who climbs well." Nevertheless, he thinks that the Friday ITT could see "bigger time differences."
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff DS: “Today, for us, it was a stage where the goal was not to lose time in the general classification. It was obvious that the sprinter teams would take control of the stage and that we would have a bunch sprint. Luckily the wind was not very strong. The team worked hard to keep Alberto in front and the guys did a very good job again. There were a lot of crashes but we were able to stay out of trouble.”
Some notes on the GC men: Astana, lead by Fabio Aru, is riding shorthanded due to the loss of two riders to illness. He and Contador have not met in a race since the Giro, although Alberto said "We sometimes do see each other training around Lugano. We´ll see what his condition is like."
Purito Rodríguez of Katusha is nursing a painful throat infection and, depending on how he gets through the night, may not start tomorrow.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 29th (s.t. Kittel - 3:52:35). Contador in GC, 29th (0:10 Kittel - 3:52:25)
TOP THREE: 1 Kittel, 2 Greipel (0:04), 3 Stuyv (0:06)
Good news! Alberto Contador returns to competition tomorrow, stepping up to the plate for the first time in 2016 at the 42nd Volta ao Algarve (February 17-21).
The reigning Giro d'Italia champion will take his first sampling of form on a bracing parcours that includes a double dose of summit finishes and an 18-km individual time trial.
The rivals, as well as the route, will make this five-day tour worth following. Pitted against double-winner Contador, who triumphed here in 2009 and 2010, is another double champion, Tony Martin (2013, 2011), as well as Michal Kwiatkowski (2014) and Geraint Thomas (2015). The peloton at large will boast an especially fine mix of all types of rider: grand tour hopefuls, classics men, time trial specialists, and sprinters.
Contador will be accompanied by a strong Tinkoff squad: Jesús Hernández, Sergio Paulinho, Matteo Tosatto, Michael Valgren, Robert Kiserlovski, Ivan Rovni, and Yuri Trofimov.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE - VOLTA AO ALGARVE AT FACEBOOK
Alberto Contador will ride the Aalborg Mægleren Grand Prix this evening in Denmark. He'll be joined by his brother Fran, Tinkoff-Saxo teammates Michael Valgren, Christopher Juul Jensen and Michael Mørkøv, and a strong roster of Danish talent.
The Aalborg Grand Prix will take place over a 2.2-km circuit in Aalborg City. The event is sponsored by Restaurant MEAT.
If you're not one of the nearly 20,000 people expected to attend today, you can see the event on television HERE at 18:15 CET (11:15 US CDT).
Alberto Contador shows off the maglia rosa in the Etten-Leur criterium (Profronde Etten-Leur)
Alberto Contador, reigning champion of the Giro d'Italia, won the road race portion of the PROFWIELERRONDE ETTEN-LEUR 2015 yesterday in front of a huge and jovial crowd in the Netherlands. Contador stood out in a strong field of mostly Dutch riders, by virtue of both his VIP role and his raspberry sorbet-colored Giro champion's jersey.
Tom Dumoulin won the time trial in a comeback from serious injury sustained at the Tour de France. Chris Froome won the day overall with the highest tally from the time trial, the road race and the points race.
1 Froome, 2 Contador, Mollema
Alberto Contador will participate in the criterium PROFWIELERRONDE ETTEN-LEUR 2015 today in the Netherlands, where he will line up for three events along with Tom Dumoulin, Bauke Mollema, Chris Froome and others. The criterium is sponsored by Rabobank.
Profronde Etten-Leur schedule:
13:30 - Presentation
14:00 - Time trial
14:30 - Road race
17:00 - Points race
Alberto Contador will not ride the Clásica San Sebastián today after all. He has announced via Twitter that he's not feeling well and is sorry to miss the Saturday race. Roman Kreuziger will take his place as captain of Tinkoff-Saxo.
Alberto Contador in the salad days of the 2015 Tour (Colin Flockton)
It’s done: Alberto Contador has completed the 2015 Tour de France in fifth place overall. But he´ll be back on the bike one more time – next Saturday, August 1, at the Clásica San Sebastián – before closing the book on this season. When he gets back to the office, he’ll start preparations for his 2016 season.
“I haven’t gone in a couple of years, and I want to say goodbye to the year there before taking a vacation,” Contador said of the the Basque classic that’s a mainstay of Tour de France GC men. “We’re starting a rest period now, and after San Sebastián I’ll gradually decrease time on the bike.”
With San Sebastián, Contador will have completed 66 days of racing in 2015. He placed 2nd in Andalucía, 5th in Tirreno-Adriatico, 4th in the Volta a Catalunya, 1st in the Giro, 1st at Ruta del Sol, and 5th at the Tour de France. “I want to rest well because this year has been really hard,” he said.
“I’ll prepare meticulously for next year, with the objective of doing a good beginning to the season and later the Tour. I’ll start to train a little earlier, in order to arrive at the first races with a good foundation,” Contador added.
About the final podium of this Tour, he said, “Of course it’s fair, the riders who are going to be up there have been the strongest by a margin. I’d like to be on the highest step, but there are times when you can do that and other times when you can’t; when you’re there, you enjoy it more.”
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo in the Clásica San Sebastián: Alberto Contador, Jesús Hernández, Sergio Paulinho, Mauele Boaro, Oliver Zaugg, Roman Kreuziger, Rafal Majka
Alberto at the finish line on the Alpe d'Huez (Colin Flockton)
Stage 20, July 25: Modane Valfréjus – Alpe d’Huez, 110.5 km
Alberto Contador, the reigning champion of the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia, will finish 5th overall in the 102nd edition of the Tour de France when the race concludes on the Champs-Élysees tomorrow. Contador reached the summit of Alpe d’Huez in 16th place in Stage 20 today after tiring on the final climb. He rode in with defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, who had punctured. Thibaut Pinot won the stage.
At the finish line, Alberto said that he was on the limit and that he “really felt the fatigue and the crash from the other day,” which had “pretty much taken its toll.”
Contador’s great objective this season - to win the Giro-Tour double – will remain a dream, since he was not able to regain form after winning the Italian grand tour in May and the Route du Sud in June. However, he’s already thinking ahead.
“I’ve a done a worthy Tour, even though it’s true that I’m less than pleased with it,” he said. “Honestly, many people would dream of coming in fifth, but for me… well, having made the attempt is very important, it’s better than winning just the Tour. If I hadn’t tried it, at the end of my sporting career I would surely have asked myself what might have happened if I had. So I’m really glad that I tried. Now I’m going to think about next year.”
“The main problem has been the demanding nature of the Giro. From the very beginning, Astana was superior to everybody else. They made it so that I had to bust my buns every day. The final week was a heart attack, so grueling. So maybe even though the head wanted it, it didn’t give the body time to recover,” said the nine-time grand tour winner.
Having that especially tough Giro in his pocket, Contador can be satisfied: “I call it a good season. The Tour is very important, and yes, I would’ve preferred to be 2nd instead of 5th, but when I finish my sporting career, it’s the grand tours that I’ve won that are going to be remembered, not the podiums that I’ve made.”
Alberto is already drawing up plans for 2016, an Olympic year, and Rio is penciled in. “Next year we’ll change the plan completely, we’ll focus totally on the Tour and we’ll come with different ambitions. I want to plan a season like last year: Ride all of the early-season races, at the maximum level, with intensity, do the Tour and the Olympics, which I think are hard, and could be a good fit for me for once. And afterward we’ll see,” he said, making no guarantees one way or the other about retirement. “It could possibly be the time to come to a full stop.”
Contador offered his congratulations to his compatriot, Alejandro Valverde, who was overcome by tears of joy when he clinched third overall on Alpe d’Huez today. “When we make the podium in the Tour, it can be very emotional. Congratulations, he did a great race, Movistar too. They weren't able take back enough time, I think that Froome and his team rode very intelligently.”
Steven de Jongh: “Everybody gave their absolute best today and in the end we competed in a very nice ambience up Alpe d’Huez, which is just one of the best settings in this sport. In the beginning of the stage, we tried to put Rafal in the break but they didn’t give him any space, as he was a threat to the mountains jersey. Alberto had a difficult moment on Croix de Fer and then Rafal had a flat tire. However, Alberto overcame this and on the descent from Col du Glandon, Rogers and Kreuziger made it back into the front GC group before we went full speed into Alpe d’Huez. Rafal did a really good job for Alberto and supported him on the climb."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 20, 16th (3:30 Pinot - 3:17:21). Contador in GC, 5th (9:48 Froome - 81:56:33)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Quintana (1:12), 3 Valverde (5:25), 4 Nibali (8:36), 5 Contador (9:48), 6 Gesink (10:47), 7 Mollema (15:14), 8 Frank (15:39), 9 Bardet (16:00), 10 Rolland (17:30)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 20
Stage 13, July 17: Muret – Rodez, 198.5 km
Alberto Contador finished Stage 13 of the Tour de France today in eighth place and maintained his GC position after his team devoted much of the stage to giving Peter Sagan a shot at the stage. Sagan missed the win – it was taken in a sprint by Greg Van Avermaet of BMC – but the Slovakian did consolidate his hold on the green jersey.
Contador pulled a mischievous stunt in the final meters, executing a brief cat-and-mouse game in which he darted by surprise around Froome, causing the Kenyan and the other favorites to scurry after him. He then relaxed and rolled in with the group behind the sprint.
“It was a really tough, really hot stage, and as these days pass, they take a toll,” Contador said at the finish line in Rodez, in spite of just having puckishly baited the yellow jersey.
Sagan was denied victory again even though Tinkoff-Saxo had come to the front on his behalf to collaborate with Giant as they worked for Degenkolb. Contador said, “It’s a shame that once again he wasn’t able to win, after the team’s excellent work, but you have to keep trying. Giant spoke with us, and it was in our interest, but in the end he wasn’t able to finish it off. But chapeau to Peter, who has been fighting since day one.”
After three cruel days in the Pyrenees, the race now moves to the Massif Central, then to the Alps next week. Contador knows how to win at Mende, tomorrow’s uphill finish, but needs more time to recover from his bad day at La Pierre-Saint-Martin. “I need time to continue to improve. I think that I´m going a little better every day, and that’s encouraging,” he said. “This is a Tour that I have to take in a different way than usual, but there´s still a lot left.”
“Of course, at Mende, with three kilometers at 10%, there will be people who lose time. We hope not to be one of them,” he said.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 13, 8th (0:07 Van Avermaet - 4:43:42). Contador in GC, 6th (4:04 Froome - 51:34:21)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Van Garderen (2:52), 3 Quintana (3:09), 4 Valverde (3:58), 5 Thomas (4:03), 6 Contador (4:04), 7 Gesink (5:32), 8 Gallopin (7:32), 9 Nibali (7:47), 10 Mollema (8:02)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 7
Doctors have told Ivan Basso of the Tinkoff-Saxo team that he has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. The news came this morning in the southern French town of Pau, where the peloton are spending the first rest day of the Tour de France.
Basso’s announcement took the place of Contador’s usual rest-day press conference. The Italian, who has won the Giro d'Italia twice and is roommate and an important source of moral support to Contador at the Tour, has already left for Italy, where he will undergo immediate treatment.
Contador told the assembly of reporters that today is only a time to think about Ivan, to support him, to wish him all the luck in the world, and not to talk about sporting questions. “We have to do everything possible to be able to celebrate the triumph with Ivan in Paris,” he said.
Tinkoff-Saxo covered the kilometers to Plumelec with strength and coordination (Reuters)
Stage 9, July 12: Vannes – Plumelec, 28 km (TTT)
Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team put in a good performance in the Stage 9 team time trail today in the Tour de France, finishing in 4th place behind BMC, Sky and Movistar. Contador moved to 5th place overall but lost 27” to Froome, extending his deficit to the maillot jaune to 1:03. He now leads Quintana by 56” and Nibali by 1:19.
Alberto did a post mortem of the TTT after showering in the motorhome that the team supplied for today only, since the team bus has already headed south for the first rest day in Pau. ““Obviously it’s pretty big time difference, taking into account that we still haven’t reached the mountains. But, on the other hand, there are lots of mountains ahead, with many, many opportunities. I would’ve liked it if the result had been a little more favorable, but I’m very happy. We gave it everything. Now we’ve got to rest because now the Tour is really beginning.”
“Maybe,” Contador continued, “even though it might seem to the contrary, as the efforts accrue and everyone accumulates fatigue, it will favor me and we cab even the score, and the capacity for recovery of each person will leave a little more of a mark, and that motivates me.”
“There’s a world left. This year in the Tour, luckily for us, there’s almost no day of respite, and if we add factors like the weather, we can still turn it all around,” said Alberto.
The Tinkoff-Saxo leader admits that Froome “is extremely strong. He demonstrated it above all on the Mur de Huy, and almost won.” And Van Garderen, to Contador, “is a terrific-quality rider. You could already see that he was very strong in the mountains in the Dauphiné, even though he still doesn’t know what it is to win a grand tour. He improves every year and is a rival.”
After the rest day in Pau on Monday, the Tour heads into the high mountains. Stage 10, on Tuesday, ends with the climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, a 15.3-km ascent at 7.4% average gradient. “It’s a tough climb,” said Alberto, “anything could happen. We’ll see how we feel after the rest day. If I have legs, I’ll try it.”
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “I had hoped that we would finish in the top three but overall I think the team was consistent. We simply didn’t have that high speed and we lost just below 1 second per kilometer. I think that, as a team, we did very well, we divided the work and the boys rode as we had planed - but we were just not fast enough. I don’t believe that we could have gone any faster, so I’m satisfied with the fact that everybody rode their best. Now, Alberto is 1’03” behind Froome, we still have much terrain, where we can try to turn the classification around and with the mountains coming up it will be up to Sky to control the race. I still think that Alberto can realize his goal and we will definitely be looking for opportunities.”
Christian Vande Velde, ex-pro and NBC commentator: “They did a great ride today. I think they went to their capacity today. I didn’t see too many faults. Some of the other teams, they really pushed themselves as far as they could. You saw Movistar faltering a little bit, you saw Team Sky faltering a little bit, you saw Astana faltering, but you know, I think that Saxo did a good ride. They did exactly what they’re capable of today.”
Michael Rogers, Tinkoff-Saxo road captain: “We went as fast as we could. I think we started fast and that was the plan. We held on as long as and I think we can be happy.
“It was very hard to pace. We didn’t want to start too fast, but saying that, we didn’t want to start too slow either, because once you lose time, it’s all time you have to make up. But looks like Movistar did a very good time, but we can be happy that we did everything we could.
“We have to fight everyday, that’s what the Tour is about. You can’t lose concentration for one minute. As I said, we did the best we could, I think we got everything out, we finished with five riders and it is what it is.”
RESULTS: Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) in Stage 9, 4th (0:28 BMC – 32:15). Contador in GC, 5th (1:03 Froome – 31:34:12)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Van Garderen (0:01), 3 Van Avermaet (0:27), 4 Sagan (0:38), 5 Contador (1:03), 6 Urán (1:18), 7 Valverde (1:50), 8 Thomas (1:52), 9 Quintana (1:59), Stybar (1:59)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 7
Alberto Contador at the start of Stage 3 (Colin Flockton)
Stage 9, July 12: Vannes – Plumelec, 28 km (TTT)
Alberto Contador rode comfortably to the top of the uphill finish today in Stage 8 of the Tour de France, arriving with the favorites’ group ten seconds behind stage winner Alexis Vuillermoz. Alberto maintained his GC position of 7th at 36” while conserving energy for tomorrow’s grueling team time trial.
“The truth is that it’s been a calm day in spite of the final squeeze,” Alberto said after crossing the finish line. “The peloton was going fast, but nothing out of this world. You could ride easy in the pack.”
That final squeeze was the 2-km ascent of the Mur de Bretagne, the one piquant moment in a rather flavorless afternoon. Contador negotiated the slope easily from the middle of the group, making no move to pursue an opportunity for himself. It was his teammate Peter Sagan, second overall at only 11” off the lead, who worked the front of the group in a bid for the win and the green, or even the yellow, jersey.
“In the finale I wanted to give Peter a hand, but due to our positioning and the action around us, it wasn’t to be,” Alberto said. Boxed in by Sagan himself, he saw his Slovakian teammate take 4th – and the green points jersey – a few meters in front of him on the Mur, following Vuillermoz, Dan Martin and Valverde. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Roman Kreuziger, also finished in this group, along with Quintana, Van Garderen, Froome, and many other top GC men.
Loser on the day was Nibali, who cracked on the climb and lost 20 seconds. Contador said that he had seen the Shark of Messina “behind the group, but I didn’t know if he was going to lose time. Gaining time on Nibali is always good,” he said with a smile.
Tactically iffy race-leader Froome set himself up to attack and take the stage, by all appearances, but either opted out or was not able to dispute the win. Delivered to the red kite by domestiques, he put in a couple of fast-spinning digs, then went on to haul the group up the hill himself, as other riders marked him comfortably. Froome stalled, drifing to the left across the entire width of the road, then all the way back to the right, nearly causing Dan Martin, who was attacking over Froome’s right shoulder, to crash into the barrier. Froome then let Sagan slip past to have a go at an outright time gain plus bonifications.
Meanwhile, Contador stayed out of the fray. “It’s okay because we got through the day and even better the team time trial being tomorrow. The objective is to go full gas. We have a good team, maybe the riders are a tad depleted, but we’ll do a good time trial,” he concluded.
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “It’s good, we had hoped for the win today but it is very good to see Peter pulling on the green jersey. He deserves it, he has been working very hard and he is a very versatile rider, which he showed today. We obviously knew that he could potentially do well today and in the end he got the necessary points. The boys rode a good race and they were positioned well before the start of the last climb. Alberto was perhaps a bit back, but he showed that he was ready to move up.”
“We had the TTT in mind during the stage, but we’ve also had that the other days in order to conserve as much energy as possible during the Tour. We’re happy to start tomorrow with nine riders - a complete team - and we have a good group of riders for this challenge. There are many strong teams so it will be exiting to see what the outcome of tomorrow will be”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 8, 14th (0:10 Alexis Vuillermoz - 4:20:55). Contador in GC, 7th (0:36
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Sagan (0:11), 3 Van Garderen (0:13), 4 Gallopin (0:26), 5 Van Avermaet (0:28), 6 Urán (0:34), 7 Contador (0:36), 8 Barguil (1:07), 9 Stybar (1:15), 10 Mollema (1:32)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 7
Contador on the road in Stage 7 (Kim Ludbrook)
Stage 7, July 10: Livarot - Fougères, 190.5 km
Alberto Contador stepped up to 7th place in the general classification at the end of today’s Stage 7 of the Tour de France as a result of injured leader Tony Martin’s retirement from the race. Martin was able to finish Stage 6, but did not start today, therefore, according to UCI rules, no rider wore the maillot jaune during the ride to Fougères. Instead, the jersey passed to its new owner, Froome, after the stage. Peter Sagan moved to 2nd overall after arriving 3rd in the final sprint behind stage winner Mark Cavendish.
Contador made news even before the race had officially started by crashing in the neutral zone with Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and some other riders. Here’s how it happened:
“I had a little crash in the neutral zone. Five or six riders went to the ground in front of me,” Alberto told reporters after the stage. “Actually, we were talking about the crashes, and I went down, too. It was impossible to dodge them. But luckily I didn’t do anything to myself, a crash of no consequence on a snag, and I got up calmly. It was only a scare. You’ve always got to pay close attention.”
“We weren’t feeling too tense at the start of the stage. The rest of day was relatively calm, with an escape that was kept under control by the pack. Except in the final ten kilometers, with the typical tension that comes from everybody wanting to occupy the front section. I feel happy to have survived the scare and not to have had any more mishaps.”
The focal point tomorrow will be the finish on the Mur de Bretagne, an uphill challenge that’s a little longer but generally less steep than the Mur de Huy. Contador knows the climb, in fact, he nearly won here in 2011. “We’re talking about an ascent on the boundary between the fast men and the GC men. Maybe it will turn out differently this time, since four years ago it rained and became really hard. I was on the verge of winning, but Evans won by a tire’s breadth,” Alberto remembered.
“Maybe this time is more for sprinters of Sagan’s type,” he continued. “Battle? Sure, every second is being fought for in an amazing way, and tomorrow, for sure, it will be a complicated finale.”
Of the two weekend stages that remain before the first rest day, Contador says that the team time trial on Sunday is more of a concern than the Mur de Bretagne, “because it could produce bigger time differences.”
“The weekend will be key, but there are other key days. I think that I’m fine, we’ll see.”
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Today was definitely a less hectic day than the previous stages. It was hot and the stage was done at a stable pace in what turned out to be a traditional sprinter’s stage. Peter once again came close in the sprint but the competition is very hard and today was more or less a flat sprint. I think the boys did well, did what they had to do to conserve energy whenever possible, while assisting Alberto. Tomorrow will be much more tricky in the finale with Mur de Bretagne and I don’t think it’s possible to make any certain predictions other than it will be important to stay well-positioned in the final kilometers."
Robert Gesink, Team LottoNL-Jumbo, about the crash in the neutral zone: "The race was still neutralized so it isn’t an actual crash in the Tour de France. Devolder made a weird move and the two guys in front of me, Paul Martens and Jos van Emden crashed. I crashed into them. Contador? I didn’t see or feel him.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 7, 60th (s.t. Cavendish - 4:27:25). Contador in GC, 7th (0:36 Froome - 26:40:51)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Sagan (0:11), 3 Van Garderen (0:13), 4 Gallopin (0:26), 5 Van Avermaet (0:28), 6 Urán (0:34), 7 Contador (0:36), 8 Stybar (0:52), 9 Thomas (1:03), 10 Barguil (1:07)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 7
Alberto Contador rolls in safely with Urán and Valverde at the chaotic end of Stage 8 (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Stage 6, July 9: Abbeville – Le Havre, 191.5 km
Alberto Contador managed to avoid the crash that took out race leader Tony Martin today in the final kilometer of Stage 6 of the Tour de France. The German, who touched wheels with another rider at 800 meters before the finish line, initiated a pileup that saw Nibali, Quintana and Van Garderen land in the same pile. Froome nearly crashed as well.
“The truth is, you have to pay close attention all the time. There’s never a cease-fire, and the final part was a true battle of teams. Mine was extraordinary,” said Contador after the stage. “There was an incredible fight to be well positioned and, look, the finale was uphill on a côte,” he said.
“I’m happy about not crashing and about surviving the day. I hope the people that crashed recover,” Contador added.
Zdenek Stybar won the stage, and Contador remains in 8th overall. The GC will be shuffled tomorrow as Tony Martin goes for surgery and the maillot jaune will shift to second-placed Chris Froome or whoever might displace him tomorrow. Martin becomes the second man to crash out of this Tour while wearing yellow, following Cancellara, who broke two vertebrae in Stage 3.
The peloton spent another day today riding in a tightly-packed formation in which a moment’s lack of concentration by any rider could cause a crash that brings down fifty others in a domino effect. “You can’t let anything slip your notice,” Contador explained. “In grand tours, that’s what really wears you out, and often what makes them difficult. You have to be 100% focused for 21 days because you could lose time on any one of those days.”
Looking ahead to Stage 7, Contador’s tone remained cautious, even though, at least, wind is not in the weather forecast. “You never know. I’m sure that there will be tension, due to fear of crashing, and it’s important to be in front, and that makes for a complicated day,” he finished.
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “I think that today was less hectic than the previous days and the boys did a concentrated job once again. Sagan was free to ride for the stage and he showed that he’s in very good condition. He positioned himself very well on the final climb and showed that he had the speed to pull it off today. But Stybar had different plans and he made a very clever move, while the sprinters were waiting for somebody to take responsibility.
“Peter was isolated up there in the group following the crash. That’s how it is, as we also have our focus on Alberto, but Katusha had some guys up there but they apparently didn’t want to take control. Peter took 2nd place, it’s a bit of a shame, but with that said, we are very happy that none of our riders were affected by the final crash that unfortunately cost Tony Martin a broken collarbone”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 6: 16th (s.t. Stybar - 4:53:46). Contador in GC, 8th (0:48 T. Martin - 22:13:14)
TOP TEN: 1 T. Martin, 2 Froome (0:12), 3 Van Garderen (0:25), 4 Sagan (0:33), 5 Gallopin (0:38), 6 Van Avermaet (0:40), 7 Urán (0:46), 8th Contador (0:48), 9th Stybar (1:04). 10 Thomas (1:15)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 6
Alberto Contador at the start of Stage 3 (Colin Flockton)
Stage 3, July 6: Anvers – Huy, 159.5 km
Alberto Contador climbed further in the general classification today in a disaster-filled Stage 3 of the Tour de France. Even though he flagged in the final 400 meters of the steep, short ascent of the Mur de Huy, he now sits 8th overall, at 36 seconds off the race leader, Chris Froome.
Contador was bounding up the climb on Froome’s wheel as Joachim Rodríguez put in the decisive dig that would net him the stage win. As more riders responded to Rodríguez’ acceleration, however, Alberto sat back and stalled within sight of the line. “I lost a good amount of time,” he said afterward. “I was super locked-up, it was an effort to move the bicycle. I had stiff legs in the final part of the ascent and it was quite hot throughout the stage. It got really hard.”
The one-kilometer Mur de Huy has traditionally not been the place for Contador’s best moments, and he has commented in past years about how surprisingly difficult the iconic finish is, in its usual guise of finale to the one-day classic La Fleche Wallone. Today it was also brutal for his opponents, who, except for Froome, commented at stage end on the punishing three-minute finale.
“I never like to give up time to direct rivals,” Contador summarized, “but there’s a lot of race left ahead. Good moments exist, and so do bad ones.”
Tinkoff-Saxo did more than their share of pulling the peloton in the run-in to Huy. Was Contador after the stage win? “Well, we were riding well-positioned to avoid scares and to try something if we could. It couldn’t be done, because the pace was impressive.” He shifted his sights to tomorrow’s Hell of the North stage, and what comes beyond. “So we must stay focused, one day at a time. Now it’s time to recover for the cobblestones.”
“On the pavé you have to survive. It’s all about a putting on a spectacular show with the route, and I’m confident that my team and my teammates will help me through the sectors of cobblestones in the best possible way.”
Contador’s rival Froome, in his curious style, was able to answer Rodríguez today at Huy, even though his previous attempts at the Mur have been weak. About Froome in yellow, Alberto said, “Froome was very strong. He was on the verge of winning the stage. But there are still a lot of days left in the race. You have to maintain a positive attitude. The yellow jersey gives you confidence, but it also comes with pressure and responsibilities.”
Today’s stage was marred by two massive pileups at around 60 kilometers before the finish. Riders and bikes barrel-rolled and somersaulted to land crumpled by the side of the road. So many men were affected that there was not enough medical staff to attend to them, so the race was temporarily brought to a full stop while the situation was managed.
All of the Tinkoff-Saxo team were in front when the crashes happened; none of them were involved. As for Alberto and his group, they were not aware of the extent of the disaster that caused the maillot jaune, Cancellara, to abandon due to a broken vertebra. “No, during the stage we didn’t know what had happened,” said Alberto. “We didn’t know too much about the crash or the people who got injured either.”
Peter Sagan, Slovakian champion and Contador’s teammate: “Going into the Mur de Huy, I tried to stay right behind Alberto Contador to help him in case he'd need something but the rhythm was too high for me uphill. I lead the best young rider competition and I'm not far down in the green jersey but I'll see day by day if it'll be appropriate to look for points or not. My priority is to assist Alberto and we have a big job to do tomorrow on the pavés.”
Steven de Jongh, Contador’s DS: “Besides Sagan taking the white jersey, I think the most positive on today’s stage is the important fact that none of our riders were involved in the two big and serious crashes. A lot of guys were knocked down and the race was practically running out of doctors. We support the decision to neutralize the race temporarily - it was a wise decision in a hectic moment.
“I’m pleased with the team effort today and I think that everybody did exactly what they had to do to support Alberto. I think that their effort today can be seen in the fact that non of our riders were involved in the crash, as we spend energy on staying at the front throughout the stage.
“As for the stage finale on Mur du Huy, I think Alberto suffered on the last hundred meters. It’s not his type of climb and we know that Alberto is stronger on longer climbs. We still have most of the Tour ahead of us and we now turn our attention towards tomorrow and the cobbles. It’s pretty obvious that it will be a very tricky day."
Purito Rodríguez, stage winner: "Today I saw a gap and said to myself 'I’m going to take advantage of it even if my legs do hurt and it costs me to get to the finish.' The truth is that the final stretch has been the longest Mur de Huy that I’ve ever done by far. I knew that I could win but the truth is that in the final 100 meters I was pedaling up to my ears."
Nairo Quintana, GC rival: “It was very nervous and very hard, with the crash during the stage. It was tough all day. I didn’t feel very good on the climb, there was a lot of adrenaline before the climb and I had a lot of lactic acid.”
Vincenzo Nibali, GC rival: “I don’t think a final climb like that is very suited to my characteristics, but I tried to manage my strength as best I could from the bottom from the climb to the top. Froome made one of his typical accelerations and he showed that he’s really in condition. Even though this was a short climb and the real ones are still to come, we can get a small picture of what the form is. It was a hard day with a lot of heat.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 12th (0:18 Rodríguez - 3:26:54). Contador in GC, 8th (0:36 Froome - 7:11:37)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 T. Martin (0:01), 3 Van Garderen (0:13), 4 Gallopin (0:26), 5 Van Avermaet (0:28), 6 Sagan (0:31), 7 Urán (0:34), 8 Contador (0:36), 9 Thomas (1:03), 10 Stybar (1:04)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 3
Alberto Contador sails to the finish of the Stage 1 ITT (Colin Flockton)
Stage 1, July 4: Utrecht – Utrecht, 13.8 km (ITT)
Alberto Contador's second big objective of the year got off to a good-but-not-great start today in Stage 1 of the 2015 Tour de France. He put in a journeyman-like performance in the 13.8-km opening time trial in Utrecht, arriving 46th at 0:58 off the winning pace of Rohan Dennis of BMC.
It was a day for the specialists. Contador finished in a string of GC men well behind stage winner Dennis, who set an all-time record average speed for an ITT in the Tour of 55.4 km per hour.
Contador admitted that “I didn’t feel great physically.” “Even when they gave me the splits to the rest of the favorites, it gave me heart in a way because they were all times similar to mine, and that kept me calm,” he said.
The similarity of times among the big names was striking. “It was all pretty equal. All of us favorites were within a handful of seconds. I would’ve liked to have been in front of most of them, but in the end the differences were small. I got through the day, now we have to take it one day at a time and see how I respond physically,” he said.
“It was a really tough time trial due to the heat and a very explosive day,” continued Alberto, who, like others, had resorted to a cooling vest on the rollers before the stage. “From the first moment my pulse was very high and I decided to try to regulate to bring it into check,” he said.
“I don't think the wind was a factor because even if it was blowing hard, it was the same for everybody. Maybe the current high temperatures make the heart beat faster, but it wasn't an issue. Again, only a few seconds separate the main rivals and that is, in my opinion, a good thing.”
“As for the result, we’re talking about a normal time trial,” explained the leader of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, who finished the day 15 seconds behind Nibali, but several seconds ahead of Quintana.
To Alberto, who comes into this Tour with consecutive Vuelta and Giro wins under his belt, discretion is the better part of valor going into a second stage with a flat parcours along the coast to Zélande, where winds and echelons are always a threat. “We’re going to see how well we can survive the stage. It looks like rain is possible. The first week is dangerous enough in itself – if we add the possibility of rain as well… We’re going to try to survive the day. Every day that you get to the finish line without crashing and losing time is a victory,” he concluded.
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Overall, I will say that it went OK, maybe Peter, who was our fastest guy in 19th place, could have done it a bit faster, as we know that he is strong on these short time trials. Alberto did well and finished among the favorites, I think we can be happy. It was fairly technical and the course did suit Alberto okay, but it was naturally a day for the time trial specialists.”
“We’re happy with the outcome of Alberto’s build-up and the Tour is now underway. It will be very exciting and the same goes for tomorrow. Right now, we don’t have any wind, but in the Netherlands that can change quickly so we are going to check again tonight. Wind would have a big impact on the character of tomorrow’s stage but what we do know is that tomorrow is going to be flat, flat, flat and very fast on a day suited for the sprinters. Our main goal is to protect Alberto and then we will see.”
Michael Rogers, Contador's teammate and three-time past world ITT champion: “It’s a very long time, since I’ve done such an intense individual time trial like this. The corners were relatively fast, I wasn’t as fast as I was ten years ago, but I don’t think I lost too much time around the corners. However, it was certainly a time trial for the pure specialists. The wind was definitely a factor on the later part of the first half, where it was a cross headwind and here it was really important to try to conserve energy for the final part, but I would reckon that the wind was the same for everybody”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 46th (0:58 Rohan Dennis - 14:56). Contador in GC, 46th (0:58 Dennis - 14:56)
TOP THREE: 1 Dennis, 2 T. Martin (0:05), 3 Cancellara (0:08)
GC MEN: 20 Van Garderen (0:42), 22 Nibali (0:43), 39 Froome (0:50), 43 Valverde (0:56), 46 Contador (0:58), 57 Quintana (1:01)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 1
Photos by Colin Flockton at PHOTO DAYBOOK
The 102nd edition of the Tour de France runs from Saturday, July 4 to Sunday, July 26, 2015. Le Grand Boucle, Alberto Contador's second big objective of the year, begins with an individual time trial in Utrecht before heading south to trace a counterclockwise loop of 3,360 kilometers around France.
Featured are nine flat stages, three hilly stages, seven mountain stages with five altitude finishes, one individual time-trial and one team time-trial, with two rest days.
In the mountain stages, the riders will tackle 26 passes, climbs and mountain finishes classed as Category 1, Category 2 or Hors-categorie: seven in the Pyrénées, three in the Massif Central, and 16 in the Alps. Look for plenty of climbing action in Stages 10-12 and 14-20, not to mention finishes on the Mur de Huy (Stage 3) and the Mur de Bretagne (Stage 8).
An unusual aspect of the route is the scarcity of time-trial kilometers, with a total of only 41.8 km against the clock throughout the three weeks. In fact, all time-trialing in this edition will be completed before the first rest day, after the 13.8-km opening ITT in Utrecht, and the 28-km TTT in Brittany in Stage 9.
And don’t forget, the riders will experience the Hell of the North again this year when they cross seven sectors of cobblestones totaling 13.3 bone-jarring kilometers between Seraing and Cambrai in Stage 4.
Note: Eight stages of this edition will be broadcast live from start to finish: Stages 1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 19, 20 and 21.
Go to our RACE ATLAS for maps, profiles, complete start order and much more.
Contador's start time for the Stage 1 ITT: 17:13. See RACE ATLAS, STAGE 1 for more information.
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo: 41 Alberto Contador, 42 Ivan Basso, 43 Daniele Bennati, 44 Roman Kreuziger, 45 Rafal Majka, 46 Michael Rogers, 47 Peter Sagan, 48 Matteo Tosatto, 49 Michael Valgren
This interview with Alberto Contador was conducted on June 17, the day before the Route du Sud, by Carlos Arribas of El País. It was the day, incidentally, of the 70th birthday of Eddy Merckx.
What does Merckx mean?
He’s been the greatest in history. I’ve run into him a few times, and the class that he had as a rider he continues to have as a person. To say Merckx is to say cycling and to say history. Indurain is Spanish, and that’s why he puts so much into it, but Merckx has been the greatest of all. He’s a cut above Indurain and all the other cyclists.
His palmares: five Tours, five Giros, a Vuelta… Is he a reference for you?
I’ve never thought about records or a great number of victories. I take it one year at a time, considering different objectives and, clearly, each time I’m adding more victories. That’s what motivates me, but I never think about breaking the records for most wins. And what Eddy Merckx has done is incredible.
If you were to win the next Tour, you’d be doing it eight years after winning your first – a test of longevity bested only by Giro Bartali, who won two, ten years apart.
I really hope I can achieve that. The Giro just ended and a fan sent me a pile of photos of my grand tour podiums. I saw them and it made me think about the number of different rivals that have come and gone. All kinds: time-trialists like Evans, climbers like Andy Schleck, new people like Froome and young riders who are on their way up. That’s the march of three generations. And that makes me feel proud, consistently being a race favorite since 2007.
Merckx said that the Giro is the best preparation for the Tour.
Well, I don’t know what to say. Until two days ago, I couldn’t even start to get up out of bed without pain in my leg muscles, or in other words, fatigue. In the training camp at altitude after the Giro, every morning the masseur asked me how it was going, and I told him that the leg pain must be because he was using too much pressure in the massage, but he said that no, he wasn’t using too much pressure. Later, on the bicycle I’m doing fine. But the last few days, the pain has gone away. I seem to have changed bodies, and that motivates me.
Psychologically I’m in great shape. I’ve had to say no to celebrations, to spending time with friends, to dining out, to drinking even one glass of wine in a month, to a thousand things. I’ve lived completely and utterly for the bike. It’s not exactly a pleasure to give up all those things, but when I made the decision to do the Giro-Tour double, I made the decision accepting all the consequences. Even though I know that it’s a big effort, I prepared myself psychologically – just as if I were training – for all the things that I was going to have to give up.
Is everything turning out the way you thought it would when you started the adventure?
Yes, even though in the Giro I did a huge effort with by means of massive concentration. There were three or four days in which I had to do a genuine time trial, apart from the time trial itself. Mortirolo, Verbania and on Finestre were days of maxium effort that made me exhausted when I got to the hotel.
In the Dauphiné, Froome was seen to be isolated, without teammates, in one stage. Is the epoch in which just one team could control the race over?
Yes and no. Astana had a good train in the Giro, although luckily it didn´t work out for them. Everything is relative. The Dauphiné stage was a complicated day and I don’t know what Sky was thinking. One thing is clear: you can’t focus on watts, reducing it to watts per kilo and how long you can maintain it on a climb. There are a lot of other factors: the weather, in every sense: rain, snow, sun, mist, cold… And then, the course and the race situation: A time trial could take its toll on the following day; the day after a rest day it might be hard for some people to re-start… You have to put everything on the balance, arrive in optimal performance condiition, and choose among whatever tactical possibilites are under consideration.
Do you have to ride with the audacity of someone who thinks that a risk always pays off?
There are times at key moments in which you have to make quick decisions, and you might hit the nail on the head, or not. And I like to try to create situations that can benefit me, often improvised. Personally, trying something different from what’s established, from what’s expected, from what’s normal, motivates me. But I don’t forget that you always have to think with your head and analyze things so that what you’re going to do makes sense. Senseless attacks are worthless because this is a sport in which winning matters. But, yes, sometimes it’s the way you win that’s important, too, with moves that people remember.
The favorite? Contador? Quintana? Nibali? Froome?
There are several of us, yes, and three of use know what it is to win the Tour. Quintana doesn’t know it yet, but he’s a young rider who was able to finish second two years ago, and he has prepared meticulously. The four of us are at similar level, but by virtue of the experiences I’ve had with him during my career, the one I’d highlight a little above the others, even though there’s no long time trial, is Froome.
Will you continue your custom of trying to put on the yellow jersey on the first day in the mountains?
That’s not something that I’m thinking about. What I think about more is taking advantage of opportunities. Say you have a good day, and there’s a good route, then you have an opportunity to take time on your rivals. If, on the first summit finish (Stage 10, Pierre-Saint Martin) you have good legs, you have to take advantage of it, obviously. Maybe you don’t distance everybody, maybe you don’t distance anybody, but maybe you distance one person, and already you’ve made progress.
But before you have to survive a first week that’s billed as terrible: pavé, echelons, a team time trial…
It will be complicated, and especially for me, coming from the stress of three weeks in the Giro, and I’ll have to tackle a really tense fight, team against team, narrow roads, wind, the northern rain, cobblestones… It will be hard psychologically more than anything else. And it will be like the Giro, ridden without respite. Cycling nowadays is more hotly disputed that it used to be. Every stage is fought as if it were the last one, either in a sprint, in a breakaway… Each rider is looking for his own opportunities and the ones that ride to win the GC always have to sprint to be among the first 20, whereas before we were able to ride farther back. Now, if you arrive 50 places down you could lose time, and that involves a risk. Maybe it’s the pressure or the tension of the teams who are being directed from the car, but it makes it so that each stage is ridden without respite, in spite of how it might seem on TV.
In the Giro, particularly, you gave the impression that you might be able to manage perfectly well without a team director, as if you could make all the decisions and orchestrate the tactics.
With the years, at the hour of decision-making, and at specific moments, I make the decisions analyzing my physical condition and how I’m feeling at any given point, which depends a lot on the pace that you’ve been going before, which sometimes they can’t evaluate in the car. But the car works well for letting you know the race situation, what impression the riders riding with you are giving, and, in the time trial, the splits and the curves, in spite of which I like to visualize the time trial with my eyes closed…
Is the role of the director less important?
In my case – except in specific moments influenced by how my legs feel, where, it’s true, I’m the one that makes the decisions – they play an important role in flatter stages. He warns you about dangers, about narrowings in the road, about wind… They’re important there.
What did you learn from 2011, the other year that you tried for the Giro-Tour double?
Even though it might seem like a fib, because I didn’t win, the 2011 Tour is one that gives me confidence. It’s a race that was cursed for me from the very beginning. On the first day, I lost 1:20 in a crash, and I gutted myself in the final 10 kilometers; in the team time trial we left first and lost 40 seconds to Schleck and Evans, my direct rivals. Losing two minutes in two days is not the most desireable thing. And before the Pyrenees I crashed again and hurt my right knee, and was on the verge of going home. I stayed for personal reasons. I got through the Pyrenees as best I could and focused on the Alps. I survived, but I crashed again. In the Alps I had a bad day on the Galibier, where I cracked three kilometers from the end, but on the next day I had good legs and did something that I’ll always remember, something that I feel more proud of than attacking five kilometers from Alpe d’Huez and winning the stage. I attacked from the beginning and in the end, people who love cycling enjoyed it, and I’m glad. And in the final time trial I was beaten by only two riders, Tony Martin and Cadel Evans… Doing a comprehensive review, without the bad day on the Galibier, in spite of all the crashes and all that, I would´ve fought to the finish for the win. And that gives me confidence.
What do you want to prove with the double?
It’s a personal challenge. A big dream. The Tour is the most important race, the race that changes your life, and I can vouch for that. Until you win you don’t realize its impact and repercussions, but, on the other hand, in my career as an athlete, one Tour more or less is not going to make it more memorable. On the other hand, if I won the Giro-Tour double, it would be something that everyone would remember in the history of the sport. In life, you have to live for incentives and challenges, and for me this is a really big one. There are people who think that it’s impossible. I think that the first thing you have to do is to try. It will be really hard. I’m doing absolutely everything in order to recover, every hour, every minute, every day, everything last thing in order to be the best I can possibly be in the Tour. Then we´ll see if it can be done or not, because it’s not only a physical challenge, but, above all, a mental one. And then the race has to go well… But, the people who bluntly dismiss it as impossible motivate me even more.
Route du Sud winner Alberto Contador flanked by Latour and Quintana (Colin Flockton)
Stage 4, June 21: Revel - Gaillac, 166 km
Alberto Contador took the overall win in the 39th Route du Sud today, adding the triumph to his palmarés only 22 days after winning the Giro d’Italia. Contador got his fourth win of the season by finishing safely in the bunch sprint behind stage winner Bryan Coquard, then claimed the winner’s cup on the podium with Nairo Quintana, 2nd, and Pierre-Roger Latour, 3rd. He now becomes only the second Spanish winner in the history of the Pyrenean stage race, following Óscar Sevilla (2007).
“I’m really happy with this result. We weren’t thinking about the victory; we wanted to do well in yesterday’s stage and my team has supported me really well. We have to be aware that the level of seriousness will really ratchet up in thirteen days in Utrecht, at the startline of the Tour. I’m going to keep focusing on my preparation, with the goal of arriving at the start in the best form possible. As of this very moment, all I have to do is rest and recover so that I’m at 100% when I get there,” Alberto said.
Alberto was sheltered by his teammates throughout today’s ride, which was a far cry from yesterday’s queen stage in terms of interest. The Tinkoff-Saxo squad drove the pace in the pack while keeping the breakaway on a short leash. “It was a hot day and it was all about controling the race and defending our position. The whole team worked hard and I’d like to thank all of them for their effort. I feel proud of them.”
What happens between now and the Fourth of July, when the riders will rev their engines at the startline of the Tour de France? “Basically, recovering from the efforts. These four days have been demanding, and very good for getting the speed back in my legs. And now what we have to do is fool around with rest and a little training, but only light training. The job is already done; now what’s important is that the body recover.”
“Winning always makes you happy, but this changes nothing and you can’t relax. You have to be aware that every race is different. I think that it would be a serious mistake on my part to think like that,” said Alberto.
Patxi Vila, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: ""Although it might have looked like an easy final stage, it turned out to be harder than expected. It took more effort to bring back the breakaway, but all in all we’re obviously happy with the result. It has been a good and fruitful week. We came with two main objectives: to win the queen stage and to have a good GC position. Alberto won both the stage and the race, so it’s a satisfying result for us. Alberto was in good shape and hopefully he’ll keep his form until the Tour. However, it’s still too early and we expect his rivals to be strong. His victory is the result of very hard and dedicated work by the entire squad, especially in the two last stages.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 31st (s.t. Coquard - 3:42:10). Contador in GC, 1st (16:53:22)
TOP FIVE: 1 Contador, 2 Quintana (0:17), 3 Latour (0:41), 4 Rossetto (1:06), 5 Sepulveda (1:06)
Alberto Contador's newest leader jersey is orange, not raspberry, lemon or cherry like the others (Colin Flockton)
Stage 3, June 20: Izaourt - Bagneres-de-Luchon, 181 km
Alberto Contador won the queen stage of the Route du Sud today, not with his customary uphill attack style, but rather by descending like one of the best in the business. He finished the stage 13 seconds plus bonifications ahead of Nairo Quintana. Contador is the new race leader going into tomorrow's final stage.
“Every victory is always important and raises morale, but this one doesn’t mean too much," he said after the stage. "My principal objective continues to be the Tour.”
Even though Contador played down the importance of winning a full-blown Tour de France-style mountain stage, he clearly felt good about the accomplishment. “I’m very happy about this victory. I make an effort to win in every race, not just for me but also for my team and my sponsors. That’s why it’s always important to try to win,” he said.
The winner of the Giro d’Italia highlighted the work done by his team, who drove a pace meant to wear out the opposition. “All my teammates did a great job today and the least I could do was to finish it off.”
Contador and Quintana, who are both riding in the Pyrenees with a bigger picture in mind, rode side by side up the Port de Balés as if it were a training ride, albeit it one punctuated by occasional little digs by Alberto. He explained, “On the Port de Balés I was with Quintana and I asked him if he wanted to collaborate to bring back Latour, who was alone at the front of the race. Qunitana told me that he didn't want to because he considered that I was very strong. There was still a long way to the finish line but I tried to control the race until going over the top."
Contador summited first, although the two were still neck and neck. He accelerated and passed Quintana on the left, as the Colombian took a bottle from a soigneur to his right. “At that point I had a few meters on Quintana and I told myself then that it was all about gritting my teeth and hanging on until the finish line,” he said.
Quintana was dropped on the downhill, rode timidly at times and was outclassed by the descending ability of Contador, who he kept a laser-like focus for 20 technical kilometers at breakneck speed. Alberto claimed his prizes in Bagneres-de-Luchon: the queen stage win and the race leadership.
Patxi Vila, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “As we've said before, we came to the Route du Sud with one of the main objectives being to win the queen stage. The first two stages were meant to put Alberto and the team back into racing rhythm in order attack on the third stage. We achieved this goal and we're obviously happy with that.”
“Today, we took control of the race from the start and the squad did an incredible job. Every single rider, without exception, did a fantastic job today. On top of that, Alberto was able to round off the effort when it seemed very difficult. He didn't manage to get away from Quintana on the climb as it was windy, but he did it in the descent. He once again proved what a great champion he is and the extremely wide array of racing skills he has. Most riders have just one way to win but Alberto can do it under various conditions, which makes it even more impressive”
“It goes without saying that every victory in a race is encouraging but we don't think we can draw any conclusions today regarding the Tour de France. Quintana showed today that he was strong. In addition, he's also fresher and without any doubt he will be a strong rival next month. There will be other very strong rivals as well, so it's a long way until the Tour.”
“After today's hard work, all our riders are tired but so will be the rest of the peloton. We will enjoy our victory tonight. Morale is high but tomorrow is another day and once again we'll have to be very attentive and fight hard to maintain Alberto's leadership. We won't take anything for granted”.
Nairo Quintana, 2nd overall: “I’m very satisfied with what I did today; it was a great test, I felt strong.”
“Tinkoff took the stage very fast: it was a proper Tour de France day, at a very high speed. Contador put in a strong attack halfway up the ascent and I was able to make a creditable response.”
“At a certain moment, he asked me whether I wanted to take turns working together, and he’d leave the stage win to me. I answered that I wasn’t going to take a turn nor was I going to attack.”
"On the descent the road was gritty and it wasn’t worth the trouble to make a play for it. Contador took a lot of risks descending.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 1st (4:48:05). Contador in GC, 1st (13:11:04)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Quintana (0:17), 3 Latour (0:41), 4 Rossetto (0:58), 5 Sepulveda (1:31), 6 Rubiano (2:06), 7 Gallego (3:06), 8 Loubet (3:06), 9 Figueiredo (3:06), 10 N. Brown (3:06)
PHOTO DAYBOOK: PHOTOS BY COLIN FLOCKTON
Alberto Contador, a tough guy with a tough job (Colin Flockton)
Stage 2, June 19: Auch - Saint-Gaudens, 141 km
Alberto Contador finished Stage 2 of the Route du Sud safely today, as Bryan Coquard (Europcar) won in an animated sprint. Contador finished with the same time as Coquard and now sits in 11th overall, still 0:13 behind race leader Steven Tronet.
"My legs are improving and I feel eager to test myself," said Alberto, looking ahead to tomorrow's queen stage, "but I see myself as a bit of an unknown. Maybe it will cost me on the ascents."
Teammate Christopher Juul-Jensen, the young Irish Dane, rode brilliantly again in the finale, but his hopes died when the road took a last steep upward jab. He and a few other late-stage buccaneers found themselves swamped by the oncoming pack, and the sprint was on. Contador left the protection of his team at this point and latched onto the back of the sprinters in order to finish in as safe a position as possible.
Christopher Juul-Jensen: “Today we had a hard finale. The Route du Sud is a good training for the riders that will go on to the Tour. It's up and down all day and a good way to build your legs. In the finale, the riders in my group knew that our chances were getting thinner by the minute. I tried to attack towards the end but they were quickly coming from behind us. It was a tricky uphill finish and the final 500 meters were very hard. To have a realistic chance at winning we would have needed probably another 20 seconds of advantage in the final 2km."
“I'm very thankful to the team and Alberto who allowed me to give it a shot if I felt I had the legs. I'm still on the hunt for my first stage win as a pro, so I appreciate it they gave me that opportunity. Tomorrow, I will be focused on giving my best for Alberto. We have to make sure he is well placed to have the best result possible and, hopefully, we will then have to defend on Sunday. I had my chance yesterday and today but on Saturday and Sunday, we will all work hard for Alberto."
Patxi Vila, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Alberto feels in good shape after the first two days of racing and is getting back to race mode. He looks forward to Saturday's queen stage. After the initial transition stages he wants to race in what is his terrain. As I said before, one of the main goals we have in this race is tomorrow's stage, which will possibly define the GC. With Alberto having a good shape and high morale we will try to go for it. We will see how we feel tomorrow and after assessing our rivals we will set the final strategy."
Nairo Quintana, rival for the overall win, about tomorrow's queen stage: "I didn't come with the idea of winning, but rather to get into competition rhythmn and speed before traveling to the Tour."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 2, 16th (s.t. Bryan Coquard - 3:23:25). Contador in GC, 11th (0:13 Tronet - 8:22:56)
TOP ELEVEN: 1 Tronet, 2 Coquard (0:03), 3 Hardy (0:04), 4 Svendgaard (0:06), 5 Fonseca (0:09), 6 Molard (0:13), 7 Pacher (0:13), 8 Gerdemann (0:13), 9 Hansen (0:13), 10 Avila (0:13), 11 Contador (0:13)
PHOTO DAYBOOK: PHOTOS BY COLIN FLOCKTON
Alberto looks happy to be back on the bike (Colin Flockton)
Stage 1, June 18: Lourdes - Auch, 204 km
Alberto Contador finished in 10th place today in Stage 1 of the Route du Sud, arriving on the tail of a sprint that was won by Steven Tronet of the Auber 93 team. Contador rode near the front protected by his team for most of the stage, but in the tricky finale, he skipped ahead to be in the safest possible position.
“It was the first day of competition since the Giro and a relatively calm stage," he said at the end of the day. "There was an escape at the start of the stage, while Europcar together with us controled the pack."
Tinkoff-Saxo's Chris Juul-Jensen was sent ahead to follow a late attack by Julien Berard of AG2R at 16.7 km to go. They broke away in the wake of 19-year-old Daniel Martínez of the Colombia team, who was sweeping up KOM points alone in front. The move lit the blue touch paper in the peloton, which sputtered with one attack after another on the narrow, twisting road.
Contador explained, "We decided to have a rider up ahead to have some type of control over the race. At the end, it turned out to be difficult owing to the undulating terrain, but I felt in good form.”
Juul-Jensen was caught by a short string of riders that emerged from the feeding frenzy, but things did not calm down in the main pack. “In the final 500 meters, which were uphill, I decided to go to the front," said Contador. "With so few days until the start of the Tour de France, it’s better to be in front with the aim of minimizing the risk of a crash."
Alberto and the other race favorites finished together, three seconds behind the stage winner. Bonifications do apply in the Route du Sud, so he now sits 13" off the lead.
"Being my first contact with competition since the Giro, it was a long stage – 220 kilometers," Alberto continued. "It turned out to be very useful – with a finale on a hill – after having rested for three weeks, and in general, I felt well physically.”
Patxi Vila, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “It was a long and relatively quite stage. There was a breakaway that started very early in the race and set a strong pace. In the main group, Europcar initially took responsibility to work towards bringing the breakaway back and we helped as well towards that. We alternated with them at the front and had one rider to pull initially and two later on. Alberto decided to stay in the front as well and in the final sprint he moved ahead. It was an uneventful stage that played out the way we had planned. We managed to stay safe and avoid any crashes and incidents and it was a good return to competition after the Giro."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 10th (0:03 Steven Tronet - 4:59:41). Contador in GC, 10th (0:13 Tronet - 4:59:31)
TOP TEN: 1 Tronet, 2 Hardy (0:04), 3 Carbet (0:06), 4 Pacher (0:13), 5 Skjerping (0:13), 6 Gerdemann (0:13), 7 Roux (0:13), 8 Molard (0:13), Avila (0:13), 10 Contador (0:13)
PHOTO DAYBOOK: PHOTOS BY COLIN FLOCKTON
Scroll to 11:16 to see an interview with Contador
Look for Alberto Contador wearing bib number 1 today as La Route du Sud begins a four-day trek through southwestern France. Eurosport will carry live video coverage of all stages.
Start time for Stage 1: 11:30. Live pictures start at 2:15 CET (7:15 am CDT).
Contador has never ridden the Route du Sud before, but since arriving he has already taken advantage of the locality by doing a recon of Cauterets, the finishing climb of Stage 11 of the upcoming Tour de France.
PHOTO DAYBOOK - RACE ATLAS: ROUTE DU SUD
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo: 1 Alberto Contador, 2 Ivan Basso, 3 Christopher Juul-Jensen, 4 Jesús Hernández, 5 Oliver Zaugg, 6 Sergio Paulinho, 7 Michael Rogers, 8 Ivan Rovny, DS: Patxi Vila
The 39th edition of the Route du Sud runs from Thursday, June 18 through Sunday, June 21, 2015.
This year, sixteen teams of eight riders each will leave from Lourdes to cover 692 kilometers in four stages through the Pyrenees, including three first-category climbs.
This is Alberto Contador's first career appearance in the Route du Sud. He will face off here against Nairo Quintana, winner of the 2012 edition, as both riders continue preparation for the year’s biggest confrontation: the Tour de France.
There has been only one Spanish winner in the history of the Route du Sud to date, Óscar Sevilla in 2007. Another past winner is Michael Rogers (2003), current teammate and road captain of Alberto Contador at Tinkoff-Saxo. Last year’s edition was won by then-teammate of Contador, Nicolas Roche, who shares his spot on the honor roll with his father, Stephen Roche (1985), and his cousin, Dan Martin (2008)
Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Patxi Vila explained the team's approach to the race in a press release today: “Firstly, it's the first race after the Giro for Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso and Michael Rogers and these three riders need to compete before the Tour. The main objective for Tinkoff-Saxo is that they compete and enter into race-mode once again. After nearly three weeks of break they have to get into the mindset of a competition.
“Secondly, these four days of racing will provide a very good assessment of their form, especially for Alberto. The real test will come in the third stage. It's the race's queen stage with three Cat 1 climbs, including the famous Port de Balès and will give a very good indication of Alberto's form. He will, obviously, fight to be in the front and being a very competitive athlete, we don't rule out the possibility that he might try to go for a stage win. However, there will be other, fresher, riders from other teams that will give their best because the GC will most probably be decided there."
Vila went on to say, “The first two stages are fairly flat and suited for sprinters. Tinkoff-Saxo will not bring sprinters to the race and as a result these initial 350km of racing will be used to bring the riders to race-mode and prepare for the third stage. If Alberto feels good on the third stage, he will obviously need the entire squad to help him and that will be their task. The fourth and final stage is also fairly flat and will provide the last, real-race training for Alberto prior to the Tour de France."
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo: Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso, Jesús Hernández, Christopher Juul-Jensen, Sergio Paulinho, Michael Rogers, Ivan Rovny, Oliver Zaugg, DS: Patxi Vila
Read more, and see daily maps, profiles, start times and more information at our RACE ATLAS
Alberto's Route du Sud card (La Route du Sud)
Alberto Contador returns to competition this Thursday, June 18, after having won the Giro d’Italia on May 31. After two weeks of active rest, Alberto is very motivated in view of his next challenge, the Tour de France. “If it were easy, I wouldn’t have this motivation. I hope to arrive at the startline in the top condition,” says the leader of the Tinkoff-Saxo team two days before the start of the Route de Sud.
“Physically and muscularly I still feel the wear and tear of the Giro, especially from the final week, which was really tough. As a result of that, I’ve tried, above all, to rest as much as possible during this time,” said Contador. “I focused on recovery and I’ve only done three days of specific training to activate my body.”
How to you think you’ll feel in the four days of the Route du Sud?
For me, it’s an unknown. I can’t know now what my form will be like. I’ve been really careful about all the details, both rest and nutrition, which is somewhat complicated, because you have to eat lightly, just the opposite of how it happens in a competition. The most important thing is that I’m eager to ride the Route du Sud, since it’s going to give me speed in the legs and I’m going to be in motion again. Surely, it’s going to take me a while to get up to pace, but I have a good foundation and it will allow me to get some good training done in race mode.
Are you already thinking about the Tour de France? How do you see yourself right now?
I see it with uncertainty, but also with the motivation to experience something that’s new for me. I’m mentally very excited and motivated by this challenge. Physically, when I get up, my legs still hurt, I feel a little muscle fatigue, but this is normal. If it were easy, I wouldn’t have this motivation and, on second thought, there are still more days left to recover than days that have passed since the end of the Giro. I hope to arrive at the startline in top condition.
Where have you been training?
After going to Pinto to celebrate the victory with my friends and family, I went to Lugano and from there to Livigno, where I was cloistered and focused. It’s a good place, with climbs of iconic mountains very close by, like Gavio and Stelvio, and also with the chance to train on flat terrain at an altitude of 1,800 meters. I took advantage of it to prepare my return to competition, even though I’m going to tackle this race is a more relaxed mode.
Alberto Contador will ride the Route de Sud from June 18-21. The Tour de France begins on July 4 in Utrecht.
Team Tinkoff-Saxo via BICICICLISMO
Giro 2015 winner Alberto Contador and his amazing trophy in Madrid (Jesús Alvarez Orihuela)
MARCA | Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador, champion of the 2015 Giro d’Italia, commented on Monday in Madrid that his victory in the Italian grand tour “is the fruit of a lot of work and sacrifice.”
Contador visited the governmental headquarters of the Community of Madrid for a celebration of his latest grand tour win, which he took in Milan on Sunday and described as ¨the fruit of a lot of work, sacrifice and facing a large amount of difficult situations.” The cyclist, who was received by regional president Ignacio González, expressed his thanks for the reception and assured his hosts that it was “very special, in spite of it not being the first or second time” that he has come back with a new title.
“This year is going to be really taxing for me both on the physical and mental levels because I have one month of recovery time between the Giro and the Tour. It’s complicated to arrive there with guarantees, but this is the challenge that I’ve set. We’ll see what can be done in the end,” Contador said about his next goal, the Tour de France.
Contador, a native Madrilenian from Pinto, brought along a maglia rosa – the jersey worn by the leader of the Giro d’Italia – and after signing the guest book in the Real Casa de Correos in the Puerta del Sol, he gave it to President González, who said, “Once again, this year he’s made us suffer, with that crash, that shoulder dislocation, that climb of the Mortirolo, which seemed that it would never end. And once more, he did it all with that class, that strength of will, that conviction, and that faith that with work and effort he can do anything,” said González.
“Now he’s going to the Tour, and he’s warned that the season isn’t justified by the Giro alone, as others might be, but rather that he wants more,” said González, addressing a number of his counselors and other dignitaries, including mayor of Pinto Miriam Rabaneda, and Francisco Javier Fernández Alba, the head of the Madrid Cycling Federation. “I’m sure that with his strength of will, class and ability he will surely triumph again as many times as he wants. We really hope we can see him here again in July – *I don’t know if I’ll be here – but at any rate, Alberto is a great, great champion.”
Contador posed for photos with dignitaries before setting out for Pinto and a hometown tribute.
*González' future is a matter still to be decided after May elections.
With three Giro wins and three-times-three grand tour titles, Contador observes Trinity Sunday on the podium in Milan (Antonio Calanni/AP)
Stage 21, Sunday, May 31: Turin - Milan, 178 km
Alberto Contador won the 98th edition of the Giro d'Italia today after a 178-kilometer celebratory triumphal march from Turin to Milan.
Alberto has now won a remarkable nine grand tours - three Triple Crowns: Tour de France 2007, Giro d'Italia 2008, Vuelta a España 2008, Tour de France 2009 and 2010, Giro d'Italia 2011, Vuelta a España 2012 and 2014, and Giro d'Italia 2015. His new total moves him to third place on the list of all-time grand tour winners, behind Eddy Merckx (11) and Bernand Hinault (10) and ahead of Jacques Anquetil (8). In post-CAS numbers he is tied with Miguel Indurain and Fausto Coppi (both with 7).
Currently the reigning champion of two grand tours, this Giro and last year's Vuelta, Alberto will attempt to make it three in a row this July in France.
There's a reception tomorrow, Monday, in Madrid and a celebration in Pinto, his hometown. After the fêtes, he'll take a day or two for rest, but in within a week, Alberto Contador will be at training camp preparing for the Tour de France.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 21, 45th (0:18 Keisse - 4:18:37). Contador in GC, 1st (88:22:25)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (1:53), 3 Landa (3:05), 4 Amador (8:10), 5 Hesjedal (9:52), 6 Konig (10:41), 7 Kruijswijk (10:53), 8 D. Caruso (12:08), 9 Geniez (15:51), 10 Trofimov (16:14)
Contador ends a difficult ride with a smile (Giro d'Italia)
Alberto Contador makes good on the podium after a bad day on the road (Dani Sánchez)
Contador does light duties on the second rest day(AFP)
AS.COM + | On the second rest day of the 2015 Giro d’Italia, Alberto Contador slept in, went out to ride for a few kilometers and held a press conference. The race leader said that he was going to “take a Spanish siesta, even if this is the Giro d’Italia.”
What’s your connection to the Mortirolo?
My first memory of it is from 2008, when I came to the Giro on the back foot. I only had four seconds of advantage on Riccò, but I was able to hang on and stay in pink. In 2011 it wasn’t climbed. We’re talking about a climb that I like, really, really tough, where time gaps are taken. Coming the day after the rest day – and with all the climbs that come before it – will make it complicated.
Will it be the most important obstacle between here and Milan?
No, there’ll be many more. We’ll have three mountain stages and two others, and the flat stages have been very problematic in this Giro.
What climb have you labeled as the toughest in your career? And your enemy?
The Zoncolan, which has no respite, I rank it over the Mortirolo and the Angliru. About the people that I’ve faced off with, Andy Schleck and Froome.
What’s your opinion of Porte, who has just announced his withdrawal from the Giro. Can he win a grand tour?
He’s a rider who, when he’s well, is very strong, in the TT and in the mountains. Why not in the future? It he feels well, clearly, yes.
Have you definitely decided not to ride the Vuelta in 2015?
First I’m thinking about the Giro. Then, about taking a break before the Tour. The Vuelta, unless something strange happens in the Tour – like a crash, or if it doesn’t go well for me – does not figure in my plans.
Did you picture yourself being in such a favorable situation on the second rest day?
I didn’t imagine this much advantage. I didn’t count out finishing with the maglia rosa, and I though of the mountain stages in the third week as an opportunity to take the leadership. Even though I am doing better than I thought, there’s a lot of Giro ahead.
What’s making the difference between you and Aru? Is it the legs or the experience?
In the time trial, the legs. But it’s been both things. I’ve ridden a lot of grand tours, paying attention to every detail. Even though he lacks a little experience, Aru is a very strong opponent who will bring a lot of joy to this sport and whom I still must mark closely.
You find yourself in the final phase of your professional career. Are you competing to reap your best-ever memories?
I’d like to finish my career on top. That means riding the three grand tours, and setting my sights on the victory or on conquering them. I don’t know how long I’d be able to extend my career, maybe enough, although I might not be at the highest level. The challenge of the Giro and the Tour is difficult, but one of my motivations is to leave the best legacy.
Are you looking to win a stage – one that you still don’t have in your Giro palmares – or to economize strength?
Getting a stage win is secondary, I can’t put the GC at risk. If I get one, great. The one goal above all others it to win the Giro. Getting a stage win would require an extra effort in the short term, and in this week, and I’d pay for it later.
Considering the GC and your toughness, who will the other two on the podium be?
I don’t know how everybody will perform, including me. Amador, Trofimov and König are riding very well, and then there are the two from Astana, Aru and Landa. We should wait to see their strategy as per the GC. If Landa is given the freedom, we’ll see him on the podium in Milan.
Do you want to prove something, considering that they disqualified you from the race in 2011?
Everybody that came to the 2011 Giro knows what they witnessed. I’m enjoying this Giro like the other two.
Would the Giro-Tour double be easier if Quintana, Nibali and Froome were also riding in Italy?...
That’s a question for Quintana, Nibali and Froome. Besides, new cyclists are always emerging. When I started it was the generation of Armstrong, Evans and Leipheimer, then the ones my age – Andy and Nibali – and now younger guys like Quintana. We’re talking about a difficult analysis.
You say that Fabio Aru reminds you of you when you were 24 years old. What would you do if you were Aru to put Alberto Contador under pressure?
When the Giro’s over, I’ll tell you. (laughs)
Contador in high spirits on the Stage 15 podium (Daniel Dal Zennaro/AP)
Stage 15, Sunday, May 24: Marostica - Madonna Di Campiglio, 165 km
Alberto Contador rode masterfully in Stage 15, the first true high mountain stage of this Giro d'Italia. Even though he was left isolated by his team to withstand a prolonged onslaught by the Astana team, he was unruffled by Aru's thugs.
He attacked cheekily at the sprint contest in Pinzolo, springing out from behind to take the bonifications while his rivals did nothing. Contador also showed grace under fire, ushering young Aru to the line, engaging him in chat, before gapping him by only one second and finishing 3rd with more bonifications.
“I’m happy about how the stage went and how my legs have responded,” Contador said after the stage. “The finale was complicated to control, plus it wasn’t very steep. But I’d would’ve like to have won the stage, thinking about Pantani, who was very inspirational for me.”
“It seemed like a team trial by Astana with me on their wheel,” he joked. “I didn’t speak with Landa, it wasn’t necessary. He’s a great rider, I’m very happy for him.”
Reporters wanted to know if Alberto thought that he had earned the title that marks the master and leader of the race in a statesmanly sense: “I’m the patron of the Giro? I don’t know, I can only dedicate myself to giving the best of myself. The seconds don’t mean much. I took the bonus because it was free, and if something’s free, it’s better to take it. But the bonus wan’t an objective,” he said.
Giuseppe Martinelli, manager of Astana: “Right now, Contador is practicing his profession like the patron of the race. There’s nothing to be done. We wanted to prevail on Madonna di Campiglio with Landa in order to get him as close as possible to the podium. Mikel has done a great job over two weeks and deserves his prize. Our goal is to put two guys from Astana in the photo in Milan."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 15, 3rd (0:05 Landa - 4:22:35). Contador in GC, 1st (60:01:34)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (2:35), 3 Amador (4:19), 4 Landa (4:46), 5 Konig (6:36), 6 Trofimov (6:58), 7 D. Caruso (7:10), 8 Monfort (8:20), 9 Visconti (9:53) Geniez (10:03)
Leader again, Contador uncorks (Eurosport)
Stage 14, Saturday, May 23: Treviso - Valdobbiadene, 59 km (ITT)
Alberto Contador recaptured the maglia rosa with an authoritative blow today in Stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia, after a crushing 59-km individual time trial under pouring skies. He finished the stage in third place, bested only by Kiryienka and Luis León Sánchez, but it was his performance against the other GC men that told the tale.
Contador started strong, finished strong, and in spite of suffering, never flagged along the course. He passed his three-minute man Landa, was at all times superior to Urán, and caused Aru to hemorhage seconds for kilometers on end. Richie Porte, who put in a lukewarm performance as Contador's domestique in the 2011 Giro, failed utterly to produce a ride worthy of his status as a favorite.
"Thank you, I'm really happy but my legs are killing me. The wind changes were difficult," Contador said to reporters after the stage. “For me it was a great surprise,” he continued, after accepting his ninth maglia rosa on the podium. “I rode consistently at every moment, I felt well physically. I saw that I wasn’t going too fast in the first part, but I saw that the banners had changed direction due to the wind,” he said. “I focused on the GC, they gave me references from the very first, and I saw that they were good. I was able to catch Landa before the halfway point on the course and that helped me do a good time trial,” said the Tinkoff-Saxo leader.
In the general classification, Contador now leads Aru by 2:28, Amador by 3:35 and Urán by 4:42, while Porte has slipped to 8:52. “I'm very happy with the results. We came to try to win this jersey and we're going to fight for it until the very last moment. There’s still a lot left, one day at a time.”
Alberto had more to say at the post-stage press conference:
Will you tackle the third week like Indurain, on the defensive in the mountains after getting such a gap in the time trial?
Miguel Indurain did amazing things in time trials, he was unique. The time differences that I got are important, I didn’t expect them. However, they’re going to provoke many race situations, and we’ll see how the tactics develop. It can be hard for me to hold back, and sometimes the best defense is a good attack.
Does this make for a situation in which you can start to save something back going into the Tour?
I can’t allow myself to think the about the Tour, I’ve got to think about the rest of the Giro instead. In Jesolo I was involved in a crash at 3.2 km to go. Even though I hardly touched the ground, I saw that my bike was no good, and I had to hustle to get another one from a teammate and limit my losses. The same thing could happen tomorrow. When these three weeks are over, then we’ll focus on the Tour.
Will Fabio Aru be the opponent to watch?
Aru can be a very dangerous rival in the high mountains. I’ve ridden a lot of grand tours, and I know that everybody’s legs hurt. Fabio has shown that he’s not immune to a bad day… but who’s to say he won’t have a good day tomorrow?
In spite of your wariness going into the time trial, due to its length, and the discomfort that you said that you were feeling in your legs, you had a crackerjack day.
You’ve always asked me about the TT, and I’ve answered that it is what is and you have to adapt to it. And since being in Stage 14 of a grand tour influences your ability to recover, it’s gone splendidly well. Although the pain in my legs was unbelievable, I gave it everything from the very start.
You even put more time into specialists like Porte and Urán.
I can’t say much about Richie and Rigoberto because I don’t know the final splits.
How many times did you inspect the time trial course?
I came to see it after the Volta, together with Basso. I did it on the bike and in the car. Yesterday I wanted to see it, but it was complicated by the crash. I couldn’t use the rollers either. At eight o’clock I did a turn on the rollers to test the leg. I went to check it out afterwards, and I recorded a video with commentary. Afterwards I went back to watch that video, did a short warm-up and then to the bicycle.
Are you afraid of an offensive by Astana, and that Tinkoff-Saxo is wearing out?
Each team executes its own strategies. I’m extremely happy with my team. I can only thank them. They’re the very model of professionalism.
As you announced your retirement for the end of the 2016 season, does that make this your final Giro?
I’m not focusing on that. This will probably be the last. I don’t know if I’ll come back, that’s why I want to enjoy every moment here.
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “We are really happy for the win. Alberto has done great time trials in the past and today was not an exception. He did a nice job on the flat part and on the uphill section later on he had a lot of power. After his crashes on stage 6 and on yesterday’s stage we were of course paying close attention to his knee and shoulder, but he showed without a doubt that he could manage it. In the morning on the rollers, he complained a bit about his knee but I saw he could maintain a good aerodynamic position and perform.
“For sure it’s better to have this margin to Aru than the one he had before, which was only a few seconds. We are happy but we have some hard stages and tough weather conditions so we need to keep our focus and take it day by day. The team is without doubt motivated as we head into a very important part of this year’s Giro.”
Richie Porte, leader of Team Sky who also crashed in Stage 13: “I’ll have a talk with the team…but in some ways it might make sense and get out of here and look forward to the Tour.”
"I'll just take it as it comes and go see the physio. It's massively disappointing, so have the last few days. I know the form I came into this race with. I had a bit of bad luck, but it wasn't bad luck today, I just didn't have it.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 14, 3rd (0:14 Kiryienka - 1:17:52). Contador in GC, 1st (55:39:00)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (2:28), 3 Amador (3:36), 4 Urán (4:14), 5 van den Broeck (4:17), 6 Cataldo (4:50), 7 Landa (4:55), 8 D. Caruso (4:56), 9 Kreuziger (4:57), 10 König (5:35)
Stage 13, Friday, May 22: Montecchio Maggiore - Jesolo, 147 km
Alberto Contador sprinted to the finish like a bat out of hell today after falling in a mass pileup at just over 3 km to go in Stage 13 of the Giro d'Italia. Alberto was back up in a flash and flying to the finish on teammate Matteo Tosatto's bike. “I think that the loss hasn’t been too great, some 35 seconds,” he said at the team bus after the stage, “but it will cost a lot to get them back.”
The Tinkoff-Saxo leader reached the finish line 0:40 behind Fabio Aru, who took over the maglia rosa. Aru was in front of the crash when it happened and did not wait for race leader Contador to pick himself up and return to the fight, which in cycling is considered unsportsmanlike. Aru now leads the Giro d'Italia by 0:19 over Contador.
Alberto pointed out that the team had searched the last 3 km of the stage profile in advance to pinpoint the most dangerous sections, but “just at 3.2 km or so is where the crash was.” They had been riding, as usual, in relative safety near the front of the peloton. Alberto landed in a tangled nest of bikes, but rose quickly and spun around in search of a teammate. Tosatto spotted him and crossed the road diagonally, then dismounted and carried his bike to Alberto, lifting it over the wreckage. Alberto was already moving into position to mount the bike when the veteran Italian reached him.
The question is whether today’s knocks will make trouble for him on the time trial bike tomorrow. “The problem when you crash is that you automatically put your body in a very rigid position as a defense mechanism and the entire body resents it, not only tomorrow but in the upcoming days. Also there's this shoulder injury.”
“Now, what worries me the most is the bruise on my left leg. The crankset or something on a bicycle behind me rammed into it. That’s what could do me the most damage.” he explained, but added philosphically, “It could be worse, there’s not too much harm done, although it will cost me to gain back every second. I know I’m always saying this, but there’s not one single peaceful day in a grand tour; you always have to stay on guard. In this case we were well-positioned but got caught in the pileup. I got a bike as quickly as possible in order to minimize the losses. Now it’s time to apply ice and recover as well as possible for the time trial. It’s not ideal to tackle a key day like this, but it is what it is.”
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “We were caught by an unfortunate incident at the end of a very good day. We were waiting for the 3-km mark to be safe but, unluckily, it took place 200 meters before that. Fortunately, we had Tosatto close by and thanks to his fast reaction, Alberto got his bike so that he could cross the finish line, minimizing the time loss as much as he could.”
“Fortunately, Alberto's shoulder wasn't affected by the fall and we are very happy with that. His left leg was hit but tomorrow we have a very long time-trial and we can get some time back. We will see what happens but I feel confident today's incident will not be a big issue."
Fabio Aru, Contador's main rival: “I was close to the maglia rosa a few days ago, but I couldn’t catch up. Sadly, today’s stage was easy on paper, but the weather and complications in the final kilometers made it very difficult. We knew that we had to ride in the front and my team kept me up there and I was able to avoid the crash. Anything can happen in stages like that. I’m sorry about Alberto, but we were in front when the crash occured and, in 21 days, anything can happen: There are days when you don’t feel very well, like I had two days ago.”
“I’m only trying to give it my all, taking into account that Contador is a great champion who has won everything in this sport, and I haven’t, which is why being in the fight with someone like him is a great motivation.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to do tomorrow because I’ve worked in a different way than ever before on my time trialing. The route is unusually long and, after 13 hard stages in a Giro that was hot at first and rainy during recent days, your body feels the fatigue. The advantage that I have is that Alberto will start before I do, although in a time trial you go 100% anyway, so everything depends on how much strength and energy you have.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 13, 46th (0:40 Modolo - 3:03:08). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:19 Aru - 54:20:55)
TOP TEN: 1 Aru, 2 Contador (0:19), 3 Landa (1:14), 4 Kreuziger (1:38), 5 Cataldo (1:49), 6 Urán (2:02), 7 D. Caruso (2:12), 8 Amador (2:21), 9 Visconti (2:40), 10 Trofimov (3:15)
Alberto Contador fought hard for 2nd place and bonifications in Vicenza (AFP)
Stage 12, Thursday, May 21: Imola - Vicenza (Monte Berico), 190 km
Alberto Contador finished second and gained time on his opponents after following a late attack by Philippe Gilbert today in Stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia. Contador extended his lead over Fabio Aru by 8 seconds and added to that a 6” bonus at the line. Urán and Porte, arguably his most dangerous opponents in the upcoming long time trial, also lost a few seconds to Alberto during the treacherous, rainy stage.
“I seem to have good legs,” said Contador after the stage. “In the end, Gilbert was really, really strong; but I was thinking about the GC and I’m happy with the result.”
Contador worked hard for the extra seconds, riding within the protection of his team but striking out alone to stay safe in front on the wet roads, and always on the lookout for pitfalls and attacks. “We’re riding avoiding risks, above all, and, I think, with intelligence, watching every moment and every situation. Astana is very strong, but I do think that it’s true that we’re well-organized and in the end, it was a good day for us with this latest uphill finish,” he said.
“It was a really hard day, very fast. The first two hours were at almost 50 kilometers per hour. When it started to rain, the team kept the pace very high all the time and the tough climb (Crosara) broke everything a little.”
While Contador can thank his own initiative and expert squad for his success, Fabio Aru's failure to take on nutrition also apparently contributed to his time gain. Aru bonked near the end of the stage. Even though his teammate and mentor Tiralongo fought like a mastiff to prevent Contador from taking bonus seconds at the line, the young Sardinian now sits 17” behind Alberto in the GC, and cannot steal the maglia rosa by sprinting for bonifications tomorrow.
Alberto answered questions for reporters after the stage:
Do you see yourself as the strongest person in the race?
We’re riding what’s been a very competitive Giro from the first stage. Every riders is expending his strength and energy, the rain is taking its toll. Nothing’s been won yet.
Your rivals have already gone on the defensive.
They’re not riding defensively – maybe Richie and Urán are, because the time trial favors them, but Aru and Astana have not suspended hostilities and are in attack mode. Although I’ve been the one more on the move in these last two days.
Don’t you feel like the patron of the Giro?
No, I still see that as really far off, very difficult. A thousand things could happen.
In what way will you tackle the time trial with that change of position that you announced?
I must see what to do. Richie really has his sights set on the time trial, Urán too. The Astana riders will have to minimize their losses. In my case, Faustino will bring a bike to my room to test my position. It’s not ideal to go out without the best aerodynamics, meaning 10-15 fewer watts, but we’ll have to wait for the results.
For the moment, you’ve got another 14 seconds of advantage.
All of the advantage is important. On a bad day here you could lose minutes. The margins are key for playing with strategy.
Aru lost time on Monte Berico. You already warned that he wasn’t feeling great at Imola.
I’ve seen myself dispute grand tours many times. In these two stages, I found out that he was faltering, so I jumped. On this occasion, he didn’t have a good day and was gapped. But if you look at the route book, in the final week anything could happen.
It seems that you don’t need Tinkoff, Astana has facilitated the race to this date.
It turns out to be difficult to know what tactic that they wanted to use, they improvised according to the situation. If their leader has hit the wall it’s more complicated to interpret.
Have you gotten over your physical issues?
I think so, and my legs are still improving. There’ve been a few days in which I didn’t mention leg problems, the bruises, which really weighed me down, not just the shoulder. In a grand tour, it’s the ability to recover that really makes a difference.
Fabio Aru, Contador’s most direct rival: “Today I bonked at the finish; I didn’t have time to eat. I made a mistake in the final kilometers. It’s something that can happen to anybody over 21 days. You never quit learning. The Giro is still long and we’re focused. Now we’re going to recover, and afterwards we’ll think about tomorrow.”
Paolo Tiralongo, Aru’s teammate (and Contador’s loyal ex-teammate): “Another tough and active stage. In the finale, we sent Kangert ahead, given the presence of Gilbert, forcing BMC to do the work. When he left the Belgian behind, I was more than ready to take his wheel, but my chain jumped and I hit my knee on the handlebar, which made me unable to keep up, in order to keep Contador from taking the bonus. Fabio bonked and paid for it in the end, but you also have to take into account that this is a 21-stage race.”
Sergio Paulinho, Contador’s Portuguese teammate and member of his Iberian Guard for many years: “It was certainly a good day for the team, we knew that the finish was hard and good for Alberto, and in the last part we tried to make the stage as hard as possible. We continue to take it day by day and Alberto has recovered very well so far. We hope that he is super for the crucial last week.”
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Today was hectic with wet roads from km 120 and to the finish. It was really pouring in some places, which made some of the sections dangerous. Our boys took control and worked well to keep us in a good position to protect Alberto also in the crosswinds. On the penultimate climb, Rogers pulled hard, while we had Kreuziger there to support Alberto.”
“It went according to our pre-stage plan and it’s of course nice that Alberto was strong enough to take some seconds on his rivals on the final climb. It was an uphill finish after a hard stage, so there were some riders who were marked on the last kilometers. Another important factor is that we avoided crashes on the wet descents, where the rain and small stones on the surface made it difficult. Everybody gets more cautious on descents like these and some are afraid to crash, so we also saw some splits”.
“It’s been a hard Giro so far and it has definitely not been easy for anybody. We’ve had a lot of up and down and left and right and very few really flat stages. So I think the Giro has been this tough due to the challenging parcours on nearly all stages.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 12, 2nd (0:03 Gilbert - ). Contador in GC, 1st ()
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:17), 3 Landa (0:55), 4 Cataldo (1:30), 5 Kreuziger (1:55), 6 Urán (2:19), 7 Visconti (2:21), 8 D. Caruso (2:29), 9 Amador (2:38), 10 Konig (2:44)
Conatdor has said that the weather will work in his favor this week (@fjcontador)
Stage 11, Wednesday, May 20: Forli - Imola, 153 km
Alberto Contador survived a tough four hours of riding in the rain today in Stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia, and even jumped for an experimental attack in the final eight kilometers, on the last uphill before the finish line. “Every day I’m getting a little better, the bruises on my legs, too. It’s been a really hard day, grueling thanks to the rain and the terrain, much more so than yesterday, even though it was 50 kilometers less.”
Although young Russian rider Ilnur Zakarin was already en route to victory off the front of the breakaway – and the day’s finale was an unlikely place for gains by the GC men – Contador had reasons to try his legs. Did he attack to find safe ground in front of the pack on the descent, to test his shoulder, or to test his rivals?
“There was no terrain for trying anything, but instinct was telling me that maybe some riders weren’t feeling so great, that they were pretty much on the limit, and I wanted to see,” Contador said at the finish.
“Every day is important, but in a grand tour the most important thing is to survive the bad days. You never know. Maybe instinct tells you who’s feeling well and who isn’t. There are times that you have to test your rivals, to see what the strength of each one is like. Today wasn’t really the terrain for it, but these are important things.”
Alberto was clearly more comfortable than the other leaders, which prompted reporters to ask him afterwards if he could be considered the patron of this Giro. “No way,” he said. “Whoever thinks that is wrong, or knows nothing about cycling. There’s a whole lot left, a thousand things could happen. And even though it might seem simple, there’s no way it is. This Giro still has no boss.”
About the regrettable situation of rival Richie Porte, who lost 2:47 in earned loss and penalty in Stage 10, Alberto commented, “About what Richie did, it’s normal: Your heart is beating a mile a minute and the only thing that you want is to lose the least amount of time possible, you’re not thinking about the rules. There are moments in the race when it costs you to be organized, and there are situations that can complicate things.
“It’s easy to talk about it now. I would’ve waited for the car or changed with a teammate who was my size. From the first day it’s one of the things that we talk about.”
Is Porte out of the running for the overall win? “The Giro is one of the races that’s won by the greatest margin and whoever thinks that Richie is out of the race is completely wrong.”
However taxing and nervous these transitional stages of Week 2 might be, the biggest challenges are still on the horizon: “Tomorrow the finale is a small climb, a day without great difficulty. What’s really hard is what’s coming up starting this weekend and in the final week; it’s all ahead of us.”
Fabio Aru of Astana, second in the GC: “I wasn’t very brilliant. It was a rather strange day. Maybe I might have paid for the change from the heat that we were encountering during the previous days, because it was raining and the temperature had dropped. Nevertheless, doing a review at the end of the day, it seems that nothing particularly bad happened. We maintained the classification with no changes and we’re looking ahead.”
Stephen de Jongh, Contador's DS: “Again it was a hard parcours and a good breakaway group went away, while we could control the events pretty well. Some of the other teams pulled as well during the stage such as Orica, who took up the chase in the last part of the stage. However, Zakarin was very strong."
“Our ambition was to protect Alberto. The rain meant that the technical parts of the stage were trickier and we had to pay more attention during the stage. In the end, Alberto improvised a little attack to test his rivals just a bit. All in all, a wet but good day and we will start focusing on tomorrow. It looks as if it’s going to rain again and with the uphill finish in Vicenza it can become tricky."
Manuele Boaro, Contador's teammate: “We were in the front throughout the day, working hard for Alberto. It was even made harder with the rain but we are happy with the outcome. We did our job and Alberto retains the pink jersey."
“For me this is a great opportunity to be in the Giro racing for such a great team and a great leader like Alberto. It will certainly be the best Giro I have ever done and I will give my best. The first week has been very tough and we had to take it one day at a time but I think we are a strong team and a well-knit squad and that is what counts”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 11, 20th (1:02 Zakarin - 3:55:08). Contador in GC, 1st (46:54:19)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:03), 3 Landa (0:46), 4 Cataldo (1:16), 5 Kreuziger (1:46), 6 Urán (2:10), 7 Visconti (2:12), 8 D. Caruso (2:20), 9 Amador (2:24), 10 Konig (2:30)
Another podium in pink - that's six so far (Reuters)
Stage 10, Tuesday, May 19: Civitanova Marche - Forlì, 200 km
Alberto Contador finished Stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia safely today, arriving at the finish line with the peloton, 18” behind stage winner Nicola Boem. Contador said that the mostly-piano stage had been “a virtual rest day, even though the finale had some fast and tense moments, especially in the final ten kilometers. I’m happy to have survived without any problems.”
Boem won the day by attacking in the final kilometer off the front of the day's breakaway. The group's staying power managed to foil the big sprinters, who had surely dogeared this page in the route book.
The big news was that Richie Porte – 3rd in the GC at 0:22 when the day began, and a big threat for this weekend’s time trial – punctured at around six kilometers to go and was unable to catch up to the pack after changing wheels. Porte struggled to hold the wheel of the teammates who came to his rescue, and in the end lost 47” and one place in the GC.
“Nothing’s easy,” said Contador after the stage. “There’s never a simple day in the Giro, look what happened to Richie. They’re always talking about stages that are more important or less important, but you can lose time in any of them,” he continued. “They always tell me to have good luck; I only ask that I don’t have bad luck. I got caught up in a crash, this time he was affected, he punctured at a really bad moment.”
The worst for Porte, however, was yet to come. As the stage ended, photos were already circulating online of Porte, with a teammate standing nearby, accepting a wheel from Simon Clarke, a fellow Australian on Orica-GreenEdge, a rival team. According to UCI rules, it is not permitted for a rider from a rival team to lend a competitor a wheel or a bike. Porte could have accepted his teammate’s wheel or waited for one from neutral support, but it was not legal to take Clarke’s. The photos told the story, and the rule book is clear, therefore the race jury docked Porte 2:00, sending him backward in the GC to 12th place at 3:09 behind Alberto Contador.
“I’m sorry for Richie,” Contador said when he heard the news. “At points like that in a race you’re going flat out, your heart-rate is really high, and you only think about losing as little time as possible, not the rules. I think that with all that we have in front of us in the Giro, the amount of time that he lost today, which might seem like a lot, could be insignificant later.”
Tomorrow’s tricky stage ends at the Ferrari Autodrome, but Alberto was willing to let tomorrow take care of itself. “Tomorrow is tomorrow, I’m thinking about getting to the hotel, resting, putting my legs up, and in the morning we’ll see the route. The priority is rest,” he said.
Mauro Vegni, Director of the Giro d’Italia, about the sanction of Richie Porte: “Obviously as the director of the Giro d’Italia, I have to say that I’m sorry about this because it’s a further burden for a rider who hoped to do something important at this Giro, but this doesn’t mean that he can’t still do that. But clearly there was little to be done, rules are rules, and I think rules have to be respected for the credibility of this sport and, in this case, the credibility of the Giro d’Italia.
“I think it was a mistake made by the riders in absolute good faith. Perhaps if somebody had reminded them of the rules it wouldn’t have happened but that’s talking with the benefit of hindsight. Off the top of my head I can’t remember anything like it.
“They (Sky) maintained the penalty was unfair but that’s the rule and the commissaires have put out a communique where the rule is outlined clearly. For the first offence, it’s two minutes, for the second it’s five, for the third it’s ten and I believe for a fourth offence, the penalty is expulsion. So it’s not like they can say: ‘We’ll give you a discount, we’ll give you 1:30.’
“I hope they reflect on this matter and they realise that there has been no injustice here: a rule that has existed for a long time was applied to an incident in the race. I hope that when things calm down later this evening they’ll realise that the rule had to be applied.”
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Today was very good, we definitely can’t complain as the sprinters’ teams took control after the break grew to above two and a half minute. Our focus was on taking care of Alberto and making sure that he remained safe in the peloton until the finish line.
“It’s always hard with a fast stage right after a rest day. We had tailwind and high speed and it was hot as well. Combined with lots of roundabouts, these factors made the stage pretty nervous. So I wouldn’t say that it was comfortable for the guys today”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 10, 31st (0:18 Boem - 4:26:16). Contador in GC, 1st (42:58:09)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:03), 3 Landa (0:46), 4 Cataldo (1:16), 5 Kreuziger (1:46), 6 Urán (2:10), 7 Visconti (2:12), 8 D. Caruso (2:20), 9 Amador (2:24), 10 Konig (2:30)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS
Alberto Contador talked about modifying his TT position to favor his injured shoulder, among other things, at the rest day press conference (EFE)
Alberto Contador did a light training session with his teammates today, the first rest day of the 2015 Giro d’Italia. After a little over an hour on the bike, the Tinkoff-Saxo nine went back to the hotel for lunch. Alberto put off eating, however, to stick to his schedule and do a press conference which had already been delayed by a few minutes so that he could test his position on the time trial bicycle. The first question revolved around that topic.
This morning you also tested the time trial bike? Did you want to adjust anything?
I took advantage of today to do a little test of my position on the bike, even though within five days I should be better. But still I’ve decided to change position and open up the handlebars a little, affecting the aerodynamics a bit in order to put less stress on the shoulder. In this case I think that it’s more important to protect it.
Have you changed it only for the sake of the shoulder, or also because the final part is uphill?
No, only to protect the shoulder. This time trial is absolutely all about aerodynamics. We’ve already done an average of 40 km/hour in training, and the climb is very gentle.
What’s your condition like right now? Are you satisfied with your position in the GC?
I’m happy because I’ve been getting better every day since the crash. Yesterday I already had a pedaling cadence much more similar to normal than on Campitello Matese. As for my situation in the GC, I’m very happy about that, too. I’m leading my rivals and they’re the ones that have to do something about it, even though it’s true that the Giro has only just begun.
Aru asked you to collaborate and afterwards he sprinted. How do you analyze that situation?
It was something that I more or less expected. In the final kilometer I could’ve stayed on his wheel to save strength and not lose anything, but as I said yesterday, I hope that this Giro won’t be won or lost by a one-second margin.
You started the Giro with the idea of winning the double, and in the first week you crashed. Was all that going through your head then?
Yes, I thought about that at the very moment of the crash. I’ve never broken my collarbone and I was afraid that that was the case, but then I grabbed my shoulder and instinctively put it back in place. Then I thought about all the sacrifices that I’ve made, and that I had mortgaged the first part of the season on the double… but it never entered my mind to go home. As I said to a friend then, if I have to go home now, I’m going to need a psychologist.
Since your crash, has it been only the shoulder problem that’s limited you, or have your legs also been telling you that you’d better not push it?
Since the crash, I’ve been more conservative than combative, both yesterday and on Campitello Matese. Getting through these stages without losing time was good for me, because there’s still more than enough ground ahead of us. In this case, I preferred to err on the side of caution.
How did the idea of going for the double come about? Do you want to go down in history after having already won all three grand tours?
For me, it’s only an extra motivation. Were I to succeed – which is really difficult – it might be more remembered, but I’m doing it only for the difficulty that it entails, as a sporting incentive.
In your career, once you’ve gotten the leader’s jersey, you’ve never lost it. Have you thought about where and when you could lose it here?
I don’t want to think about that possibility. (laughs)
But if some weak point did exist, where would it happen?
The jersey could be lost in any stage, as we saw the other day, but we’ll have to see what happens in the time trial, because Richie Porte is very strong there. Maybe this year this tradition won’t continue, but there’s a lot of ground left for recovering it. In any case, that’s only statistics.
Hasn’t overcoming the shoulder problem given you even more motivation and desire to win?
No, because it’s almost impossible to have more motivation. I’ve worked so hard for this, I’ve prepared not just physically but also mentally... We’ll just have to see if I can do it.
Who looks the best of your rivals after this first week? Don’t you think that Aru has expended too much energy and that he might end up paying for it?
My main rivals continue to be Aru and Porte. Richie has the time trial in his favor, but we’ll have to see how the classification shapes up after that stage. Regarding Aru, it’s true that he has expended energy, but so have the rest of us. His turf, like mine, is the mountains, so for me they’re both dangerous.
This first week has been really hard, really stressful. Now, on the other hand, it seems that several transitional days are coming up, before the time trial. Are you worried about any stage between now and then?
In spite of not having very tough finales, this first week has been very taxing. The peloton has suffered and now it seems that a period of true relaxation is coming, but we’ll have to be on guard every day and, above all, save every ounce of strength we can for the time trial.
Are you worried about losing the jersey before the time trial?
No. We did consider that possibility, of ceding it to Niemec, but as for bringing down the tempo a little, Astana went to work and nothing happened. The true objective is to win it in Milan. Until then it’s possible that the jersey could change ownership a lot.
Alberto Contador press room
Porte had to scramble to finish with Alberto (Eurosport)
Stage 9, Sunday, May 17: Benevento - SanGiorgio Del Sannio, 215 km
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 9, 11th (0:57 Tiralongo - 5:50:31). Contador in GC, 1st (38:31:35)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:03), 3 Porte (0:20), 4 Landa (0:46), 5 Cataldo (1:16), 6 Kreuziger (1:46), 7 Visconti (2:02), 8 Urán (2:10), 9 Caruso (2:20), 10 Amador (2:24)
The pain showed on his face in the 264-km Stage 7 ride (Sourced from Twitter)
Stage 7, Friday, May 15: Grosseto - Fiuggi, 264 km
Alberto Contador was able to take the start in Stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia with his shoulder stabilized by kinesio tape. The stage was the longest in years - 264 kilometers - and there was often a headwind, but Contador was well protected by his team. He finished 30th, in a large group with the other favorites a few seconds behind stage winner Diego Ulissi.
Contador remains in the maglia rosa.
“I’m happy because I got through the day - something that had not been a sure thing - but on the other hand, I suffered a lot of pain. It was a windy seven-hour stage and starting at four hours in, I couldn't find a way to position my hand on the handlebar. That’s why I'm happy to have gotten through a touch-and-go moment.” said Alberto after stepping down from the podium, where today he was able to put on the maglia rosa.
About tomorrow's mountainous stage with summit finish, he said, “I might err on the side of caution on a climb suitable for attacking, but the main thing is that the arm gets better. Now it's time for ice and rest."
Before the stage, Contador had told reporters, "I had a good night, with analgesics, and I hope that I respond well. My morale is rising," he said, adding, "I really hope that it doesn´t rain,” in anticipation of the difficulty of putting on rain gear with restricted mobility in his left arm.
“My teammates will have to help me with food, and I´ll have to avoid rotating the arm above my head so that it doesn’t come out again. But I feel confident. I’ve done a lot of work to be ready to tackle these three week.”
Stage 6, Thursday, May 14: Montecatini Terme - Castiglione Della Pescaia, 183 km
Alberto Contador hit the ground in a mass pileup in the final meters of today's Stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia. A fan on the sidelines leaned over the barrier with a long lens camera and made contact with the peloton in the final sprint.
Contador was able to ride to the finish line, but disappeared immediately without talking to reporters in order to put ice on his shoulder before the podium ceremony. The anxiety level among those who follow the Giro skyrocketed when he declined to put on his new maglia rosa on the podium and did not uncork the prosecco, although this decision may have more to do with the ice pack than pain.
X-rays found a temporarily dislocated shoulder, but no fractures. Alberto plans to continue in the Giro tomorrow. Doctors will have another look in the morning, and the Tinkoff-Saxo team will issue a statement at that time.
The following is a translation of Alberto's comments in the video above, given after leaving the Giro's mobile medical unit.
Alberto Conador: "Initially it was a dislocation. I got up and my instinct was to pop my shoulder back in. I was frightened because I thought that I’d broken my collarbone, something I've never broken in my whole life. When I was going to the podium my shoulder popped out again and I was in big pain, so we had to take the maximum precautions possible.
"It seems from the exams that there's nothing more to this than a dislocation, we have to be cautious that it doesn't re-occur. I have to get through the night well, keep the shoulder immobilized, and keep my fingers crossed that it doesn't slip out again, and endure the pain.
"Optimistic? We'll see, I've worked for this race so much since last winter, and I want to continue in it. We'll have to see tomorrow if I realistically can or cannot, but I hope so, yes. I'll have it bandaged to keep it as protected as possible. It won’t be very easy... but we'll see."
Translation by T. Rosales
Alberto pops the cork in celebration at Abetone (Eurosport)
Stage 5, Wednesday, May 13: La Spezia - Abetone, 152 km
Alberto Contador landed the first punch on his rivals today with a strong attack at 4.6 kilometers from the finish line in Stage 5 of the Giro d'Italia. The only opponents who could hit back were Aru and Porte. Swinging right and left, the three favorites fought to the finish on the summit at Abetone where, with a final swat, Aru took four bonus seconds to draw within two of Contador in the GC.
Contador is the new race leader. Aru is now 2nd overall at 0:02 and Porte is 3rd at 0:20. The stage was won by Jan Polanc, followed by Sylvain Chavanel, the surviving members of the day's breakaway.
At the post-stage press conference, Alberto fielded questions about maintaining the leadership, his direct rivals, and hidden motors in bikes.
You’ve never taken the leadership so early in any of your other grand tours.
Contador: I wasn’t thinking about attacking, honestly. I was there, at the front of the group, I looked at the other riders, I didn’t feel very well, but when I attacked I felt better. Sometimes it ends up being complicated for me to stay in the pack, so I gave it a try Even though we hadn’t planned to take the maglia, it’s a joy.
Then, are you satisfied with the time differences?
Yes, in the end I think that I got a nice result. Urán came unhitched, like some other dangerous cyclists. Even though Aru and Richie are very strong, I think it’s a good situation after the fifth stage.
Are you modifying your intentions or those of your team’s commander-in-chief?
Nothing’s changing. I didn’t expect the jersey, but having it is fantastic. It’s a fine gift and an honor. I’m very happy, because wearing this garment is incredible. We could lose it tomorrow, for example. For us, the most important thing is to be wearing pink in Milan. I love the Giro d’Italia, the people and the country, and seeing myself as leader during the next working day will be fantastic.
Mario Cipollini said on the RAI program after the stage that your change of bicycle at 35 kilometers from the Abetone doesn’t benefit cycling when there’s so much speculation about the possible use of hidden motors.
(Laughs sarcastically) Numerous reasons exist for carrying out a change of bike, and none of them has to do with a motor. You can play with different types of tire, one that works for 200 kilometers, and others that are good for thirty or forty. It doesn’t seem like something negative to me. On the contrary: I consider it positive that technological development exists in our sport, like in motorcycling. All these stories about motors sound like a joke to me, like science fiction.
Are Aru and Porte confirmed as the rivals to beat?
Yes, and at the moment Astana have proven that they’re feeling very well. Fabio and Richie are the strongest right now. Being a climber, Aru will try to take advantage of any opportunity to take time before he hits the Treviso time trial. As for Porte, the ITT favors him, so he’s looking to hold on until getting a margin there. Compared to when we were teammates, he’s much more experienced, and thinner (smiles). Nevertheless, the Giro has only just begun. We’ll see.
Contador was well supported by his team until the final meters of today's stage, with most of the squad protecting him until well into the last 10 km, although they were not the sole pacesetters in the pack. When Alberto stopped to changebikes at about 35 km to go, teammates dispatched him to the front.
At 4.6 km to go, Alberto attacked powerfully, drawing Aru and Porte from the stressed peloton as yarn is drawn from an unraveling sweater. The rival duo managed to bridge to him at 4.2 km to go. Porte attacked in the wake of a motorcycle at the 5-km banner, and was easily marked by Alberto and Aru. Aru attacked immediately afterwards, but failed to shake the others. Meanwhile,Aru's teammate Landa joined the three favorites, while up ahead surviving escapees Jan Polanc and Sylvain Chavanel rode toward the line.
Landa pulled all three favorites until the final sprint for the remaining four bonus seconds while, incidentally, all kinds of ducks and parries happened at the front of the main peloton a minute behind.
Aru made a play for the bonus which was matched so beautifully by Contador at his side that the two seemed to be perfectly synchronized. The Sardinian pulled slightly ahead, however, and left Alberto boxed in against the barrieron the final curve. Porte, in the end, was a hardly more than a supernumerary.
Stephen de Jongh, Contador's DS: “In the meeting before the start we spoke about that we should avoid letting a big breakaway go. Instead we could see an interest in a smaller group that wouldn’t be dangerous in the GC.
"Orica took responsibility and controlled much of the stage, while we remained focused on protecting Alberto. In the end, he took the decision to attack, as he knew that he had to drop Chaves in order to take the jersey. He managed to do so, while many GC contenders lost time. I’m pleased with the team’s performance and the guys remain focused on our overall objective."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 4th (1:31 Polanc - 4:09:18). Conatdor in GC, 1st (16:05:54)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:02), 3 Porte (0:20), 4 Kreuziger (0:22), 5 Cataldo (0:28), 6 E. Chaves (0:37), 7 Visconti (0:56), 8 Landa (1:01), 9 Formolo (1:15), 10 Amador (1:18)