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September 9, 2012 - El chico de Pinto - with grace, dignity and panache - notches seventh career grand tour victory

La Vuelta 2012 winner, Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador, overall winner, 2012 Vuelta a España (AFP)

Stage 21, September 9: Cercedilla-Madrid, 111.9 km

Alberto Contador crossed the finish line triumphantly in Madrid today, posting up to celebrate his seventh career grand tour victory. He completed the most difficult Vuelta a España route in recent memory in just under 85 cumulative hours, more than 3,300 kilometers and 8 mountaintop finishes, entirely in the north of Spain.

Contador, one of history's five Triple Crown winners, is now one of only two riders, after Bernard Hinault, to win all three grand tours more than once. His name is added to the list of only 8 other multi-Vuelta winners: Gustaaf Deloor, Julián Berrendero, José Manuel Fuente, Hinault, Tony Rominger, Alex Zulle, Roberto Heras and Denis Menchov.

Alberto won by a margin of 1:16 over Alejandro Valverde and 1:37 over Joaquim Rodríguez. The three brilliant Spanish riders animated the race from the very beginning, when Valverde´s Movistar team was strongest in the team time trial in Pamplona. The peloton had already reached the mountains by Stage 3, and Valverde added strength to strength immediately by winning on Arrate. Purito Rodríguez took the red jersey from him the next day at Valdezcaray after the Murican was left behind in a crash, and thanks to a route that was often ideally suited to him, Purito remained in the leadership for many days.

Contador took time back with a strong time trial performance in Pontevedra, Stage 11, but Purito impressed everyone by minimizing his losses and keeping the jersey by a whisker. Alberto looked sure to unseat the Catalonian rider during a mammoth weekend in Asturias, but Rodríguez stayed strong, winning again on the Puerto de Ancares, and resisting repeated volleys of spectacular attacks by Alberto on the road to Lagos de Covadonga and in the unbelievable queen stage to Cuitu Negru.

By the second rest day, opportunities to win the Vuelta were dwindling. Only two options remained: Stage 17 to Fuente Dé and the severe climb to Bola del Mundo in the penultimate stage. Contador did not wait for Bola del Mundo. Instead, the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team was skillfully deployed en route to Fuente Dé, and Contador put in the effort of a lifetime, attacking the peloton at 50 kilometers from the finish line and bridging to allies positioned ahead. He rode to the finish line solo, and wore the maillot rojo at the end of the day.

Valverde and Rodríguez were strong and savvy. They continued to trade punches and threaten Contador. When Purito attacked decisively on the hors categorie Bola del Mundo, the day before Madrid, Contador could only respond by riding tempo, but knew, from study and reconnaissance, that the Katusha rider would not be able to gain enough time on the slopes to keep him from a second overall Vuelta a España triumph.

And so the Vuelta was won. Alberto sailed across the finish line in Madrid today, flanked by Noval and Hernández, posting up with seven fingers raised, one for each of his grand tour victories: Tour 2007, Giro 2008, Vuelta 2008, Tour 2009, Tour 2010, Giro 2011, and finally this unforgettable Vuelta Ciclista a España.

With an invitation to his team to join him on the final podium, a chivalrous bow to Purito and one to Valverde, the anthem (the correct one, this time), and the Cava, Alberto Contador put the final flourish on his magnificent Vuelta, the best grand tour in many years.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 21, 54th (s.t. Degenkolb - 2:44:57). Contador in GC, 1st (84:59:49). Special prize: Most Combative

LEADERBOARD: 1 Contador (84:59:49), 2 Valverde (1:16), 3 Rodríguez (1:37), 4 Froome (10:16), 5 Moreno (11:29), 6 Gesink (12:23), 7 Talansky (13:28), 8 Ten Dam (13:41), 9 Antón (14:01), 10 Intxausti (16:13)





La Vuelta 2012, final podium

Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodríguez, the first all-Spanish Vuelta podium since 2004 (AFP)


September 8, 2012 - Alberto holds on to top of GC leaderboard after harrowing attack by Purito on Bola del Mundo. He will ride to Madrid in red tomorrow!

La Vuelta 2012, wild ride into Lastrillas

The happiest we have seen Alberto Contador in many months, on the podium at Bola del Mundo (AS.com)

Stage 20, September 8: La Faisanera Golf. Segovia 21-Bola del Mundo, 169.5 km

Alberto Contador held on to survive a vicious attack by Purito Rodriguez on the brutal slopes of the Bola del Mundo today, and will ride to Madrid in the maillot rojo tomorrow.

Alberto Contador, after the stage: “Maybe I've won the race through bravery, refusing to conform and because of the way I approach racing, too. Many times people have said Contador was the big favorite but I knew how hard it would be.

"I've won this Vuelta after a long time away from racing and there were moments when I thought it was difficult. But as I said on the second rest day, I believed I could do it. If I hadn't believed in my chances, then I'd have just stuck with my second place. And I wouldn't have attacked at Fuente Dé.

"When Joaquin attacked on the Bola del Mundo I knew the differences would be minimal because I've studied the results from 2010.

"I really enjoyed this stage, so many people were out there supporting me and the other riders, and I will always remember it. I still can't believe I've won it, to tell the truth. I think it's been a very beautiful, well-fought Vuelta and one which is a success for cycling in general.”

Bradley McGee, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank directeur sportif: “Once again, the team did a fantastic job out there and put Alberto in a perfect position before the finale where he had a margin that allowed him not to go too deep and thereby risk the whole race. We never planned to take the stage win today. The major concern was obviously Valverde and Rodriguez and Alberto remained cool throughout the stage. Of course, we haven't won just yet. There's still one more stage to go but there should be no danger. We just have to stay out of trouble and maybe even enjoy the parade to Madrid wearing the red leader's jersey."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 20, 12th (4:15 Menchov - 4:48:48). Contador in GC, 1st (82:14:52).

LEADERBOARD: 1 Contador (82:14:52), 2 Valverde (1:16), 3 Rodríguez (1:37), 4 Froome (10:16), 5 Moreno (11:29), 6 Gesink (12:23), 7 Talansky (13:28), 8 Ten Dam (13:41), 9 Antón (14:01), 10 Intxausti (16:13)






September 8, 2012 - El coletazo final del Gran Dragón

Hoy, penúltima etapa de la Vuelta a España 2012, el pelotón casi ha llegado al fin del recorrido más exigente de las últimas generaciones.

Han sido ocho altos superados por míticos héroes que han llegado a las cumbres en las alas difíciles del esfuerzo y la valentía del guerrero que lucha infatigable en medio de la adversidad y de la multitud.

Leer más


September 8, 2012 - Explore the fearsome summit finish of Stage 20 with Perico Delgado


September 7, 2012 - Results

La Vuelta 2012, wild ride into Lastrillas

After having the ride of his life last Wednesday, Contador had to ride for his life in Stage 19 (Dani Sánchez)

Stage 19, September 7: Peñafiel-La Lastrilla, 169 km

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 19, 10th (0.03 Gilbert - 4:56:25). Contador in GC, 1st (77:21:49).

LEADERBOARD: 1 Contador (77:21:49), 2 Valverde (1:35), 3 Rodríguez (2:27), 4 Froome (9:48), 5 Moreno (11:29), 6 Gesink (12:00), 7 Ten Dam (12:58), 8 Talansky (13:09), 9 Antón (13:52), 10 Intxausti (15:13)




September 6, 2012 - Alberto Contador mulls over yesterday's enormous achievement; lists good relationships among top rivals as a highlight of this Vuelta

La Vuelta 2012, Stage 18 podium

2012 is Contador's first time to wear a Vuelta red jersey; gold was still being used when he won in 2008 (AC press room)

Stage 18, September 6: Aguilar de Campoo-Valladolid, 186.4 km

Alberto Contador spent his first day as leader of the Vuelta a España “thinking about what I achieved and how hard it was to turn this race around, because Joachim was very strong mano a mano on the really steep climbs. It couldn’t have gone better. Anybody would want to get a win like that on such a stage. I’m very happy and satisfied with the work that I’ve done,” said the leader of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank.

He was also particularly happy about the good relationship that continues to exist among the top rivals for the general classification. “One important thing is that, among all the rivals who are fighting and busting their buns in the race, we take the victories of each person with a tremendous sense of sportsmanship, and that’s really something to be proud of in this sport, compared to others.”

Alberto said that he feels “happy and proud to wear this jersey” and added that being leader means a big change in his perspective on the race. “A day like today was tailor-made for trying to get an advantage by forming echelons and cutting off a rival, but as the leader you have to be more conservative, even though every day is touch-and-go: any puncture or crash could deprive you of the victory.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


The stage was fast and windy, but uneventful for Contador and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. Alberto said after the stage, “I tried to ride attentively, avoiding crashes and paying strict attention to the direction of the wind, but my team protected me very well and it’s been a problem-free day for me.”

“It’s one less day," he continued. "Every day that goes by is very important, because in this Vuelta anything could happen on any day.”

Valverde's principal mountain gregario, Nairo Quintana, suffered from just such a random accident today, when he was involved in a crash at about 33 kilometers before the finish. Linus Gerdemann crashed into a traffic cone, causing Quintana to collide with him from behind and be thrown into the air. Quintana was clearly shaken up and in pain after landing crumpled on the asphalt, but was able to finish the stage. If he is not up to the task of helping his team leader on Saturday at Bola del Mundo, however, Valverde will be at a disadvantage in the only remaining opportunity for wresting the red jersey from Contador.

The top of the leaderboard did not change after Stage 18.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 18, 47th (0.10 Bennati - 4:17:17). Contador in GC, 1st (72:25:21).

LEADERBOARD: 1 Contador (72:25:21), 2 Valverde (1:52), 3 Rodríguez (2:28), 4 Froome (9:40), 5 Moreno (11:36), 6 Gesink (12:02), 7 Ten Dam (12:55), 8 Talansky (13:06), 9 Antón (13:49), 10 Intxausti (14:10)





September 5, 2012 - Kamikaze Contador's lethal strike takes out Purito, captures maillot rojo


Alberto Contador won the leader's jersey by risking everything (AC press room)


Stage 17, September 5: Santander-Fuente Dé, 187.3

Alberto Contador accomplished his most difficult feat to date today in Stage 17 of the Vuelta a España, when he launched a solo attack that caught everyone by surprise. The kamikaze move was made at 50 kilometers before the finish, and the result was an epic ride, a legendary cycling adventure, and one of the most beautiful victories of Alberto´s career. “I took every risk. Many people would say that I was going from too far away, but I knew that I had to try it. I’m not at my best right now,” explained Contador, “but I was just hugely motivated and being second is fine, but you always have to try to win. Today we’ve taken an important step.”

Alberto wanted to dedicate the stage win “to all the people who have been there all this time, to my family, to my wife, to my friends and to all the fans who have accompanied us in this Vuelta.” He also acknowledged that this has been one of the best victories of his career. “This has been really important. Not many people bet on me for the overall win, and even though I haven’t won it yet, we’ve taken an important step. And I think there’s something else that we should celebrate, that the Vuelta a España is impressive and is returning to the level it once had.”

“It was pure madness,” Contador said, “but it was also because my strength was already stretched a bit thin. And I want to thank my team,” he added, “all my teammates, Nicky, Toso, Benja, Paulinho, Bruno, Dani, Rafal and Jesús; and all the staff, who have supported me to the max. Thanks to them, I’m here now.”

About the day’s action, Alberto admitted that it had been “a bit kamikaze. First we climbed Ozalba and I saw that people were weakening. And then on the Collado de la Hoz, a group with three of my teammates in it was going ahead and I told them through the radio to go ‘full gas’, then I took off for good, like on Alpe D’Huez in the 2011 Tour. Then it was just a question of rowing to the finish.”

But the strategy hadn’t been thought out in advance. “When I jumped, I had thought about trying in the final three kilometers, but when I attacked and I had a devil on one shoulder who told me ‘Attack!’ and an angel on the other, who told me to be careful...but I decided to attack,” said Alberto, who also gave special thanks “to the job done by Tiralongo, who is a great, great friend and has lent me a wonderful hand.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


Contador attacked the peloton at the foot of the Collado de Hoz, a 2nd-category climb that peaked at kilometer 138. No one expected the move, least of all Katusha and race leader Purito Rodríguez.

Saxo-Tinkoff had positioned men in the escape to be ready to help Contador in an attack later in the stage. Now, however, he accelerated and joined teammates Hernández and Paulinho in a group of 19 riders. This group also contained point men for Purito, Valverde and Froome, who remained behind in the peloton. A former teammate, Paulo Tiralongo of Astana – whose triumph with help from Contador at Macugnaga in Giro 2011 will never be forgotten - was also in this group.

With newly found strength in numbers, Contador motored ahead. He stretched the gap between himself and Purito and the other favorites, arriving third at the KOM point on the Collado de Hoz. By 35 km to go, the group had shrunken to thirteen men, retaining Paulinho and Tiralongo.

Contador went ahead of the escape to take the bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint at Potes, 23 km from the summit of Fuente Dé, the final climb. Next, he dropped the escape group with about 18 km remaining. Pulled by Astana’s Tiralongo (who testified for Alberto at CAS), his gap steadily widened. Meanwhile, back in the red jersey group, several Saxo-Tinkoff riders played policeman over the other favorites.

With 12 km to go, it was Valverde who delivered the next punch to Purito who, floundering, was already trailing Contador by 2:25. The 2009 Vuelta winner latched on to Movistar teammates Quintana and Intxausti, and began a steady march to overtake Contador. By this time, Tiralongo was spent and Alberto was on a solo mission, uphill all the way, to claim the win, the bonifications and the leadership. Tension mounted as telltale signs of fatigue started to show in his posture and face.

Valverde marched on, menacingly, approaching to within 15 seconds of Contador before his last gregario exploded from effort. The Murcian continued to gain time, but was unable to maintain enough pace to foil the Saxo-Tinkoff leader.

Contador crossed the line with only 6" to spare. He roared and raised his arms in the salute of a lifetime, a perfect expression of triumph over the hard and cruel world of a cyclist.

He was mobbed by reporters immediately. Fighting back tears of joy, he said, “I attacked by instinct. I hadn’t planned it. I think that this is a day that will live in memory.” Contador continued a description that he was destined to recount many times, “It was a bit of a suicide mission, to tell the truth. I had thought about trying at three kilometers to go. When I attacked, the devil on my shoulder said ‘Attack!’ and the angel said ‘Conserve, that’s madness, you’re going to overdo it!’ I preferred to risk it,” he said with emotion.

Then, corralled by his press man/body guard, Alberto fell into the embrace of his mechanic, Faustino Muñoz. Shortly afterward, he exchanged big hugs with his mother and sister, who were waiting near the podium.

“It was simply an amazing performance by the entire team and it was part of the plan from the start of the stage," said a delighted Bradley McGee, Saxo-Tinkoff DS. "On the two first climbs, Jesús Hernández, Bruno Pires and Sergio Paulinho jumped away from the pack and Katusha seemed stunned and then Alberto simply bridged the gap alone to his teammates and continued to the final climb where he put in an unforgettably powerful effort to stay in front and not only take the jersey but put the icing on the cake by taking the stage win as well."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 17, 1st (4:29:20). Contador in GC, 1st (68:07:54)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Contador (68:07:54), 2 Valverde (1:52), 3 Rodríguez (2:28), 4 Froome (9:40), 5 Moreno (11:36), 6 Gesink (12:06), 7 Ten Dam (12:55), 8 Talansky (13:06), 9 Antón (13:49), 10 Intxausti (14:10)





Celebration dinner after Stage 17

The Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team celebrate after Contador's epic ride to Fuente Dé. Pictured, left to right: Matteo Tosatto, Nicki Sorensen, Rafal Majka, Benjamín Noval, Dani Navarro, Jesús Hernández, Alberto Contador, Bruno Pires, Sergio Paulinho (AC press room)


September 6, 2012

Hasta ahora, el drama de La Vuelta a España 2012 se ha llevado a cabo en un rincón apartado de la España del noroeste. Alberto Contador y Purito Rodríguez, dos cuélebres del ciclismo, eligieron un lugar muy alejado del mundo de los turistas para librar su encarnizada batalla particular. Nuestra banda de sonido para estas etapas no ha sido el flamenco, y no hemos visto, por ejemplo, las imágenes del encierro de Pamplona, tomadas desde el helicóptero. ¿Por qué? Leer más


September 4, 2012 - During light training and press conference, Contador's only thought on the rest day is to keep trying to win the Vuelta

Contador and team hold a press conference on the second rest day of La Vuelta 2012

Alberto Contador and Team Saxo Bank, including the boss and a friend or two, sit for a press conference (AC press room)

Alberto Contador held a press conference today, on the second rest day of the 2012 Vuelta a España. The Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank leader responded to questions from reporters and said that, in spite of Joachim Rodríguez’ excellent form, he’s confident in his chances to pull off a victory in the third week of the race, in which one especially tough stage remains: Bola del Mundo.

Contador said that being in the Vuelta “is an enormous source of satisfaction and pride. It reminds me of important stages in the Tour de France, in Belgium and Germany, for the number of spectators. I’m really proud to have the opportunity to live this experience.”

What’s more important, that you’re not at 100% or that Purito is the in the best form of his career?
There are lots of factors that influence the result. It’s obvious that my form isn’t what it has been on other occasions, because when you attack and hold steady is when time differences are made. Maybe I lack punch, but you also have to admit that Joaquim’s form is impressive. He’s going extremely strong and it’s getting very difficult for me. I have to congratulate him.

With a final time trial, like in the other grand tours, you’d be the favorite now. Are you feeling the lack of a final ITT in this race?
It’s not that, but for sure, there’s only been a total of 13.4 kilometers of flat time trial in this race. Nevertheless, the route is for everybody and there’s no need to go on about it.

You’ve tried everything. What more can you do?
It’s complicated, because there’s not a lot of terrain left, unlike in the 2011 Tour, which, in the final week, still had mountain stages and a time trial left. In the Vuelta, there are no such possibilities and I’ve been missing something, a climb closer to the finish line in order to attack from a little way out and be more daring. But there’s still Bola del Mundo, and we’re going to try again.

How do you feel in this situation, chasing the leader?
That’s not true, he’s the one that’s been chasing me... But it’s normal, now I’m in second place, even though I’d like to be ahead. But anyway, I’m aware of how difficult it is to win.

So far, the only grand tour that you’ve lost is the 2011 Tour. Do you feel now the way you did then?
I’m going to give everything I’ve got, because I’ve got one way of riding and I can’t change it. The only thing going through my mind is trying to win.

You’ve always been looking back when you attack. Does seeing Purito always on your wheel make you feel desperate?
No, for me it’s extra motivation, because when my legs hurt, I know that his hurt, too.

If you could’ve had more competition miles, a normal season, would you be the favorite?
I don’t like to make excuses, but it’s certain that in the first ten days I lost time when under normal conditions I wouldn’t have, like in Jaca, and Barcelona, if I’d gotten acquainted with the finish. But the Vuelta is the sum of all its stages, and you have to keep going.

What’s your race schedule after the Vuelta a España?
It depends on various things. My important goals are the Worlds, both the road race and the time trial, and the Italian races, especially Lombardia. Then comes the race in China, which is World Tour. If my points count for the team, I’ll go, but if that’s not how things are, it would be better to save the effort for next year.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


See VUELTA RACE WATCH for reports, results, news, photos and videos


September 3, 2012 - Still without leader's jersey, Contador a happy camper in spite of indestructible Purito

Contador and Purito duke it out on Cuitu Negru

Contador and Purito duke it out on Cuitu Negru slopes of 22% (lavuelta.com)

Stage 16, September 3: Gijón-Valgrande-Pajares. Cuitu Negru, 185 km

Alberto Contador and the entire Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team put on a great spectacle of cycling today in Vuelta a España Stage 16. Wanting to emphasize this in his comments, he said pointedly, “We tried, but, apart from the result and the fact that Joaquím is very strong, I’m thrilled with the race that we’re doing, my team as well as myself. I think that we’re giving this race a lot of color and excitement.”

Contador stressed that there’s still a week left in the race and, “especially,” he said, “Bola del Mundo. It’s true that Joaquím is very strong, but we tried again, we made the race hard, and we have to be happy with the work.” Furthermore, he was also satisfied with how he has been feeling. “Today I had better legs so I tried, but I’d like it if we had a rainy day, that would turn out well for me. We’ve had extraordinary weather for the Vuelta, but rain works as my ally.”

Finally, Alberto thanked all the fans who have supported him every day. “Thanks to all the people who have come,” he said, “because it gives you goose bumps when you climb here. It’s been a genuine spectacle.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room

Saxo-Tinkoff DS Bradley McGee: ”Once again, the boys did an amazing job in the front of the field and there's really nothing more they can do. Alberto keeps pushing and punching away without even looking back but Rodriguez is still very strong. However, the race is not over until we reach Madrid and we'll keep insisting to get the win."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 16, 4th (2:14 Cataldo - 5:18:28). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:28 Rodriguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodriguez (63:38:24), 2 Contador (0:28), 3 Valverde (2:04), 4 Froome (4:52), 5 Moreno (6:58), 6 Gesink (7:28), 7 Talansky (8:28), 8 Ten Dam (9:00), 9 Antón (9:11), 10 Roche (11:44)





September 2, 2012 - Lagos de Covadonga looks down on epic battlefield; No miracles for Contador in spite of six swings of the battle ax

Contador attacked six times in the final kilometers to Lagos de Covadonga

Alberto Contador attacked six times on the road to Lagos de Covadonga in Stage 15 (Jaime Reina/AFP)

Stage 15, September 2: La Robla-Lagos de Covadonga, 186.7

Alberto Contador said at the finish at Lagos de Covadonga today that he “didn’t feel well from the beginning,” and therefore decided that the team “wouldn’t make the race hard, but later I saw that when we started to push, some people were sweating it a bit more than I was, and that’s why I gave it a little try.”

In today’s fifteenth stage of the Vuelta a España, Alberto didn’t have “too many expectations, owing to how I felt, but I think that you always have to try it and see, because you never know when a rider is going to have a bad day. I’m not going to stop trying.”

Alberto said that he felt satisfied with his work and is aware that sometimes, “you can do it, and sometimes not. Joaquím is stronger than he’s ever been in his life, and I maybe lack competition or whatever, and it’s costing me a tiny bit, but what I’m doing is enjoying the bike. The love of the people is amazing, it’s a pleasure to be a cyclist.”

The plan for tomorrow, on the extremely tough finale of Cuitu Negru, is the same as it has been so far, in other words, to go on the attack. “I hope I feel better than today. I hope to recover pretty well from the effort and I hope my legs are a little fresher.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room



“Well, you gotta give it to Alberto," said Saxo-Tinkoff's Australian DS, Bradley McGee. "He never gives up and keeps insisting on making the crucial difference and I think his attacks get more vicious in the days to come. The whole team worked perfectly according to plan and they're simply spot on. I think the key to take the win first and foremost is to never stop trying just the way we're doing it now. Tomorrow, there's another huge mountain stage and we'll be on the attack again for sure."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 15, 13th (9:25 Piedra - 5:01:23). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:22 Rodriguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodriguez (53:06:33), 2 Contador (0:22), 3 Valverde (1:41), 4 Froome (2:06), 5 Moreno (4:51), 6 Gesink (5:42), 7 Talansky (6:48), 8 Ten Dam (7:07), 9 Roche (7:21), 10 Antón (7:39)





September 1, 2012 - Alberto Contador picks up more time on Froome, but Rodríguez slips through his fingers again

Contador and Purito duel again in La Vuelta 2012 Stage 14

Alberto Contador attacked near the top of Puerto de Ancares, but couldn't manage the stage win (Jaime Reina/AFP)

Stage 14, September 1: Palas de Rei-Puerto de Ancares, 152 km

RTVE | Alberto Contador said today, after crossing the finish line at Puerto de Ancares, that he had felt well on the climb and that he´s satisfied because he gained time on all of the favorites except Purito Rodríguez.

“It wasn´t possible, Purito is impressive. I didn´t feel bad in any way, quite the opposite, but it was a very hard day. We could´ve gotten more time differences,” said the Pinteño, who struck out for the summit finish with a strong attack and change of pace at 1.3 kilometers.

“I´m fine. It was the first stage in the high mountains and I was pretty comfortable. The team worked really well and we took some time on everybody but Purito,” he told reporters.

The Saxo Bank rider insisted that Purito is “very strong” right now, and that it´s difficult “to fend him off” when he attacks in the final meters before the finish line. Contador was second at the finish line, five seconds behind Rodríguez, the Catalonian race leader.



Directeur sportif of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, Bradley McGee, said after the stage, ”It was a good day for us even though a stage win would be appreciated. The team performed well and did pretty much what we had expected them to do and put pressure on the field. We didn't want to let the big breakaway get too far away and that was a good fit for our strategy to ride fast to tire our rivals. On the uphill finish, the guys put Alberto in a perfect position for the finale where he kept attacking to the very end. Rodriguez was super strong but I sure notice that both our team and Alberto are getting stronger and riding fastest every day and we're looking forward to the next stages."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 14, 2nd (0:05 Rodríguez - 04:10:28). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:22 Rodríguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodríguez (53:06:33), 2 Contador (0:22), 3 Froome (1:41), 4 Valverde (1:41), 5 Moreno (4:16), 6 Gesink (5:07), 7 Roche (5:51), 8 Talansky (6:13), 9 Ten Dam (6:34), 10 Antón (7:16)





August 31, 2012 - After a hard day in the slipstream, Contador looks forward to the high mountains

Contador at the start line of Vuelta Stage 13 in Santiago de Compostela

Alberto lines up to start Stage 13, surely already thinking about the high mountains (AC press room)

Stage 13, August 31: Santiago de Compostela-Ferrol, 172.7

Alberto Contador managed to finish today’s Stage 13 of the Vuelta a España without problems, although, as he noted at the finish line, it was not easy, since the pace was very fast over constantly undulating terrain. “Today was not an easy day to ride in the slipstream,” said the leader of the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team. “It was a punishing day, especially in light of the stages that await us.”

Contador, nevertheless, was happy because the stages that he’s been looking forward to are nearly here. “We’re reaching my territory and I hope that I’ll feel good and be able to take advantage of the opportunity,” he said. For tomorrow, he feels “quite good, very eager, because I’ve prepared for this. I can’t wait for tomorrow to arrive.”

He refrained from going into detail about the team’s tactics for the upcoming stages. “It depends on how I feel when I get up tomorrow morning,” he said jokingly, but added in a more serious tone that the race will “depend on how we see everything, on how the legs are doing. We’ll see if we need to go more on the attack, or less, but Alejandro and Froome, if they want to have any chance to win, will also have to attack.”

And he didn’t discount that someone could succumb to the cumulative effort of the last three days. “With the terrain that we’re facing, I suppose somebody will have a bad day... and I hope it’s not me,” he concluded.

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


The stage was played out entirely in Galicia, the extreme northwest of Spain. Steve Cummings of BMC won clearly after attacking hard off the front of an escape group in the final 4 kilometers. Cummings commented at the finish line that a headwind had been a constant factor all day.

There was no change to the GC top ten after Stage 13.

”Our main objective was to get through the stage safely which we did," said Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank DS Bradley McGee. "Today's was however a lot tougher than most people probably think. It was windy and constanstly the course changed direction so we had to use a lot of muscle to protect our climbers but Benji, Nicki and Matteo did an amazing job. The next few stages will be quite demanding for everyone and this is the time and place for the GC favorites to make the difference. We feel ready to fight. The terrain ahead of us looks like Alberto's."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 13, 21st (0:40 Cummings - 4:05:02). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:13 Rodriguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodriguez (48:56:17), 2 Contador (0:13), 3 Froome (0:51), 4 Valverde (1:20), 5 Gesink (2:59), 6 Moreno (3:29), 7 Roche (4:22), 8 Talansky (5:17), 9 Ten Dam (5:18), 10 Mollema (6:01)




Contador at the start line of Vuelta Stage 13 in Santiago de Compostela

Contador at the start line of Vuelta Stage 13 in Santiago de Compostela (AC press room)


August 30, 2012 - Alberto and Purito go fist to fist in Finisterra finish

Contador and Purito duel to the finish in La Vuelta 2012 Stage 12

Contador and Purito duel to the line in Dumbría (AFP)

Stage 12, August 30: Vilagarcía de Arousa-Dumbría. Mirador de Ézaro, 184.6 km

Alberto Contador, after Stage 12: "I'm doing well, but when we get to the high mountains, with long climbs, I should be doing even better."

Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank directeur sportif Bradley McGee: “Alberto is simply looking stronger and stronger and today he was calm, composed and kept his cool and he followed Rodriguez on a climb that was simply tailor-made for a rider like him. It was pretty much expected that he took the win but it was satisfying to see Alberto alone with him towards the final steep section when the other GC favorites lost touch. Tomorrow, we have a day for the sprinters or even a breakaway but the stages Saturday and Sunday fit us well and they are suitable for attacks and at some point, we're going to do make the difference."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 12, 2nd (0:08 Rodríguez - 4:34:32). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:13 Rodríguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodríguez (44:50:35), 2 Contador (0:13), 3 Froome (0:51), 4 Valverde (1:20), 5 Gesink (2:59), 6 Moreno (3:29), 7 Roche (4:22), 8 Talansky (5:17), 9 Ten Dam (5:18), 10 Mollema (6:01)





August 30, 2012 - Alberto Contador's form marches forward. Like the Roman army

Contador in La Vuelta 2012 Stage 11 time trial

Alberto Contador reaped the benefits of detailed study of the Stage 11 ITT course (lavuelta.com)

Stage 11, August 29: Cambados-Pontevedra (ITT), 40 km

After a spectacular time trial today, Alberto Contador was positioned only one second from the red jersey, which remained on the shoulders of Vuelta a España leader, Joaquím Rodríguez. Contador's performance was very satisfying, surpassing the times of his direct rivals, even though he couldn’t manage the stage win, which was taken by a magnificent Kessiakoff. “What’s important in the end, independent of the red jersey, is the result and how I feel,” said the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank leader.

“I’m very happy because I feel good. It’s been a pretty good day for us and now I’m going to rest. Let the Vuelta begin now,” said Alberto, who acknowledged the great performance of Rodríguez. “He did a magnificent time trial, winding up in front of Alejandro and a little behind Froome. It’s clear that he got a very good time and there’s a lot of Vuelta still left.”

Alberto analyzed the time differences between the favorites and said that it’s better “to be in front that behind, but as everybody says, this starts now, and I’m happy with how I feel, because it’s better every day. I’ve got full confidence in my team and, once we get to my terrain, I hope to feel well.”

As things stand in the general classification, Alberto recognized that the Vuelta will be decided in Asturias. “Yes, I thought from the very beginning that it would be decided in Asturias, because up until now we’ve had one-day classics, but what’s coming up now are high mountain stages.”

Finally, when asked to compare himself with the rider who won the 2008 Giro, Alberto said, “Yes, I have to improve little by little, the same as in that Giro d’Italia, but with the difference being that, there, I came from winning the previous race and from winning several stages in the Vuelta al País Vasco. I don’t have that security here, but hey, I’m very happy,” he concluded.

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


Alberto Contador rode today with the kind of focus, determination and courage that is unique to him. It can be referred to as ambition, aggression, racing con rabia, riding to prove a point, etc., but there's no better descriptor of this style than to call it, simply, Contador.

Contador was more Contador than ever yesterday, putting in a frighteningly strong time trial performance in his first critical test since coming back. He was on fire; the admirable Froome - his most direct rival today - was not. Contador underscored that his form is on the upswing, whereas his rival from Sky is working to maintain after an impressive, but long, season. That plus Purito Rodríguez's demonstration that he could indeed survive the first of several potential whippings this week will be the crucial plot elements in the latter chapters of this Vuelta.

It's a cold fact that the bare bones of the GC did not change conclusively after the time trial. Antón slid, Talansky - whose talent and promise are a hot topic - rose, the three Rabobank riders stayed put, and Contador's new teammate for 2013, Nicolas Roche, was solid.

“The course contained all elements to create a thrilling time trial from high-speed sections, crazy corners in the city, a nasty climb and a technically demanding descent and Alberto did a tremendous effort. He might have been able to take a few more seconds on top of the climb which would have secured the jersey. But of course today's stage clearly demonstrated Alberto's condition is progressing and that he just gets stronger and stronger. Tomorrow, there's a nasty uphill finish which will probably create a few more changes in the GC,” said McGee.

Don't miss Contador's audio comments from the finish line: It's clear from the sound of his voice that he feels great. See Audio Comments below

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 11, 2nd (0:17 Kessiakoff - 52:36). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:01 Rodriguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodriguez (40:26:15), 2 Contador (0:01), 3 Froome (0:16), 4 Valverde (0:59), 5 Gesink (2:27), 6 Moreno (2:54), 7 Roche (3:39), 8 Talansky (4:08), 9 Ten Dam (4:22), 10 Mollema (5:1)





August 28, 2012 - Alberto is "all systems go for the time trial" in Pontevedra

At the hotel in Sanxenxo after Stage 10

Alberto is greeted by a multitude at his hotel in Sanxenxo after Stage 10 (AC press room)

Stage 10, August 28: Ponteareas-Sanxenxo, 166.4 km

Alberto Contador finished Stage 10 of the Vuelta unhampered by problems. He arrived at the finish line in Sanxenxo, just a few meters from his team’s hotel, where an enormous crowd of followers waited to greet him, pose for photos with him or get autographs. The feeling of anticipation increases with each passing day around the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank leader, who will come to tomorrow’s time trial with great hopes. “I feel good, better every day,” says Alberto. “It’s all systems go for the time trial. I know it and we’ll see how it goes.”

So far the weather has been good, but in Galicia the suffocating heat of the first week has abated and the riders appreciate it. Alberto would’ve even liked a more intense stage going into the time trial. “The first part of the day was too calm, I would’ve liked it faster, but I think that I’m arriving at the time trial in good shape. We’ll have to see how we are and, depending on the results, choose which tactic to use in the mountains.”

One thing he’s already sure of is that the general classification will change. “Yes, there will be changes, although I can’t say what exactly, but there will be. The four of us all have possibilities of taking the jersey. The time trial will go very well for Alejandro, also for Froome, of course. I’m not complaining either, and Joaquím has a gap of a minute. We all have options.”

He’s not spending much time thinking about the stage win. ¨What I’m thinking about is Madrid. I always like to win, clearly, but what’s important is the Vuelta a España.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


The stellar John Degenkolb, a 23-year-old German sprinter from Argos-Shimano, took his fourth stage win in this Vuelta today. He arrived at the finish line in a 23-man group, followed four seconds later by the main pack, including the favorites.

Degenkolb and two other young sprinters - Marcel Kittel and Tour de France champion of hearts Peter Sagan - have errupted in 2012 like supernovas in a galaxy formerly dominated by a very big star, Mark Cavendish. Generations come and generations go, but the thirst for bunch sprint thrills abideth forever, so...¡viva el velocista!

Contador had a puncture and had to change bikes, but his team took him back to the pack with no problems.

The leaderboard remained unchanged after Stage 10.

”There were no major concerns today," said Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank's DS Bradley McGee. "We were focused on staying in the front of the pack to make sure Alberto arrived in Sanxenxo in one piece with the field which didn't cause any trouble. Now, he should be ready for tomorrow's time trial where there's only one thing to do – full gas from the start to the finish line."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 10, 50th (0:04 Degenkolb). Contador in GC, 3rd (1:00 Rodriguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodriguez (34:44:55), 2 Froome (0:53), 3 Contador (1:00), 4 Valverde (1:07), 5 Gesink (2:01), 6 Moreno (2:08), 7 Roche (2:34), 8 Anton (3:07), 9 Ten Dam (3:18), 10 Mollema (3:27)





August 27, 2012 - Contador on Cadena SER radio program during rest day


August 27, 2012 - Contador is ready to face time trial, mountains, in epic second week of La Vuelta 2012

Alberto Contador, like the other favorites in the general classification of the Vuelta a España, held a press conference at the hotel of his team, Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, today in Sanxenxo. Alberto was happy with how the race is going for him and has high hopes for the next week, which has been billed as decisive.

La Vuelta 2012 “We’ve been through a few days of fatigue and tiredness, but the Vuelta that’s going to decide the general begins now, with the time trial on Wednesday and the mountains, which will shape the classification. In these stages, the time differences will be bigger that anything we’ve had so far,” said Alberto Contador.

Valverde has said that you’re nervous. Are you?
No, not at all. At Montjuic I wasn’t familiar with the finale and that was a shame, because I could’ve been at the front, if not with Joaquím and Gilbert, at least very close to them, but about the rest, I’m pretty calm.

What’s your review of the race so far?
Good, because now is when the race has to start in earnest, and I feel good. I went a long time without competing and the route that we’ve had up to this point was for explosive riders and riders who are good on all types of terrain. Now it will be more suited to me and the climbers.

Are you glad that this part of the race has arrived at last?
Yes, because I like to compete and this is the terrain where I feel most comfortable.

Have you looked at the time trial route?
Yes, it’s going to be a pretty good time trial for me, but it’s not going to go badly for the other three either. You have to go both up and down a climb. It’s better adapted to a rider like Joaquím than a flat crono would be. The four of us at the top of the standings will do it well, and what tactics we use will be based on how the rest are doing.

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


August 27, 2012 - Vuelta Epic in Galicia, land of quests

Act I of a magnificent Vuelta a España ended on Sunday when Philippe Gilbert reached the finish line in Barcelona. The fight between Gilbert and Purito Rodríguez was the perfect finale for a week of dynamic scenes that, in the end, allowed the classics specialists to take center stage.

Now the stage is reset. From the metropolis of Barcelona, La Vuelta has crossed Spain and arrived in Galicia, at Finisterre, the end of the earth. The setting for Act II is the rocky coasts, mysterious holy places, and haunted mountains of Celtic Spain. This is where the plot will develop, and where the ultimate hero will reveal himself. Read more


August 26, 2012 - Contador loses 20" in finale mix-up, but says "Vuelta is just about to begin"

Alberto Contador at start of Vuelta Stage 9 in Andorra

Alberto Contador was relaxed and happy at the start of Stage 9 in Andorra (Colin Flockton)

Stage 9, August 26: Andorra-Barcelona, 194 km

Alberto Contador reached the finish in Barcelona in Stage 9 of the Vuelta today with good legs to match his high hopes. He attempted to escape again in the final kilometers but, not being acquainted in detail with the finale in Montjuic, he attacked too soon, as he himself admitted after showering. “It’s not that things didn’t go as planned, because nothing was planned, other than getting through the stage without losing time,” said the leader of the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team.

“I wasn’t sure which hill was harder, but I moved a little to get into position and then I saw that it was the second one that was harder, where Joaquím took off. It’s a shame I attacked on the first one,” admitted Alberto. “If I hadn’t, I think maybe I could’ve gotten ahead on the second.”

In spite of this, Alberto said that today was “a transitional stage, and now we have to enjoy the rest day. We’ll be back the day after tomorrow.” Contador also said that bonifications could play an important role in the race. “Everything that you can do to gain seconds and get ahead is very important. Joaquím could lose time in the time trial against the specialists, so he has to compensate with bonifications.”

Alberto said that the remaining part of the race will be “very hard and grueling because, because oddly enough, the Vuelta is just about to begin.” About his rivals, he didn’t want to point out anyone in particular. “They’re all the guys that are already here, but what I hope for most is that I feel well physically. We’ll see about the rest, one day at a time.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


Plucky riding by race leader Joaquím Rodríguez today increased his overall lead on Alberto Contador, Christopher Froome and Alejandro Valverde. The stage ending in Barcelona was the longest day of Vuelta 2012 at 196.3 kilometers, and thankfully, somewhat cooler than recent days.

After spending the entire day, save a couple of 3rd-category bumps, descending slowly from Andorra in the Pyrenees, the race sped through the stately avenues of Barcelona toward two more 3rd-category repechos at the end. Contador, with one gregario, moved to the point of the peloton just before the 10-km marker. At 5.2 kilometers to go, he attacked. He soon corrected himself, but this might have been the act that created the confusion that shaped the final result.

Ballan lauched a powerful attack at 3.9 kilometers. He was chased by Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank's new signing for 2013, Nicolas Roche. Purito made his move behind them. Gilbert emerged from the untidy string of pursuing riders and joined Rodríguez on the tough short climbs, with Roche continuing to chase valiantly while the other favorites watched the two classics specialists ride off into the distance.

Roche never gave up, Contador´s old friend Tiralongo of Astana joined the fray in the front few, and Gilbert gapped Purito for the win, with the latter three taking the bonus seconds.

Rodríguez isn't fooling himself about his prospects in next Wednesday's individual time trial in Pontevedra. His magnificent Vuelta likely faces the same fate as his spectacular Giro – loss due to weakness against the clock. For now, however, as the race comes into the first rest day tomorrow, the sport of cycling can thank him, Contador and a favorites' group full of moxy for making the first week of this Vuelta worth far more than the entire 2012 Tour de France.

Alberto Contador has announced that he will hold a press conference on the rest day tomorrow in Galicia.

“Our primary goal was to make sure Alberto arrived safely in Barcelona and hopefully side by side with the other GC contenders and we're happy with the outcome of the stage," said Saxo-Tinkoff DS Bradley McGee after Stage 9. "Rodriguez took a few more seconds on us but we can live with that. Gilbert and Rodríguez are experts on these kind of uphill finishes. After tomorrow's rest day we're doing a rather flat stage where the wind might be the only factor and then the time trial is due and I think we can take some time from Rodríguez there. I'm not sure we can take a minute but there are other opportunities on the long mountain stages that suit Alberto perfectly."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 9, 22 (0:12 Gilbert). Contador in GC, 3rd (1:00 Rodriguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodriguez (34:44:55), 2 Froome (0:53), 3 Contador (1:00), 4 Valverde (1:07), 5 Gesink (2:01), 6 Moreno (2:08), 7 Roche (2:34), 8 Anton (3:07), 9 Ten Dam (3:18), 10 Mollema (3:27)




August 26, 2012 - La Señora que de tres zancadas se plantó en Arrate

En la cima de Arrate, la mítica subida del País Vasco, que sirvió como meta de la tercera etapa de la Vuelta el pasado lunes, los ciclistas volvieron a encontrarse con otro nuevo santuario. Es el segundo de los dos que hay en el recorrido del día. Tras el Santuario de la Virgen de Dorleta, patrona de los ciclistas, se encontraron con el de la Virgen de Arrate.

La patrona de los ciclistas fue seleccionada por un comité, y fue ratificada por la Federación Española de Ciclismo, después de muchos años de burocracia, y cuando ya la Iglesia la había reconocido como tal. La historia de la Virgen de Arrate es muy diferente. Leer más


August 25, 2012 - Alberto gives the Collada de la Gallina "a good punch" and puts seconds into Froome

Alberto finds his attack legs in Andorra

Alberto went looking for his attack legs in Andorra, and found them (Reuters)

Stage 8, August 25: Leida-Andorra. Collada de la Gallina, 175 km

Alberto Contador, as he expected, took another step forward in form today in Stage 8 of the Vuelta, and launched an authoritative attack at less than one kilometer from the finish line that put distance between him and his most direct rivals, Valverde, Purito and Froome. While the first two sped up to pass him in the final meters, the Briton, on the other hand, ceded a fistful of seconds, which brought Contador to within only 7 seconds of Sky's lead rider in the general classification.

"Today I took a step forward," said Alberto after crossing the finish line. "We distanced Froome a little and I improved a bit, which gives me confidence."

Contador expects to continue the upward trajectory he showed today. "I didn't have a super day, but I gave it a good punch, and taking into account that I'll be coming into form a bit more each day, I'm happy."

Alberto couldn't quite manage a victory, explaining that he saw Valverde closing in, "but I was mainly focused on Froome, I wanted to distance him. It's true that I always like to win, and I would've loved it, but sometimes it's possible and sometimes not. As I've been saying, the objective is in Madrid."

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


The finale. Sky was driving the pace as the favorites’ group negotiated the 18 switchbacks that led to the finish on top of the Collada de la Gallina when Valverde attacked in the final three kilometers. Alarm bells rang as he quickly outstripped the others. Froome was the first to respond, but Contador stuck to his wheel, followed by Purito Rodríguez and Dani Moreno of Katusha. Valverde forged ahead, but with the effort showing on his face, he was caught.

Froome went to work as Valverde slid to the back of the select five-man group. The British rider managed a small gap, but Contador responded, while the Katusha riders struggled to stay in contact. Froome looked over his shoulder for cooperation from Contador, who was not biting. Meanwhile, Valverde, Purito and Moreno clawed themselves back.

Just before the red kite, Purito pushed ahead as Froome tried to catch his breath. Froome repaid the favor at about 800 meters before the line. He attacked, his lanky 6'1” frame hunched over the bike, elbows jutting. Contador stayed with him, then delivered a deadly attack just 20 seconds later, dancing on the pedals, dropping Froome for good.

Alberto Contador looked sure to win the stage, but hungry big cats Valverde and Purito accelerated just meters from the finish line. In what was a brilliant ensemble-cast finish for the three Spaniards, Valverde sailed across the finish line with utter grace, Purito next, followed by Contador mere inches behind him. The Murcian, the Catalonian and the Madrileño took the bonus points, and all Froome could do was try to limit the damage.

After the stage, Saxo-Tinkoff directeur sportif said, “It was a very positive day for us. I think Alberto demonstrated great power and the distance he created to Froome on the final kilometer today was extremely encouraging. Valverde and Rodriguez are both punchy riders who had a great finish and when they opened the sprint, Alberto was literally caught on the final meters. Of course, a stage win would have been terrific but this was a demonstration from Alberto saying I'm here to win."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 8, 3rd (s.t. Valverde - 4:06:39). Contador in GC, 3rd (0:40 Rodríguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodríguez (29:59:35), 2 Froome (0:33), 3 Contador (0:40), 4 Valverde (0:50), 0:14), 5 Gesink (1:41), 6 D. Moreno (1:48), 7 Roche (2:14), 8 Antón (2:47), 9 Ten Dam (2:58), 10 Mollema (3:07)





August 24, 2012 - Looking forward, Contador is optimistic and eager to arrive in "his territory": the mountains

Everybody wants to talk to Alberto before Stage 7

Everybody wanted to talk to Alberto Contador before, and after, Stage 7 (Reuters)

Stage 7, August 24: Huesca-Alcañiz. Motorland Aragón, 160 km

Today the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank leader, Alberto Contador, gave an interview to TVE (Televisión Española) at the finish line, in which he analyzed the first week of the race, how he feels now, and his expectations for the next two weeks. Alberto is optimistic, starting with tomorrow's finish in Andorra, and promises to fight for the win.

“I'm happy with the first week. We did what was, for us, a very good team time trial, I felt good on Arrate as well as at Valdezcaray, keeping on the alert for echelons. Yesterday, in the final part, due to dehydration, I had a few minor cramps, so we lost those seconds, but it was like a classics stage, ideal for Purito Rodríguez. I wasn't in my kind of territory, but you can't forget that I've gone a long time without riding and it's normal that such an explosive finale of hardly more than two kilometers would cost me a little against people who come here with more miles in their legs, with a lot of days of competition. But I'm happy with how it's going, and it's going to get better.”

Contador commented about the cramp yesterday, and said that it would've been better “not to have them, but one thing´s clear: winning is very difficult. You have be focused and do your tactics. Sometimes you can win and others not, but I'm eager and I'm thinking about fighting for the victory.”

About his state of form, Alberto is confident that he'll reach the end of the Vuelta in good shape. “I think that I'll reach the end of the Vuelta in a good state of form. It's true that I notice a little fatigue, and today we've had 45º temperatures, but I'm confident that, just like in other grand tours that I've ridden, I'll get better, and I hope to take advantage of a few of the hard stages.”

Concerning his rival Froome, it could be the opposite case, “but you never know,” says Alberto. “His performance over the last year and a half has been very good, he's always in the thick of the action and his team protects him very well. He's a really great rider. He knows he wants and it's going to be difficult to beat him. Sometimes it seems that he looks better than others, but we'll have to take it one day at a time and test him.”

Contador is very happy with his team. “I'm extremely happy with the team that I have, and we haven't even gotten to my territory yet, where the climbers will go to work. I have full confidence in them.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


Alberto survived the scare of a crash at 10 kilometers before the finish, and thanks to his teammates, finished near the front. John Degenkolb of Argos-Shimano won the bunch sprint in Alcañiz, his third stage win in Vuelta 2012 to date. The GC top ten showed little change, remaining heavy on hispanohablantes, however, defending champion Juanjo Cobo moved up the order to 9th after a sketchy first week.

”It was a crazy finish," said directeur sportif Bradley McGee. "First the big crash with ten to go where we managed to get around it and I think only Matteo was held up by it. Luckily, Benji, Nicki and Bruno were on the spot to bring Alberto forward and on the finish line, he practically finished with the best sprinters. Tomorrow, we'll meet a new climb in the history of the Vuelta. Alberto knows it and I think it's going to have an effect on the GC so it definitely worth a watch."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 7, 15th (0:02 Degenkolb, 3:48:30). Contador in GC, 3rd (0:36 Rodríguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodríguez (25:53:04), 2 Froome (0:10), 3 Contador (0:36), 4 Gesink (0:54), 5 Valverde (0:54), 6 Roche (1:04), 7 Mollema (1:12), 8 D. Moreno (1:17), 9 Cobo (1:34), 10 Henao (1:39)





August 24 - A shrine in the Basque Country for the knights on two wheels

The parcours for Stage 3 of the 2012 Vuelta a España offers two encounters with one of the most famous figures in Spanish folklore and religion.

This character has played a key role in many stories, as saint, intercessor and helper, or, sometimes in folklore, as a fickle and malicious goddess.

Her name? The Virgin Mary. Read more


August 23, 2012 - Alberto yields time at Fuerte del Rapitán due to cramp and dehydration

Too darn hot in Vuelta Stage 6

Stage 6 was a sizzler (EFE)

Stage 6, August 23: Tarazona-Jaca, 174.8 km

Alberto Contador suffered today on the final climb of Vuelta Stage 6 to the top of Fuerte del Rapitán, where a case of cramp kept him from responding to a timely attack by Purito Rodríguez and Chris Froome. Nevertheless, the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank leader finished the stage in fourth, behind third-placed Valverde, and held on to third place in the general classification, only losing a few seconds. "Due to the heat and high temperatures, I started to get cramp on the final climb and I told myself, 'Alberto, go as far as you can.' I think that I survived the day quite well," he explained immediately after crossing the finish line.

"For me, it's not the best climb, I already knew that, but also under normal conditions, I would've been in front with no problem, even fighting for the stage win, but well, whatever, I'm happy because in spite of having had this setback, the loss was minimal," Contador told reporters.

When asked about Froome's performance, he said, in effect, that his opponent looked strong. "I also liked that," he said, "because it's important for the race that they attack and make something happen. That's good for the race, and it also gives me a few opportunities," he concluded, before setting out on the descent to Jaca and the team hotel.

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


Contador gave up 19 seconds to Rodríguez and Froome in action that took place on the Fuerte del Rapitán, at the tail end of the stage. Froome tried to escape at the top of the climb, but Rodríguez countered, then dealt the death blow to the British Kenyan in the final meters, satsifying expectations by taking a win on the short, explosive climb.

According to initial reports after the scorching hot, nailbiter of a stage, Contador suffered cramp due to dehydration in the final meters. "It wasn't a good climb for me, it was extremely exhausting because the pace was very high and, besides, I had cramp. I think I was a little dehydrated at the end because of the heat," Contador told reporters.

The Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team worked well for Contador in the mountains, with long turns on the front done by Rafal Majka and Sergio Paulinho on the climb.

Alberto finished the stage in 4th behind Rodríguez (4:35:22), Froome and Valverde, and remains in 3rd place overall at 0:36.

“We knew the stage was well-suited for Rodríguez with this kind of uphill sprint finish so we're not surprised that he took the win," said Saxo-Tinkoff DS, Bradley McGee. "Of course, it's better to follow Froome and Rodríguez to the finish line but he didn't panic and made it to the finish line. There are certainly bigger challenges ahead of us that are better suited for Alberto. We went to the front of the pack on the penultimate climb to make sure he was kept out of trouble on the descent and they boys stuck to the tactics all the way through the stage."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 6, 4th (0:19 Rodríguez). Contador in GC, 3rd (0:36 Rodríguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodríguez (22:04:32), 2 Froome (0:10), 3 Contador (0:36), 4 Uran (0:42), 5 Gesink (0:54), 6 Valverde (0:54), 0:14), 7 Roche (1:04)




August 22, 2012 - Un santuario en el País Vasco para los caballeros en dos ruedas

El recorrido de la tercera etapa de esta edición de la Vuelta a España presenta dos encuentros con una de las figuras más famosas en el folklore y la religión de España.

Este personaje ha desempeñado un papel clave en muchas historias, como santa, intercesora y ayudante o, a veces en el folklore, como una diosa festiva y caprichosa.

¿Su nombre? La Virgen María. Leer más


August 22, 2012 - Flat tire in next-to-last lap causes bike change, but no harm done in the end

Saxo-Tinkoff pals tour Logroño

Alberto tweeted this photo of a nice moment on the road during Stage 5 in Logroño (@albertocontador)

Stage 5, August 22: Logroño-Logroño, 172 km

Alberto Contador got through the Logroño stage today, Stage 5, with no problems, although he did puncture in the next-to-last lap, which added a little tension to the final lap. "I punctured close to the finish line in the next-to-last circuit, at about 3 kilometers to go. It was a dangerous moment, because the roundabouts were very slippery, so I changed bikes, but I couldn't get comfortable, (Bruno Pires gave him his bike) so I changed again."

As is usual in sprint finishes, the peloton was jittery. "It was very dangerous at the end," said Alberto, "because everybody wanted to move forward and you could see that there was the possibility of a split in the group, or of crashes, but we survived the day with no problem and I'm happy."

The heat was a factor in the grueling day, although according to Contador, it was somewhat more tolerable than at the beginning of the Vuelta. "The temperature is still problematic, but it's come down a couple of degrees, and you can tell." Finally, he commented briefly on the finale of tomorrow's stage at Jaca, another uphill finish. "Right now, that seems a long way off," he said ironically. "What I want is a little rest, and that's it," but then added, "Jaca is a short and explosive climb. The time differences will be minimal."

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


Today's stage was ridden on a flat course consisting of six laps of a circuit around Logroño, the capital of La Rioja.

About the action, there's not much to say. The final sprint, although no surprise, was executed with razzle-dazzle by John Degenkolb and Daniele Bennati. Winner: Degenkolb, who took his second stage win in this Vuelta, after 4:10:37 of racing.

”The main goal was to keep Alberto in the front of the pack in the finale to avoid getting caught and on the penultimate lap, he had a puncture so the whole team was down there to bring him back up in safety. Besides, we were focusing on all the little things, to drink and eat what you need to maintain strong throughout the race. Especially tomorrow's stage is going to be interesting with a steep uphill finish well-suited for the more explosive riders and the whole team has to be ready,” said Bradley McGee, DS for Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 38th (s.t. Degenkolb). Contador in GC, 3rd (0:05 Rodríguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodríguez (17:29:22), 2 Froome (0:01), 3 Contador (0:05), 4 Mollema (0:09), 5 Gesink (0:09), 6 Uran (0:11), 7 Moreno (0:14), 8 Roche (0:24), 9 Valverde (0:36), Ten Dam (0:46)




Vuelta Stage 4: Contador survives an exhausting and dangerous day, moves to 3rd in GC

Dani Navarro pulls for Alberto Contador in Stage 4 to Valdezcaray

Dani Navarro pulls for Alberto during a tough Stage 4 (Dani Sánchez)

Stage 4, August 21: Barkalao-Estación de Valdezcaray, 155.4 km

Alberto Contador rose today to third place in the general classification in Stage 4 of the Vuelta a España, only five seconds off the pace of the new race leader, Joaquim Rodríguez. It was a very good result after such a dangerous day, during which Alejandro Valverde, for one, experienced a setback. "I was tremendously lucky. My teammates crashed on the left side, but I managed to get through, even though I burned myself when I touched my wheel," said Alberto.

Contador described the crash that triggered a dogfight among the leaders. "I was riding just behind Movistar, and Sky had sprinted to the right. The Movistar guys started screaming to go forward, and that's when it all happened." In the midst of the confusion, Alberto could see clearly what he had to do. "I managed to get out, and the only thing on my mind was getting to the front, period," he said in reference to some grumblings of controversy. "I was focused on getting to the front, and I only wanted to keep going forward, worried about my teammates. Every person has his tactics and mine was to focus on the race."

Concerning the stage result, Alberto said that he's "very happy with how I feel. I've been feeling very, very well, but it wasn't a favorable climb and it was really windy. We had to do way too much flogging just to get a few seconds," he said about Rodriguez's peccadillo. "I saw that, when the worst of the pressure was on, my teammate Dani lost contact, and the gains were minimal whereas the effort was great. We weren't interested in continuing to apply the gas. The best thing was to stay in a safe position."

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


The Stage 4 drama-cum-controversy involving the favorites played out along the road starting at just under 30 km before the finish, not at the end of the final climb to Valdezcaray.

The pace was high on a hot and windy afternoon when Valverde, the race leader, crashed. Froome's Sky team was in the act of upping the pace when it happened. They continued to accelerate, mercilessly, with most of the team in front, even after glancing backward at the confusion in their wake. Witnesses who avoided the crash and had seen the race leader on the ground made it back to the front, but Sky claimed ignorance and, abetted by Katusha for Joaquim Rodríguez, continued to drive.

The wind was blowing at gale force. The peloton split, forming several massive echelons that ran nearly perpendicular to the road. The result was gain for the lucky ones, but forced labor for the poor wretches left behind. Valverde and his team fought admirably, but the handful of Movistar riders were no match for the situation. Rodríguez claimed the leader's jersey by one second over Froome.

Contador, as he said, had little alternative but to latch on to the front group, thankfully with Navarro at his side. Nicki Sørensen and Benjamín Noval – two thirds of Saxo-Tinkoff's flatland power - were also leveled by the crash.

Sky, especially, has been accused of lack of sportsmanship for not waiting for the race leader in this situation. How you feel about it might be influenced by what type of racing you prefer, whether it's the shootout instigated by the deft, daring and skillful Spaniards on the slopes of Arrate, or the flat-out unrelenting bulldozing of Sky that characterized the 2012 Tour. At any rate, the race was on, and fortune did not smile on the red jersey today.

“It started off pretty quiet but after the crash, the stage was pretty chaotic as the peloton exploded and numerous groups were spread all over the road but we stayed behind until the uphill finish," said Saxo-Tinkoff´s DS, Bradley McGee. "Here, we tested the legs and our opponents but we had to face the fact that the latter part of the climb was too easy and we didn't want to spend a lot of energy on something that wouldn't create havoc. That's why Alberto stayed behind on the final part. A few of our riders went down in the crash and we're just checking them out to determine the damages."

Vuelta Stage 4 was won by Simon Clark over Tony Martin after 4 hours, 30 minutes and 26 seconds.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 21st (1:04 Clarke). Contador in GC, 3rd (0:03 Rodríguez)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Rodríguez (13:18:45), 2 Froome (0:01), 3 Contador (0:05), 4 Mollema (0:09), 5 Gesink (0:09), 6 Uran (0:11), 7 Moreno (0:14), 8 Roche (0:24), 9 Valverde (0:36), Ten Dam (0:46)





August 20, 2012 - Cycling becomes exciting again as Contador chips away at rivals by launching attacks in dizzying sequence

Feeling good. Feeling real good.

Alberto Contador clearly felt good before Stage 3 (Kahane)

Alberto Contador created his own brand of spectacle on the climb of Arrate today in Stage 3, the first mountain stage of this year's edition of the Vuelta a España. He attacked five times on the final climb, which splintered the favorites' group. The finish order defined the four strongest riders in the race, with Valverde crossing first, followed by Purito Rodríguez (2nd), Chris Froome (3rd) and Alberto himself (4th). "I felt good," said Alberto. "At the end, it's true that the differences were minimal, but you have to consider that there was no other climb before, and that makes people much fresher."

In spite of everything, Contador said that, at the finish, he was "happy with how I felt physically, in spite of not having done climbs in the last few weeks. I'm satisfied with the test, although it was a shame not to be able to get the stage win, but the objective is in Madrid and before starting the stage I would've okayed this result."

About his attacks, he commented that he needed "more training, but, well, I'm like a kid in a candy shop, and that's a symptom of being fresh. We've got to be optimistic for the next stages."

About what he saw in his rivals, he didn't draw any significant conclusions, because "it's still only the third stage and it takes some people a little longer to rev their engines, people who didn't have a brilliant day today, but later they'll be right up there in the general. I'm sure that riders like the ones on Euskaltel will be fighting for the victory. I'm happy with the result. My legs did great and that's what's most important."

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


The climb to Arrate: Matteo Tosatto brought Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank onto the lower slopes of the 7.5-km final climb. Terpstra attacked at the bottom of the climb, but flagged. The Saxo-led peloton overtook him.

Tosatto pulled to the side after Terpstra was caught, and Saxo-Tinkoff´s Rafal Majka came to the front to pull. When Majka was spent, Alberto looked right and left for his next gregario, who emerged from nowhere in the form of Dani Navarro. Navarro, fiery, with shirt unzipped, moved aggressively into position to work for Contador. Alejandro Valverde attacked, Alberto countered. Purito Rodríguez latched on, pulling Chris Froome with him. During the interplay of the lithe Spaniards, Froome labored to stay in contact.

Alberto accelerated and launched his first attack, followed by another murderous change of pace at 3.4 km from the finish. 800 meters later, he quashed an attempt by Igor Antón with a mighty acceleration that finally dropped the large favorites' group, leaving a selection of four.

Alberto jumped again at 2.4 km, causing the others lose his wheel briefly, especially Froome, who had to work to make up a gap. When Alberto eased off at the 2 km banner, Valverde went ahead. Alberto accelerated once more from the back of the 4-man group just before the flamme rouge. Rodríguez and Valverde then got a few meters gap, and crossed the line in a photo finish. Winner: Valverde.

Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank's Bradley McGee on Stage 3: ”It was an intensely nervous finale. Not so much on the actual uphill finish where Alberto repeatedly showed that he's back and as strong as always but more on the final kilometers leading us to it on the narrow streets in extremely high pace. As I said, Alberto demonstrated his aggressive side and several riders paid for that today. But I don't think we can draw any conclusions after this stage but seemingly three riders are worth keeping an eye on. Tomorrow, there'll be another nervous stage but with a longer climb in the finale where we have to stay in the front again."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 4th (s.t. Valverde). Contador in GC, 5th (0:24 Valverde)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Valverde (8:46:56), 2 Intxausti (0:18), 3 Rodríguez (0:19), 4 Froome (0:20), 5 Contador (0:24)





August 19, 2012 - Alberto surprises by going after two seconds at an intermeditate sprint, and says he'll do it again

Signing his life away

Alberto Contador, signing his life away before Stage 2 (AC press room)

Stage 2, Augut 19: Pamplona-Viana, 180 km

Alberto Contador surprised everyone today in the final section of the race by going ahead of the pack and getting the final two seconds of bonification left at the intermediate sprint contest in Viana behind a two-man breakaway. The Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank leader explained the maneuver post-stage, after the mandatory shower at the team bus. "It wasn't the objective, but I saw it and, before somebody else could take it, I did."

"I was well-placed. I told my teammate Nicki and, since there was a bit of a climb, I tried, because it didn't take much physical effort," said Contador. "You never know how much of a time margin will decide a victory and if tomorrow I can take another two seconds, or 6, I'll do it again."

Alberto said that the team had done very well in the final part of the stage "looking for position in order to protect me to the maximum." And he warned against reading too much into the way he rode today, in terms of form. "We'll have to take it one day at a time. We'll see how I am tomorrow. I hope that, as the Vuelta progresses, I'll be better every day."

The first mountain stage is scheduled for tomorrow, although Contador would prefer that it come "later, because my legs need more kilometers of competition. But the route is what it is, attractive and really nice, so it'll be the same for other people like Purito or Igor Antón, who have more possibilities, but we're going to see what happens."

The climb to Arrate is "short but demanding," said Alberto. "The stage doesn't have much difficulty or many kilometers, so I don't think that the time gaps will be very big." About the following day, Valdezcaray, he said that it's "quite drawn out, with a steeper first part, but the rest is drawn out and, if it's windy, it will be complicated to get gaps. The objective, anyway, is at the finish line in Madrid. We'll have to take it one day at a time."

About Movistar's work during the stage, he said that "it's always best that somebody else does the work, not us. In the end, more than work, what we've done is avoid all the risks. It's in these small details that a race can go awry, and you have to pay attention."

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


It was an uneventful day for Contador and his team until 19 kilometers from the end, when the parcours crossed the finish line to begin a final circuit. There seemed to be some confusion about the exact location of the final sprint point, both for the riders and the cameramen. Two of the three riders in the escape of the day, Aramendia and Kiriyenka, passed the point in question (a few dozen meters before the beginning of the circuit) still ahead, but the pack was closing in. Both riders dug in more aggressively at the line that initiated the circuit than they had at the sprint point, and the TV cameras missed Contador´s play for the third-place sprint prize of two seconds.

It was clever riding by Contador, a move that he's profitted from before and one that adds a dash of spice for spectators on a rather dull day.

Today's input by Saxo-Tinkoff director Bradley McGee: ”As the most important thing, we took Alberto safely to the finish line and the guys were very careful on the course. That's why the boys went to the front in the finale as we passed a small town with narrow streets and we wanted to avoid stress and the risk of getting caught behind. Afterwards they found a safe spot in the field and supported Alberto to the finish line. Tomorrow, it's probably going to be an exciting finale where we hit the first uphill finish. It's only about five kilometers long but we'll be there at the front making sure not to be the ones to bridge the gaps on the climb."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 2, 33rd (m.t. Degenkolb). Contador in GC, 25th (0:12 Castroviejo)

LEADERBOARD: 1 Castroviejo (4:57:31), 2 Quintana (s.t.), 3 J. Moreno (s.t.)





Team presentation at La Vuelta

Photos of La Vuelta 2012 from our correspondent Christine Kahane, the Alberto Contador press room, and more.

See Christine's photos from the team presentation


August 18, 2012 - Contador: "I'm extremely happy with the team"

Into the bullring in Pamplona

Alberto Contador leads his Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team into the bullring and across the finish line in Pamplona (AC press room)

Stage 1, August 18: Pamplona-Pamplona (TTT), 16.2 km

Alberto Contador rejoiced in Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank's result in the team time trial today in Stage 1 of the Vuelta a España, saying that it was a "very, very good time. It makes me happy. The team gave everything and, beyond the result, I'm extremely happy with the team. They're really on their toes."

Alberto highlighted the unflagging work of his teammates. "I hadn't seen them in a long time and, even though it was only 16 kilometers, every day is important in a three-week race, so I'm really happy."

"Now we have to go home and recover, because tomorrow we have a very demanding day," said Alberto, equipped with a cooling vest, who returned to the hotel on the same bike that he used for the time trial.

"Compensating for what has happened is complicated," he said in answer to a question about the great degree of public support he has received, "but I'm very grateful and I thank all the people who have stood waiting around the bus in the heat for more than two hours just to see us for a moment. I really appreciate them and, although we didn't win, this is a result in our favor." Finally, Alberto said that in the first stage he felt, physically, "good, but we'll have to take it one day at a time."

Official press release, Alberto Contador Notebook


The long-awaited moment finally arrived today, the start of the Vuelta a España and Contador's first grand tour of 2012. It came on a hot evening in Pamplona, where crowds gathered to applaud the returning champion who's absence in the Tour de France, just a few weeks ago, was so keenly felt.

Contador's Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team put in a decidedly good showing in the 16.2-kilometer team time trial, crossing the finish line in the dramatic setting of Pamplona's bullring in 7th place, 0:14 off the lead.

Defending champion Juan José Cobo's Movistar team started last, but finished in first, with a decisive victory in brilliantly-staged surroundings. In general, the day's racing on the urban circuit was ragged for many teams, however, none of the favorites was handicapped by large time differences.

Jonathan Castroviejo, the young Spaniard who rode so thrillingly in the London Olympics as a last-minute substitute for injured Samuel Sánchez, crossed first for Movistar and will wear the red leader's jersey tomorrow.

Bradley McGee, Saxo-Tinkoff directeur sportif, commented after the team time trial: ”I'm very happy about the effort and the result. The boys are really determined and motivated to perform and bring out the best and they did tonight where they gave full gas all the way. We're now very close in the GC and that might result in some excitement about the jersey in the days to come. For our part, the day tomorrow will be a lot calmer than today. We can sit back a bit and save some strength for the challenges later on."

Alberto Contador, in his post-stage comments, showed that he is as considerate and gracious as ever, both to his teammates and to the fans. After two years of harsh adversity, he continues to live up to the high standard that he set in that regard when he was a young rider, as his record in the Spanish press clearly shows.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 35th (0:14 Castroviejo). Contador in GC, 35th (0:14 Castroviejo). Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank in Stage 1, 7th (0:14 Movistar).

TOP THREE: 1 Castroviejo, 2 Moreno (s.t.), 3 Intxausti (s.t.)





August 17, 2012 - Alberto Contador says he's not angry and just wants to enjoy the bike

Alberto goes over his bike with a fine-toothed comb

Alberto goes over his bike with a fine-toothed comb before a pre-Vuelta training session (AC press room)

The entire Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team held a press conference today in advance of the 2012 Vuelta a España, which starts tomorrow with a team time trial in Pamplona.

Bjarne Riis said a few words of welcome to the journalists in attendance, and said that the whole team "waited a long time for this Vuelta a España and it's very nice to be here and to have Alberto back with us on the team again. We've been in the Eneco Tour and Alberto has done very good preparation and I think that he's ready for the race, just like the rest of the team. We have a great group, very strong, that can support Alberto on all types of terrain, in all stages and in any circumstance. The Vuelta will be a very hard race in which there will also be other very strong teams and rivals. This route will be very interesting and, compared with the last Tour, this could be a very aggressive and exciting competition, both for the public and for all of us."

Alberto Contador then answered questions from reporters.

You arrive here as the indisputable favorite. Would it be a disappointment to finish second?

Being the favorite is really more for the press and the fans. I'm simply eager to be in the Vuelta, with hopes of doing my absolute best. I'm going to fight for victory, clearly, but I'm aware that anything is possible, because there's a list of very strong and well-prepared rivals. There's going to be suffering."

How are you emotionally? Are you motivated by anger to prove something?

I'm very well. I'm eager and very motivated for this race. What has happened in the last two years, not only in the last six months, has left a mark on me, of course, but now I want to be focused on the future, even though you can never forget that much misery. Thanks to people's support, I'm prepared, and I don't feel angry at all. Instead, I'm eager to enjoy the bike and compete for the victory, which is what I like to do in every race.

You're arriving fresh in comparison to other riders. Which is best for tackling the Vuelta?

Being fresh is relative because most of the time it's harder to train than to compete, since in a race, you allow yourself to ride piano in the peloton much of the time. I've trained really hard during the last six months, but I admit that I am fresher mentally. The guys that are arriving with more days of competition in their legs than I have could do better at the beginning of the race, but I'm confident that, as the Vuelta progresses, I'll be able to conserve energy and be fresher."

Will the Asturian stages will be the most complicated and decisive?

On paper, definitely, close to the huge effort of the individual time trial. Ancares, Covadonga and Cuitu Negru will put their stamp on the Vuelta, but there will still be the chance to try something new at Bola del Mundo, according to how the general classification shapes up.

Will we see a more calculating Contador or a more explosive one, like in the 2011 Giro?

We'll have to take it one day at a time, but you have to take advantage of the opportunities, because a lot of things could happen. It will be a spectacular Vuelta and very complicated to ride in a calculating way.

Who are your rivals and, in short, what do you expect from Chris Froome? Will he be your top rival?

There are lots of rivals, and three of them already know what it's like to win the Vuelta. Froome, if we look at his results, is the rival to keep your eyes on, but I'm confident that he's going to improve in the time trial and because he has a very strong team. He's a really terrific rider, and in last year's Vuelta he had options to win with different tactics. Later he was the strongest in the Tour, even though he himself didn't know if he could win it, because Wiggins was very strong in the time trial. I'm very happy that he's here because that makes it a better race. Among all of us, we'll make it thrilling.

Do you have any doubts about your performance, having done so few days of competition?

I don't have the same security as in the past, because training is not the same as competing. I'm happy with the Eneco Tour, but there weren't any mountains there, and I've gone two weeks now without doing any. The first week probably won't be the best for me, but I expect to improve as the race progresses.

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


Contador and his team will fight to win

Saxo-Tinkoff boys for the 2012 Vuelta

Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank Vuelta roster pictured from left to right: Paulinho, Hernández, Contador, Navarro, Tosatto, Sorensen, Pires, Noval, Majka (AC press room)

Riding for Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at the 2012 Vuelta a España: 201 Alberto Contador, 202 Jesús Hernández, 203 Rafal Majka, 204 Dani Navarro, 205 Benjamín Noval, 206 Sergio Paulinho, 207 Bruno Pires, 208 Nicki Sørensen, 209 Matteo Tosatto


August 17, 2012 - Vuelta a España 2012 starts tomorrow; Pamplona shakes with excitement. Or is it just us?

Our correspondent Christine is in Pamplona today, ahead of the start of the 2012 Vuelta a España tomorrow. The photos below are from today´s press conference and departure of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff for training. Check back tomorrow for a complete gallery.

Alberto with our correspondent Christine

Alberto with our correspondent Christine (Photo by Kahane)

Jesús, Alberto and Dani gratify the photographers before reconning the TTT course

Jesús, Alberto and Dani gratify the photographers before reconning the TTT course (Photo by Kahane)


August 16, 2012 - Contador is armed with knowledge after reconnaissance of the Asturian peaks, and is ready to fight

Benjamin Noval of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank LA NUEVA ESPAÑA | J.E.C.| August 14, 2012 - "Alberto Contador knows that the Vuelta a España title will be at stake in the Asturias stages, like the ones ending at Lagos de Covadonga and Cuitu Negru, after doing route reconnaissance by bike and seeing their severity," says Contador's gregario and friend from Mieres (Asturias), Benjamín Noval, who protects him in the races.

The Asturian was with his family yesterday in Zamora, after returning from the Eneco Tour, where he rode with Contador in the Madrileño´s first race since the end of his sanction. Tomorrow he´s off to Pamplona, where the Vuelta begins on Saturday.

"Alberto is doing very well, as he proved in that race, which ran absolutely counter to his characteristics: he finished fourth. It was my job to work hard to keep him out of crashes due to the wind and to the number of intersections on roads that were as narrow as a mouse hole. I felt well, and I think that I´m arriving in good form, as they asked me to do for the Vuelta a España, which will be very demanding," he said.

Noval is also happy because he just renewed for another year and together with Dani Navarro will form the Asturian duo in the Vuelta. "It's a shame that Samuel hasn't recovered from the crash yet, and neither has Barredo, because they could do great things. I think that Dani and I are going to show them what Asturians are made of, helping Contador. As for me, it will be my turn to work when we're on the flats, together with Tosatto, and Dani will do well in the mountains with the other Saxo Bank climbers," he said.

When they reconned the stages by bicycle, according to Noval, the Pinteño left feeling "impressed by the Lagos stage – he wasn't familiar with it – and with Fito before it (40 km from the finish), there'll be a lot of damage. Also, the climbs of San Lorenzo and Cobertoria, since they come before Pajares in the queen stage, had a profound impact on him. He couldn't climb Cuitu Negru on the bike because of the gravel, because It´s still not paved, but he went up in an ATV and said that the information was valuable."

When the race reaches Asturias, the riders will have accumulated "a great deal of wear and tear already. First there's a tough time trial in Galicia, where Alberto can get an advantage. Next comes Ancares, which is really exhausting. After that, we finish on a huge summit like Lagos, and then it's time for the queen stage of Cuitu Negru, which Contador considers even harder than Bola del Mundo. This Vuelta is going to have more of a battle and more action in the mountains than the Tour de France."

As for the opponents, Contador´s super-domestique pointed out, "It's Froome, and we'll have to wait and see if he's like he was in the Tour. Then there are other important riders like Igor Antón, Purito Rodríguez and Valverde, who also put on a great show. I think Alberto will do very well and I'm sure that on the first mountain, he'll want to attack because he's strong and eager."

Benjamín Noval, for his own sake, only asks "that I stay healthy and that I don't crash, so that I can try to do a good job keeping him on my wheel and protecting him, and that my level of exhaustion is held to a minimum. Then Dani and the other climbers will be there to take care of him on the climbs."

Photo of Benjamín Noval by Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank


August 16, 2012

Chechu Rubiera talks with La Nueva España about Vuelta a España queen stage, ending at Cuitu Negru (video)

Revista Desde la Cuneta Vuelta Especial (Full-color magazine guide to the 2012 Vuelta a España)


August 14 - Contador calls for used bike donations for needy children, also announces creation of a junior team

Contador and Guillén at press conference to introduce charity bike drive

Contador and Vuelta director Javier Guillén at press conference yesterday (AC press room)

August 13, 2012 | Alberto Contador, with Vuelta a España director general Javier Guillén and Azkar representative Francisco del Castillo, presented in Pinto today the Alberto Contador Foundation's first important project, a drive to collect donations of used bicycles, throughout the 21 stages of the Vuelta a España, in order to send them to developing nations in Africa.

The Foundation has relied on the Vuelta a España organization for unconditional support for this project, as well as on several sponsors – Azkar, Flex and Bodegas José Pariente – thanks to whom it will be possible to have access to collection points at both the start and finish lines of the Vuelta a España, where all those who want to give a new life to an old bicycle stashed in the garage can donate it to a good cause.

"The Vuelta was the best place to collect these bicycles and to get them to where they're needed most," said Javier Guillén. "By doing this, we're going farther than just sport, we're working for the vital development of the people. This is not just cycling, it's solidarity."

Alberto said that the effort will be "important, and we're very excited about it, because, thanks to the bicycles that we have in our garages now, some children can go to school by bike, instead of walking several kilometers. This can make a big difference to a needy child."

New junior team

Alberto Contador didn't stop here, but also announced another big development with his Foundation. "We're going to create a base-level team, a junior team for next season, because those of us at the highest level of the sport sometimes aren't aware that cycling isn't healthy at the base level and, if we don't give them a little help, they won't have a future. That's the reason behind the junior team, which will ride entirely on behalf of the Foundation and which will treat the kids like professionals, but with the idea of, over all, getting involved in sports and encouraging others to support the cause of base-level cycling."

With the idea of giving something back to society for everything that he has done, Alberto Contador will create a cycling team in Pinto for very young riders. "We're going to make a cycling school, in cooperation with the Pinto Association for Handicapped Children, to offer an alternative to very young children who are starting to ride suitable bikes."

After presenting the projects, Alberto Contador responded to questions from the media.

What prompted you to promote these initiatives?
It's something that I feel particularly motivated to do. When you're here, you have many chances to do things without having to make a big sacrifice. I think about when I was little, when I wanted a bike more than anything in the world, which the Three Kings didn't bring to me until I was 12. That has to be just about the greatest thing ever for a child in a developing nation, so it's very satisfying.

How did things go in the Eneco Tour, what goals have you planned for the Vuelta a España, and what did you think of the Olympic Games?
The Eneco Tour was a tune-up for the Vuelta and it went really well, even though it was a totally flat race, but it's very good preparation. Physically, I felt quite positive. About the Vuelta a España, the goal is to fight for victory, although I'm aware that there are a lot of other riders with the same goal, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I've worked hard. I'm motivated because it's the home race, and I'm even more motivated because I haven't been back to the Vuelta since 2008. Finally, about the Olympics, I'll just say that the Spanish riders did a great job but it wasn't possible to get medals and, in the time trial, Castroviejo did really well. I can't say much more about Luis León other than that he had really bad luck; just finishing was the best he was able to do.

Will we see you in the next Olympics, in four years?
There's a lot of time between now and then, but I think now that in just under four years I'll still be riding at the highest level and that, yes, I could be there.

In the Vuelta, will Froome be your top rival?
There are very important rivals and some of them know what it is to win the Vuelta. Froome already proved last year that he could've won if he'd been given the freedom, and this year in the Tour, he did a spectacular performance and proved that he was the strongest.

Have you got your eye on the Worlds?
The objective now is the Vuelta, but if you want to continue doing good performances in other races, it's easier if you have other goals in mind too. I'm excited, because it's quite tough. The other day I saw the Cauberg, and if I arrive in form I could do a good performance. But I'm especially motivated about the time trial. The route could help me.

What have these past months of sanction been like? Have they seemed long or short?
They've been long and difficult, with some days when I didn't want to go out to train, but the support of the people has been a big help. I've tried to vary the training places, I've gone to scout out the Vuelta stages, and it's all been a little complicated, but I only want to think about competition and about reaping the rewards of these last few months' work.

From one to ten, how's your form?
It's complicated to say, but I'm at a good place. I would've been able to evaluate it better if there'd been big climbs in the Eneco Tour, but I could only do a test on the Muur de Gramont yesterday, not on big climbs, which is where I've been doing more work.

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room

Contador and Guillén at press conference to introduce charity bike drive

Look for this truck at the Vuelta if you want to donate a used bike (AC press room)


August 13, 2012 - Key mountain gregario, who says Contador is "fresh and angry" in advance of Spanish tour, is ready to work for Pinteño after emerging from a streak of bad luck to conquer Tour de l'Ain stage

Dani Navarro celebrates a stage win with a custom cake LA NUEVA ESPAÑA | by J.E. Cima

"This stage win and finishing third on Tour de L'Ain podium give me a huge morale boost now for tackling the Vuelta a España, working so that Alberto Contador can go after the overall victory."

Professional cyclist Dani Navarro enjoyed a rest day in Gijón yesterday before traveling today to take part in the Clásica de San Sebastián with the joy of having gotten his second professional win and having spent a day in the race leader's jersey for the first time in his career.

Navarro, 29, calls the Alps "my lucky charm, because in 2012 I got my first victory there in a stage of the Dauphiné Libéré. Then I shined in the Tour helping Alberto Contador, and now I've gotten a win in the third stage with three mountains. I attacked again and again on the final climb, but I couldn't get away until, after the descent, I broke away at 5 kilometers before the finish line and arrived with 15 seconds of advantage. It's a shame that the next day we were in the mountains again and I paid a price for those attack, and lost 50 seconds on the last mountain."

Andrew Talanski (Garmin) won the general, ahead of Sergio Pardilla (Movistar), 12 seconds back, with Dani Navarro in third at 38 seconds. Navarro, a climber, admits that "I went two months without riding, after the crash in the Dauphiné, and I didn't expect this victory because I went with the intention of getting into race rhythm for the Vuelta a España. In the final stage, also with climbs, I was able to finish with the best again."

What makes Dani Navarro beam is that at last the road is rewarding him. "I had a terrible streak of bad luck this year when I was riding really well. I went to Paris-Nice with high hopes, and when I got into the front split I crashed and lost three minutes. If it hadn't been for that, I would have been with the best where Wiggins won. In the Volta a Catalunya I got flu. In the Tour of Romandie I was within 20 seconds of the leader, and in the final time trial my bike broke. And in the Dauphiné, I crashed again and got some nasty injuries, especially on my hand. I had such built-up anger about it that the next day I escaped and almost won the stage," he said.

He has several interesting offers for next season and it is said that he will change teams, but Dani Navarro warns that "now I'm focused on helping Contador, who's coming to the Vuelta a España fresh and angry. I think that the race will be decided in Asturias because we'll come from a very tough time trial in Galicia, then go to Ancares, also a difficult day; after that we get to Lagos, which is easier, and following that is the queen stage at Cuitu Negru. Therefore I have to do well for Alberto."

Photo: Dani Navarro in Gijón yesterday, with a cake given to him by his girlfriend (J.E.C./La Nueva España)


August 10, 2012 - Vuelta a España: Teamwork is everything to Contador's new Portuguese gregario

Bruno Pires Bruno Pires of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, a veteran of ten years in the peloton, will put aside any hopes for personal glory in the upcoming Vuelta a España. His goal is to help Contador and his team win the race. Full stop.

The following interview is from yesterday´s edition of SPRINT ESPECIAL

Your tenth season in the professional ranks...What's it like this year on the Saxo Bank team?

Honestly, it seems like it was just last year that I became a professional and it's already been ten years. This year, I notice that I've evolved at little more and the results confirm that. During the months of March and April, I didn't feel well due to allergies, and then I took a break to prepare well for the next part of the season. Getting some good results is has been important for building confidence, what with the work I've been doing. I feel good at Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. It's a team that is giving me opportunities in the races to play an important role for the team.

You exchanged Leopard for Saxo Bank, so what's it like to be sharing a team with the people who were your direct rivals in the races last year?

I'm a professional, end of story. I've always had to represent the team that contracted me the best I possibly could, and in consequence, I defend the interests of my team.

They say that good wine gets even better with the passage of time. How is the Bruno Pires of today different from the one of ten years ago?

Nowadays I've lost a little speed and explosiveness, but gained resistance on the longest climbs. I'm also more relaxed in the races, I'm believe in myself more. Now, in competition, it's more difficult for me to get really outstanding results.

And where do you think you have space to improve?

This year I've improved in the individual time trials, and I think I still have time to evolve in the mountains. Everything's working, but time is needed to get the results that we want.

It's confirmed that you'll ride the Vuelta a España, protecting Alberto Contador. It must be a source of pride for you to be able to help Alberto in this Vuelta, isn't it?

Without doubt, I'm really eager for the first day of the Vuelta to arrive. I've prepared for this race very carefully, in order be mentally focused and to be able to give my best level, because I feel that it's going to be a very special race for Alberto and we´re really going to have to work hard for him.

Not to mention in a Vuelta that's going to be as hard and grueling as this one, both due to the route and due to the level of the participants, right?

To tell the truth, this year's Vuelta has a very tough route, but I think that, as for spectacle, it's going to be very exciting and the level of participation is going to be very high, so the team has to be very strong so that it can rise to the challenge.

Working for Alberto will be the principal goal in the Vuelta, you'd probably like being able to take a chance for yourself at some point in the race, wouldn't you?

As you say, the paramount objective will be to help Alberto reach his objective, and there's no way I´m thinking about results for myself. For me, the best opportunity is to be able to help him to the best of my ability, and if in the end we don't fulfill our objective, a good result is what will matter to us.

Photo of Bruno Pires from Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank


August 8, 2012 - Pontevedra time tria and Asturian climbs are the key to victory

La Vuelta 2012 EFE | Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador has pointed to the individual time trial that ends in Pontevedra and the three mountain stages in Asturias as the decisive days in the upcoming edition of the Vuelta a España.

The Saxo Bank rider commented in an interview released by his team, in which he says that the Vuelta a España, which begins on August 18, "will be especially difficult" because his rivals will "put all the responsibility on me and on my team."

Contador highlighted the Stage 11 time trial, 39.4 kilometers from Cambados to Pontevedra, and the three stages that pass through Asturias, with summit finishes in Puerto de Ancares (Stage 14), Lagos de Covadonga (Stage 15) and Valgrande-Pajares (Stage 16), as the days that will decide the race.

The cyclist from Pinto emphasized the importance that he places on the Spanish grand tour, because "it's with your own people and takes place in the places where you've always ridden, since you were a kid."

"I see an open Vuelta," said Contador, who pointed to "seven or eight riders with options" on a victory that would be highly prized by the cyclist from the Danish team.

"I'd like to win the Vuelta for all the people who have been supporting me during this time, for the team and for the sponsors," said Contador, who is currently preparing for the Spanish race by participating in the Eneco Tour.

Alberto Contador pointedly mentioned the support of his fans during these last six months of exclusion from competition due to a doping-related sanction.

"The support and the caring that the public has given me has been incredible and I don't know how I can thank them," said the Spanish cyclist, who also mentioned his team, because "having a team like that behind me is an enormous comfort."

The multi-Tour de France winner explained that one of his plans for the future is to participate in this year's World Championships, which he'll ride in the Netherlands in September, "eagerly and with motivation," as well as going to "other races that I haven't done in the past because I ended my season after the Tour."


August 4, 2012 - Work is underway to surface dirt track in preparation for climb's debut in Vuelta a España

Contador will meet destiny in Lena next September CICLISMO EN ASTURIAS | Work has begun to surface the road to Cuitu Negru. Machines have been busy for several days at the Valgrande-Pajares ski station, where asphalt is being applied to the 2.8 kilometers from Branillín to the top of Cuitu Negru, the site where the queen stage of the upcoming Vuelta a España will be contested on September 3.

At the end of last year, the Puerta de Asturias Cycling Club proposed that the job of surfacing the track to Cuitu Negru would be tackled as a part of a general project to refurbish and improve the Valgrande-Pajares Station. The scope of the project included preparing the mountain for a debut in the Vuelta a España by extending the climb from Fierros to Cuitu Negru by almost three kilometers, the final kilometers being an average of 13%.

Photo: Contador with the Lena Destino Ciclista t-shirt (Ciclismo en Asturias)

Furthermore, the tarmac will be an asset in the task of maintaining the ski station all year long, which fully justifies the investment.

The government of the Principality of Asturias accepted said proposal and Unipublic designed a stage with a summit finish on the previously unknown climb. In addition, the organizers of the Vuelta have scheduled a gran fondo for August 25 which will cover the climb and serve to introduce it.

Alberto Contador visited the climb, located in the regional council of Lena, a few days ago. His aim was to climb to the top by bicycle after doing a training session that took in the climbs of San Lorenzo, Cobertoria and Pajares which will precede the Cuitu Negru in the Vuelta stage, but owing to the bad road conditions, he opted to go up in an all-terrain vehicle made available by the Valgrande Station staff. Roberto Menéndez of the Puerta de Asturias Cycling Club accompanied Contador to the top and explained the details of the ascent, which culminates at an altitude of 1,850 meters.

After finishing the recon, Contador donned a "Lena Destino Ciclista" t-shirt, designed for a promotional campaign of climbs in the council that has been in action throughout the year, thanks to the Puerta de Asturias Cycling Club and the Lena regional council.

Go to CICLISMO EN ASTURIAS to see photos of the road work in progress

Vuelta 2012 queen stage profile

Profile of Vuetla a España queen stage, Stage 16: Gijón-Cuitu Negru


30 de julio, 2012 - Alberto Contador estará en Pamplona con un equipo fuerte

BICICICLISMO hoy ha anunciado los preinscritos para la próxima edición de la Vuelta a España, una noticia que incluye las escuadras para cada equipo, más varios otros corredores alternativos.

La lista provisional para el equipo de Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff, incluye al líder Contador, los españoles Jesús Hernández, Dani Navarro y Benjamín Noval, los portugueses Sergio Paulinho y Bruno Pires, el joven polaco Rafal Majka, el ex campeón de Dinamarca Nicki Sorensen y el veterano Matteo Tosatto de Italia. Es un equipo de mucha fuerza, con cinco gregarios que ya han corrido victorias con Contador en otras grandes vueltas.

Los corredores alternativos son Chris Anker Sorensen, Michael Morkov, Vladymyr Gustov y Mads Christiansen.

Es claro que, con seis ibéricos tan capaces, y el poder de los extranjeros, el equipo de Contador tendrá fuerza suficiente, energía y sabiduría para hacer una campaña digna de su líder, que les permita alzarse con la victoria en la ronda española.

La Vuelta a España 2012 comenzará el sábado, 18 de agosto con una contrarreloj por equipos en Pamplona.

All text © 2007-2008 Rebecca Bell, contadorfans@hotmail.com.
Web design by Nicky Orr and Modem Operandi. Masthead photo credits: (1) bbc.co.uk (2) Liz Kreutz, kreutzphotography.com.