www.albertocontadornotebook.info - Alberto Contador Fans Notebook


August 15 - Danish fans flock to see maglia rosa at Handelsbanken Crit

Alberto Contador, winner of the 2011 Giro d'Italia, was the star attraction at the Handelsbanken criterium in Herning, Denmark last Friday, August 12, where he joined teammates Michael Mørkøv, Jonas Aaen, Chris Anker Sørensen and Jesús Hernández in the street race around the cycling-crazed hometown of their boss, Saxo Bank-SunGard team owner and manager Bjarne Riis.

Contador at 2011 Handelsbanken criterium in Herning It was a perfect summer evening to watch the 80 contestants tackle 65 kilometers in 41 laps of a circuit starting and ending in the Herning square. A group of four riders containing Angelo Furlan of Herning's own Christina Watches-Onfone team, plus Saxo's Aaen and two others made an aggressive push which, after a few laps, managed to open a large gap. This decisive move set the tone for the rest of the race.

As the action peaked near the end, Dutch rider Steve Schul crashed dramatically, suffering a broken collarbone and a gash over one eye. Furlan took the win, Aaen was 3rd, and Mørkøv 8th. Contador, in the maglia rosa, did not go with the escape and finished in the main pack.

After the win by the Herning team's rider, the crowd celebrated with a free concert by old-time rocker Henning Stærk.

Contador also participated in a press conference at Herning - the start line of the 2012 Giro d'Italia - and made an appearance signing autographs at the Bilka hypermarket. (see photo gallery below)

Prior to the event, race organizer Joachim Andersen made a special point of welcoming the other Spanish member of the roster, Saxo Bank-SunGard's Jesús Hernández. Hernández is Contador's long-time friend and training partner and has accompanied the three-time Tour winner throughout this post-Tour criterium season.

Hernández had already said, "When Alberto asked last year if I'd consider riding a road race in Herning, I was quick to say yes, but then I got a bit nervous when Riis told me that they race very fast in Herning, and that the route offers no hills whatsoever. But with the support that Alberto and I got from the Danish cycling public last year, I'm happy to suffer on the flat route again - it will indeed be very fast."

Contador at 2011 Handelsbanken criterium in Herning Andersen was happy that Hernández visited the Danish criterium again in spite of not having the optimal physique for the route.

"Experiencing Jesús Hernández in the Handelsbanken road race last year was both a pleasure and a joy. To see a mountain rider, who only measures 169 centimeters and weighs no more than 58 kilos move in the front of the bunch as the race progressed, was a testimony of the fighting spirit Jesús Hernández possesses. So even though the route terrain in Herning is not made for a climber like Jesús Hernández, were we very positively surprised," said Andersen.

Photos: (upper) Alberto shows off the maglia rosa in Herning; (lower) Contador and teammate Michael Mørkøv at the start line (AP photos)




August 11 - Plenty of nice shots of roster and action

Lots of photos of the Gouden Pijl Criterium now posted at the RABOBANK GOUDEN PIJL OFFICIAL WEBSITE. Don't miss them!


August 10 - The maglia rosa keeps on winning

Rabobank Gouden Pijl 2011 Alberto Contador won the Rabobank Gouden Pijl criterium in the Netherlands city of Emmen yesterday, outstripping a group of star rivals in the last lap of the 1.5-km circuit.

Addy Engels, 2nd, and Pieter Weening, 3rd, rounded out the podium, while Samuel Sánchez - last year's winner - got the prize for most aggressive rider.

The Gouden Pijl, or Golden Arrow, has drawn a cycling-mad crowd every year on the third Tuesday after the Tour de France since its inception in 1977. This year, thousands were treated to the sight of Contador racing, and winning, in the maglia rosa from his triumph in the 2011 Giro d'Italia.

Saxo Bank-SunGard teammate Jesús Hernández accompanied the Giro champion to Emmen, where they competed in a field of almost-entirely Dutch riders.

Gouden Pijl namesake Shwe Myarr This win comes on the heels of a victory in Lacq-Audéjos and a second place at Castillon la Bataille last week. Contador's next criterium appearance will be this Friday at Herning in Denmark.

Note: A baby elephant, a male, was born in Emmen Zoo on Monday and given the name Shwe Myarr, Burmese for Golden Arrow. The organizers of the Gouden Pijl criterium were honored by the gesture and congratulated the zoo, which has one of the largest elephant herds in Europe.


More photos of the baby elephant


August 3 - Crowds greet Alberto Contador at two street races in France

Criterium de Castillon la Bataille 2011

Alberto and Thomas Voeckler sprint at Castillon la Bataille (Castillon la Bataille)

Alberto Contador has been back on the bike this week for two post-Tour criteriums in southwestern France. Yesterday, he took second place to Thomas Voeckler in the Critérium de Castillon la Bataille after winning the Critérium Cycliste Lacq-Audéjos on Monday.

Contador was the top drawing card on the prestigious rosters of mostly French riders. In a region of France teeming with fans of the Spanish hero, logically both events drew large, enthusiastic crowds.

Yesterday Contador and Voeckler were catalysts in the 38th edition of one of France’s oldest criteriums, the Critérium de Castillon la Bataille, an annual event held on the first Tuesday of August which attracts around 15,000 spectators. The riders, who finished fourth and fifth in the 2011 Tour while carrying a lion’s share of the drama in those three weeks, broke away in the last of 30 laps of the 3.2-km circuit (1.5 of which are uphill) to treat the crowd to a sprint finale won by Voeckler.

Criterium de Lacq-Audejos 2011 On Monday, Contador defeated Pierre Rolland (maillot blanc in the last Tour) and World Champion Thor Hushovd in the Critérium Cycliste Lacq-Audéjos, where, according to the local paper La République, 8,000 enthusiasts were “treated to a remake of the battle at the top of the Alpe d’Huez, with only Samuel Sánchez missing.”

After winning the 2010 edition, Contador had originally declined to return to Lacq this year. However, when Tour KOM Sánchez “defected” (as the local paper put it) to the more lucrative Rosendaal criterium, Contador agreed to participate after negotiations ensured that teammate Jesús Hernández could also ride.

Alberto pulled off his second victory in a row on laps of the 1.6-km closed circuit after being nearly ‘derailed’ by a mechanical issue. La République reports: “Panic blew over Lacq yesterday, shortly before the race.” Contador, who was not traveling with an entourage of technicians, arrived at 1:00 pm and after an equipment check, discovered a problem with his derailleur. “The organizers of the criterium were then mobilized to solve the problem,” the paper continues, “and a new derailleur was finally found. The Spanish champion was finally able to start on time.”

After the win, there was still one more glitch remaining, as organizers had to scuttle plans for Contador’s hotel to jibe with prior arrangements made by the rider in accordance with the Athlete Whereabouts section of WADA’s ADAMS systerm.

Alberto Contador will race again on August 12 in the criterium at Herning, Denmark, the home turf of his boss, Bjarne Riis.

FYI: Posters of Contador's 2010 appearance at the Herning criterium are available at FINE ART AMERICA.

Criterium de Lacq-Audejos 2011

Alberto takes care of the French fans at Lacq (La République)


In a true-champion performance, Alberto Contador takes 5th in three weeks marred by crashes and injury

98th Tour de France



June 26 - Spanish Championship road race: Contador, happy with second, looks forward to five days of rest before the Tour de France

2011 Spanish National Road Race Championship

José Joaquín Rojas, gold; Alberto Contador, silver, and Koldo Fernández de Larrea, bronze (Angel Sánchez)

Alberto Contador brought a weekend of participation in the Spanish Championships to a close today by winning the silver medal in the main event, the men’s road race.

Even though he lost the final sprint to José Joaquín Rojas, the only rider who was able to match his pace on the climb to Desierto de Las Palmas, Alberto was very happy to add this result to Friday’s bronze in the time trial. “I’m very happy with the result and maybe even happier with the terrific job done by my team, who with only three riders set me up with the power to attack.”

Contador said that he was so happy because “it’s not a race that’s my specialty nor was the route suited to my characteristics, but I’m happy because my legs seem to be coming along little by little.” He praised his three teammates as well, who also polished off their work very well today. “With Benja on the flats, with Dani on the first part of the climb and with Jesús making the final selection, it was easy to attack,” said the leader of Saxo Bank-SunGard.

2011 Spanish National Championships About José Joaquín Rojas, a much faster rider that Alberto couldn’t unhitch, he said that that hadn’t been his intention. “Honestly, I did my own race. I was watching the watts that I was moving, and Rojas—just as we saw in Switzerland, I knew that he was doing well going up and he was very strong. I wasn’t obsessed with shaking him, because it was a long way to the finish line and arriving alone was complicated.”

Finally, Alberto said that you can’t base many conclusions on today’s ride in light of the Tour. “It wasn’t a very hard climb, although it was very hot and we also really felt the effects of 210 kilometers, but we’ll have to wait and see about my performance and physical condition in the Tour, it’s still an unknown. I’ve mainly been resting since the Giro, and now I’m going to do the same again until the Tour starts.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

SPANISH CYCLING FEDERATION - Exhibition by Rojas, gold, and Contador in Spanish Championship road race

Nine years after winning the title in the juvenil category, José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) has been proclaimed Champion of Spain in the professional men’s road race after beating Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) in the sprint, with Koldo Fernández de Larrea (Euskaltel) completing the podium as he did in Albacete.

Coming from behind, with a great job by his teammates Benjamin Noval on the flats and Jesús Hernández on the climbs, Contador neutralized the 14-man escape containing Rojas, who then stuck to him like a barnacle and held on throughout the climb. On the descent, Rojas started to collaborate, and on the flat, Contador and Rojas stretched the gap little by little until it reached a minute, guaranteeing that the fight for gold and silver would be between the two, which is just what happened.

Behind, a restive group of fifteen pulled to reduce the difference to 28 seconds. It was not enough, although like last year, Fernández de Larrea prevailed in the sprint for bronze, ahead of Jesús Herrada, Angel Madrazo and Pablo Lastras, the three Movistar riders who were unable to complement Rojas’ gold with a third place.

After the podium ceremony, in which appeared mayor of Castellón Alberto, Fabra, as well as dignitaries Javier Moliner and Luis Martínez and, of course, the president of the Spanish Cycling Federation, Juan Carlos Castaño, the three medalists held a press conference.


Race Atlas

Rojas and Contador descend Desierto de Las Palmas (Josu Mondelo)


June 26 - Castellón says goodbye to the Nationals with a “very open” test for the pros

Tour de France Stage 17 SPANISH CYCLING FEDERATION | The Spanish Championships end this Sunday with the most important competition, the professional men’s road race, which will feature Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) as the main attraction, although according to predictions, the race is very open and Movistar is the team to watch.

The 196.7-kilometer test, which starts at the Castellón airport and finishes in the capital city, will be the last competition for the many cyclists who, in less than a week, will be participating in the Tour de France.

Without doubt, Contador will be the most important example, in a test in which he’s aware of not having many options for victory, even though he will be the main attraction for the public as he was on Thursday in the Vall d’Uixó time trial, where Murcian Luis León Sánchez, another of the big names at this event, prevailed.

Óscar Freire—who is convalescing from surgery to his sinuses—will not be at Castellón, nor will Samuel Sánchez. On the other hand, a large part of the national peloton will be there, looking to take the place of José Ivan Gutiérrez (Movistar), winner of the 2010 edition at Albacete. The Cantabrian cyclist will ride with the rest of the Movistar team directed by Eusebio Unzué, the most powerful squad present, which includes José Joaquín Rojas and Fran Ventoso as the main cards to play, especially if the race is decided in a sprint. However, if there’s an escape, they could gamble with aces like Pablo Lastras or Angel Madrazo.

Saxo Bank, with Contador at the helm, presents a block of riders who, starting July 2, will escort the Pinteño over the roads of France. Benjamin Noval, Jesus Hernández and Dani Navarro aim to help the three-time Tour winner in his attempt to be crowned Spanish Champion, although he is not the main favorite.

Luis León Sánchez and Carlos Barredo, both from Rabobank; Juan Antonio Flecha; sprinters Koldo Fernández de Larrea and Pablo Urtasun of Euskaltel; and Luis Ángel Maté (Cofidis)—fresh off a stage win in the Route de Sud—are some of the cyclists who will have to be taken into account for the final victory. And let’s not forget Caja Rural, who might either line up behind Javi Moreno or back their sprinters Egoitz García, Diego Milán or Joaquín Sobrino.

Outside the spotlights of the favorites, other cyclists will try to take advantage of their opportunities to win. One of those who will try to slip under the radar is Rafael Valls (Geox), who will accompany Carlos Sastre on his return to the Nationals after several years. In total, some 150 riders will take the start in the Spanish Championship race, although the list of participants won’t be released until tomorrow morning after final confirmation of licenses.

2011 Spanish National Championships The cyclists will have to face a route that will seem tougher than it is due to a current heat wave. The nearly 200 kilometers of road include laps of a circuit of “Desierto de las Palmas”, with so many climbs that it could make the race tough, as spectators will be able to watch via Teledeporte at four in the afternoon.

“It’s a very nice route and it will turn out to be very attractive for the public, since it will pass the finish line four times,” said José Luis De Santos, the national coach. ”The first part is straightforward, since it’s downhill until Castellón. Then the three laps of the circuit begin, where the climb of the Desierto de Las Palmas is the key.

"The climb, however, is not as tough as it was before it was paved. It used to be very rough terrain, where it cost you to move the bike, where a magnetic field was created, as Perico Delgado often jokes. Now with the new asphalt, it’s easier to endure, you climb it in a different way, although everything depends on what pace is being imposed.”

In any case, the question is whether a sprinter like Ventoso could be considered as favorite. “I think so, and in principle Movistar ought to be the Championship’s team to watch, due to the strength of their team and due to having men like Ventoso and Rojas, although we’ll have to see how Koldo Fernández does, as well as the guys from Caja Rural, who’ve also got fast riders.

"The key will be in controlling the teams, in which these groups can compensate for sprinters having a bad moment on the climb, especially in the final lap, knowing that from the summit to the finish line there are just over 15 kilometers. And using Ventoso as an example, it’s not the same to ride solo as it happened last year as it is to have the support of one of the strongest teams, as will happen in Castellón.”



June 24 - Prize goes to worthy opponent and friend, LL Sánchez

Spanish National Time Trial Championship

Alberto Contador wins bronze, after LL Sanchez, gold, and Jonathan Castroviejo, silver (AC press room)

Alberto Contador won the bronze medal in the Spanish Championship time trial today, filling out the podium with gold medalist Luis León Sánchez and silver medalist Jonathan Castroviejo. “It was a very tough time trial, with a very demanding first part, but I think that I’ve done well and I’m happy because I’ve confirmed that my pulse rate is good, although I lack the pedal stroke of the people who are coming from doing the Dauphiné or the Tour de Suisse,” said the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader.

The race today served, above all, to reestablish contact with competition for Contador after the long hiatus since the Giro d’Italia. “Sunday I’ll roll out again and then I’ll pack my bag for the Tour,” said Alberto. “The road race is for other riders,” he explained, “it’s not suited to my characteristics, but it is important to come and ride and, mainly, to support the National Championships. In other countries people kill themselves to be champions and it seems that we’d rather not come. I’m here to put in my two cents-worth.”

Alberto said that this weekend will be “the final and only test before the Tour. It’s impossible to draw many conclusions, but it was an hour of effort on the time trial bike and even though recovery from the effort on the first hill cost me, later I got more and more comfortable.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


RFEC | Luis León Sánchez recaptures title ahead of Castroviejo and Contador

Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) renewed his Spanish National Time Trial Champion title this afternoon by prevailing in the 44.2-km test run between Coves de Sant Josep and Vall d’Uixo, arriving 1:02 ahead of Jonathan Castroviejo (Euskaltel) and 1:12 ahead of Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank).

You could call it the time trial of the unknown quantities. In terms of terrain, the route favored Luis León, the best of the Spanish time trialists, although the fact that the Murcian has not been brilliant this season created some doubts. The second unknown was that of Contador’s current point of form in building towards the Tour after his break for R&R. And a third had to do with Castroviejo and whether he was capable of shining in a long ITT at the same level that he has exhibited this season over shorter distances.

2011 Spanish National Championships Well, Luis Leon flew. He dominated from beginning to end and the difference of a minute at the finish line said it all, after having 19 and 24 seconds over the Basque and Madrileño at the intermediate check. The Murcian achieved the hat trick, after his successes in 2008 and 2010.

As for Contador, he did well in the first, rougher part, which was best-suited to him as a rider, although the effort cost him in the second part. And even though it only meant bronze, it’s not a bad sign for the Tour, quite the contrary, since he will have the first week to come back into form in the French race, which could become very long.

In the end, Castroviejo lived up to all the good things that he has demonstrated so far in the lower ranks, without showing signs of his knee problem.

Behind, no other rider could get close to the podium. Ivan Gutiérrez (Movistar) was 4th, 35 seconds from bronze, ahead of his teammate Jesús Herrada, who finished 2:10 behind the winner, in an excellent position in his debut in the category, and ahead of the revelation of this edition of the Nationals, Galician rider Alejandro Marque (Onda-Boavista), who ceded 2:32 to Sánchez.

Federico Martín Bahamontes accompanied the local dignitaries and representatives of Castellón and the Federation, as he had in the morning, at the trophy ceremony, after which the Top 3 shared their impressions at a press conference. The time trial championship will, by the way, be recapped on Sunday before the live coverage of the road race.


Fabulous photos from the Spanish Nationals, 94th Giro d'Italia and more

Alberto Contador rides to bronze medal in Spanish Nattionals

Alberto fine-tunes his TT position in Spanish Nationals (Josu Mondelo)



June 19 - Mouth-watering Castellón hosts Spain's National Championships, Thursday, June 23 through Sunday, June 26


June 13 - Alberto Contador hosts his first mass ride in Pinto

On Saturday, June 11, Alberto Contador went out for a ride on his usual training route, taking with him 500 friends, neighbors, colleagues, admirers, ambitious cyclists, and some tough joyriders.



May 7-29, 2011

Alberto Contador's Epic Giro d'Italia Battle

For reports, results, interviews, photos, video, audio from the 2011 Giro,


April 21 - Contador, short of winning form, continues to mend and is wowed by Belgian cycling culture - With report and photos by Christine Kahane

Mur de Huy, 2011

The fight for the final meters on the Muy de Huy (AFP)

75th Flêche Wallonne, April 20: Charleroi – Huy, 201 km

April 20, 2011 - Alberto Contador wound up in eleventh today in La Flêche Wallonne in spite of the nagging cold that has affected him for the last week. His high ranking demonstrates that he’s on the road to recovery and, therefore, on track to achieve his goal of arriving at the Giro d’Italia in optimum condition.

“Leaving Belgium without riding Liège is not exactly my favorite thing to do,” said Alberto after the race, “but, thinking about Giro preparation, the best thing is rest and recuperation from this cold, because there are just two weeks left before the start and I need to arrive at 100%.”

Alberto was very happy at the finish of today’s race. “I felt very well, the legs were working well, but the problem was when I had to make the maximum effort. I already said before the race that I’ve got a cold and I’m still getting over it.”

In spite of this, Alberto wanted to be at the start line of La Flêche Wallonne because he values the race and the Belgian fans. “I wanted to come and to do my best due to the significance of this race, and also because of the fans. The support that they’ve given me today is very important to me. I’m very happy with the reception I’ve gotten in Belgium. These fans are the envy of everyone, in no other country do they have a cycling culture like this, including in my own, Spain.”

Contador congratulated the winner: “Chapeau to Gilbert!” he said, doffing his cap. “He was amazing and he deserved to win. He’s a fantastic rider and today he was the best by a mile.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

Alberto told his team website, ”I'm really impressed by the team's effort today and I'm sad to let them down with a result that's not as good as hoped. I'm still suffering from a cold, which naturally set me back, and at the same time I'm awe of Gilbert's finish today. He's truly unique.

"I wanted to stay in Belgium and do Liège-Bastogne-Liège and once again enjoy the true cycling fever that exists in this country, but I have to focus on recovering and getting ready for the Giro in a few weeks."

Riding for Saxo Bank-SunGard in the 75th Flêche Wallonne were: 21 Alberto Contador, 22 Mads Christiansen, 23 Jesús Hernández, 24 Rafa Majka, 25 Nick Nuyens, 26 Chris Anker Sørensen, 27 Nicki Sørensen, 28 Brian Vandborg


Bradley McGee, Saxo Bank-SunGard director: ”The team is doing a perfect job until the very final kilometer. They control the pace, they're working incredibly well together and Alberto is calm and cool all the way.

"Unfortunately, no one's able to match Gilbert and Alberto is really up against classic specialists here. But Alberto likes the race, he likes the Belgians and we all want to make our mark on things here. So we did, but he was obviously slowed down by allergy on the uphill finish but he is well underway for the Giro. Nicki is really showing great form prior to Liège-Bastogne-Liège."

Bjarne Riis: "I really liked what I saw today. The guys followed our plan and even though the result isn't what we had hoped, I'm truly happy about their effort. Of course, Alberto is still not in perfect condition as he has to peak during the Giro and I'm confident that he will be in perfect shape when he has to be."


Christine and Alberto in Belgium, 2011

Christine visits Alberto after his training session on the Mur de Huy (Kahane)

Our contributor, Christine Kahane, drove up from Paris to visit Alberto after his training session on Tuesday, and to see him off at the startline in Charleroi.

Christine reports that the weather in Belgium was hot and that the enormous crowds were drawn by Alberto’s magnetism.

“Alberto is a star indeed!” says Christine. “ In these famous ASO-sponsored classics, Alberto is out of reach. Today, before the departure of the race, several TV journalists could not even get close to him.

“In fact, we were lucky to see him, even if for a very short moment, yesterday after having waited three hours in the sun for him to return from training on the Mur de Huy.”

Alberto greeted the Kahanes in English after his training ride and posed for two photos in spite of being tired, hungry and rather ill. CHRISTINE'S PHOTOGRAPHS

He is definitely given star treatment by the fans, especially the passionate Belgian fans, who mob him with such enthusiasm that he has to remain holed-up in the team bus until last moment.

”Alberto always leaves the team bus, whatever team he is in, last (like a Star), when all the riders taking part in the race have already signed in, so there is always a big crowd around him.”

Christine learned from friends at Saxo that Alberto and Jesús were going “to leave tomorrow morning for Italy, where they will be joined by Dani, to train on the Giro summits.”

RESULTS: Alberto Contador, 11th (15”)
TOP THREE: 1 Philippe Gilbert (4:54:57), Joaquím Rodríguez (03”), Samuel Sánchez (05”)



75th Flêche Wallonne, Wednesday, April 20

Race Atlas

GO TO La Flêche Wallonne race atlas for a closer look at the course.


April 17 - Contador hopes his health bounces back for La Flêche Wallonne

XXVI Vuelta a Castilla y León

Contador heads for Belgium this week and Italy in May (Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 5, April 17: Madrigal de Las Altas Torres – Medina del Campo, 167.7 km

XXVI Vuelta a Castilla y León Alberto Contador crossed the final finish line of the 2011 Vuelta a Castilla y León today in 25th place overall. Saxo Bank-SunGard’s leader is already thinking about his next race, La Flêche Wallonne, where he came in 3rd in last year. He will not, however, arrive at the 2011 edition with what he considers optimum physical condition.


“I’m going to try to recover from my cold as quickly as possible. I don’t think it’ll be in enough time for La Flêche Wallonne, but at the very least, I’ll try to help my teammates,”

“La Vuelta a Castilla y León has been a good race, but I ran out of luck on the mountain day with the punctures,” said Contador. “In spite of that, I’m leaving here with a good feeling because I got a victory the next day in the time trial, which is a test that fits better with the season’s big goals.”

Alberto Contador will travel to Belgium this week to participate in La Flêche Wallonne, which will be his last competition before taking the start in the Giro d’Italia on May 7th.

(Official press release, Alberto contador press room)

Ben Swift of Team Sky sprinted to victory in the stage by several bike lengths in Medina del Campo, and Xavier Tondo of Movistar Team won the XXVI Vuelta a Castilla y León overall title.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 83th (15" Swift). Contador in GC: 24th (2:52).
TOP THREE: 1 Tondo, 2 Mollema (09"), 3 Antón (17")




April 16 - "This victory is for my teammates" says Alberto after Stage 4

XXVI Vuelta a Castilla y León

Good luck returned to Contador in Zamora (AC press room)

Stage 4, April 16: Zamora - Zamora (ITT), 11.2 km (Plaza de Santa Lucia - Plaza de la Catedral)

XXVI Vuelta a Castilla y León Alberto Contador rode to victory today in the spectacular Stage 4 time trial at Zamora in the Vuelta a Castilla y León, where he fought neck and neck for a few precious seconds with Xavi Tondo—the virtual winner of tomorrow’s overall title.


Today’s win was Alberto’s way of compensating for yesterday’s bad luck, as well as his way of demonstrating that he’s holding good form for a play next Wednesday in La Flêche Wallonne. “All in all, I give very good marks to this edition,” he said. “I’m very happy, I feel good and the team has been impressive. They deserve much more, but this victory is for them.”

Contador admitted that he still has a bit of a cold and that today he’ll start “taking antibiotics, because I hope to be able to be 100% at La Flêche Wallonne.” Furthermore, he managed today to forget about the bad luck that plagued him yesterday. “Cycling is like that,” he said, “it’s a sport where something unexpected can always pop up, but all things considered, it’s better that those things happen now in the Vuelta a Castilla y León than in the Giro. I don’t like it, obviously, because today my position in the general would certainly be different if nothing had happened, but I’d rather not think about it and stick with today’s result.”

Contador said that this crono had been, mainly, “tough, but also nice. I really don’t like cobblestones in a race because I skip around a lot since I don’t weigh very much,” he said, referring to the route’s pavé sections, “even though, for the viewer, it was spectacular.”

Finally, Alberto’s next main goal is set for La Flêche Wallonne. “Now I have to recuperate for Fleche, even though I might not be in top form, and if that’s the case, I’ll help a teammate. Still, in order to arrive at the Giro in top form, I’ve got work to do, but I think I have time.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

Saxo Bank-SunGard took not only the top spot on the podium today, but second place as well. Contador's Australian teammate Richie Porte arrived only 1 second behind the winning time.

Porte said, "The result shows before anything else that we have got the strongest riders of the peloton in this team. I'm tremendously happy about Alberto's win and of course finishing second to a world class rider like him is no shame. At the same time I think about where I could have dropped that one second in order to be at the very top but the main thing for me is that one from the team got the victory and that my form and condition is getting there."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 1st (13:42). Contador in GC, 23rd (2:37 Tondo). Points: Contador, 1st (25). Teams: Saxo Bank-SunGard, 1st (41:55)

TOP THREE: 1 Tondo (13:31:42), 2 Mollema (09"), 3 Antón (17")




April 15 - Queen turns beldame in CyL Stage 3

XXVI Vuelta a Castilla y León

Jesús with dignity, Alberto with a grin, after a series of mishaps spoils Alberto's chances (AC press room)

Stage 3, April 15: Benevente - Laguna de los Peces, 157.2 km

XXVI Vuelta a Castilla y León Stage 3 of the Vuelta a Castilla y León was an unlucky one for Alberto Contador. The Saxo Bank-SunGard leader was unable to finish in a competitive position today, owing to a puncture within the final two kilometers of the last climb.

“My idea for the end of the stage was to keep an eye on Tondo and Igor Antón, who were the most dangerous riders, but at just under two kilometers from the finish line I punctured my front tire. I’d already noticed it before and tried to hang on, because I knew that if I stopped to fix it, the race would be over for me, but I had no other option. I had bad luck—tomorrow’s another day,” explained Contador.

“The team took responsibility from the beginning and we did really well in the race until the last climb,” said Alberto. “There, we were pretty close to the escape, but some 1,800 meters from the summit, I punctured the back tire. I changed it with Jesús Hernández, but we had problems with the chain and we lost a lot of time.”

Alberto topped the climb of the Peñón 40 seconds in arrears of the front group. “Then I waited for my teammates on the descent, and Richie Porte and Jesús Hernández caught up with me. Richie did a really great job and I congratulate him for it. Then Jesús did the same—to maintain the distance to the three riders who had attacked—while I waited for the attacks in the final kilometers. Unfortunately, that was when I punctured again and there was nothing I could do. After that, I preferred to finish quietly and see if I have better luck in the time trial.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

Saxo Bank-SunGard DS Philippe Maduit: "It's just one of those days where you are all out of luck. Alberto had two punctures and timing could not have been worse. Less than two kilometers from the finish line, he punctures and the game is just over. However, the boys did a wonderful job and especially Richie and Jesus were outstanding between the two final climbs. Tomorrow's goal is to win the time trial.”

Zamora is the scene for the 11.2-km individual time trial in Stage 4 tomorrow, starting at the Plaza de Santa Lucia and ending at the cathedral square.

The first contestant will get under way at 14:46 (7:46 CDT). Riders will leave at one-minute intervals until the final 10, who will leave every two minutes until the last man hits the road at 16:46. The ride is expected to take about 14'.

Start time for Contador's ITT is 16:11. He'll be the 85th of 110 riders scheduled to start.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 28th (2:50 Filippo Savini/Colnago). Contador in GC, 26th (2:43 Bauke Mollema/Rabobank)




April 14 - After Stage 2, number-crunching Saxo leader says sum of Stages 3 and 4 will make or break CyL

XXVI Vuelta a Castilla y León

Big winner + hero + nice guy = popular (AC press room)

Stage 2, April 14: Valladolid – Salamanca, 213 km

Second stage equaled second sprint win for Fran Ventoso today in the Vuelta a Castilla y León. Alberto Contador crossed the line after a problem-free day in advance of tomorrow’s queen stage, where the aces will play many of their cards for overall victory.

“It’s a very gentle climb. I remember it from 2009 when I was helping Levi Leipheimer, who was my teammate then, but it won’t be possible to make much of a difference,” said Alberto.

“The victory in this race,” said Alberto, “will be the result of the final computation of tomorrow’s result plus Saturday’s time trial. Tomorrow’s a good day for a lot of riders, there are tough rivals, like Tondo, Igor Antón, Coppel and some others.” As for himself, he said that after these first two days, “I feel good, but not super. Tomorrow we’ll see. I’m not at 100%, but I hope to be with the people in front.”

Contador highlighted Saxo Bank-SunGard’s work in today’s stage. “I’m happy because once again my team’s been extraordinary. We had to take complete responsibility, as usual, almost until the finish line. I’d like it if other teams worked too, but hey, I give my team a 10.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

After the Stage 2, Saxo Bank-SunGard's DS Philippe Maduit said, ”It was an excact copy of yesterday's stage where we did what we had to do. A break went away and we took the responsibility to close the gap in order to neutralize the stage before tomorrow's mountain battle. Here, we will try to put some pressure on our opponents and there's a fair chance of witnessing Alberto in an attack. The morale is superb and we're looking forward to tomorrow's challenges.”

Tomorrow's queen stage has only two climbs, both classified as first category. (PROFILES) Riders will first tackle the Alto de Peñon, a 10.2-km climb (6.1% avg, 16% max.) that begins at 101.3 kilometers into the stage. While this ascent is more impressive on paper, the play for victory will almost certainly come on the climb to Laguna de los Peces, the summit finish. The finish line comes after 12.2 kilometers of climbing (5.4% avg., 6.5% max.), starting at kilometer 144.8.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 2, 14th (s.t. Ventoso). Contador in GC, 9th (s.t. Ventoso)

TOP SIX: 1 Ventoso, (09:19:20); 2 Downing (s.t.), 3 Belletti (s.t.), 4 R. Perez (s.t.), 5 Roberts (s.t.), 6 Sobrino (s.t.)




April 13 - Contador says it's too soon to tell what he can do this week

XXVI Vuelta a Castilla y León

It was back to work today for Contador and team (AC press room)

Stage 1, April 13: Medina de Rioseco (Valladolid) – Palencia, 179.4 km

Alberto Contador finished Stage 1 of the Vuelta a Castilla y León in 15th place today, clocking the same time as sprint winner Fran Ventoso. “It was calm at first, but as there was a large escape group of seven, we had to hustle a little at the end, but we got through the day without problems,” said the leader of Saxo Bank-SunGard, “even though I had two punctures, which is unusual, but better to have them on a calm day like today.”

Saxo Bank-SunGard lost David Tanner to a crash, although Alberto didn’t get the news until after the stage ended. “I just found out, on the bus, and I saw that David was pretty badly bruised, but I hope it’s nothing serious,” he said. About how he felt on the bike, he said that it wasn’t “a day for drawing many conclusions. There was never a time when things were pushed to the maximum. I noticed the congestion a little, but we didn’t make enough demands on the body to be able to draw any conclusions,” he explained.

Contador was happy that the escape was brought under control, because “it was a big group and they got as much as 12 minutes advantage. My team and Euskaltel pulled and then, in the final part, the others stepped in,” he said.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Saxo Bank-SunGard DS Philippe Maduit: “We controlled the pace of the pack throughout the day as we want to keep the field in the same time for now before the mountains and we didn't get much help from the other teams until the very finale. But we're happy that the tactics followed through and the fact that Luke (Roberts) came in fourth is just an extra bonus for our part.

"Unfortunately, we lost David with 25 to go in a crash. He's being examined right now and we're waiting for the result but we're hoping to see him on the road again soon.”

Tanner, whose broken elbow will be in a cast for the next two weeks, said, "The timing couldn't have been any worse. My condition is superb and I was really eager to help Alberto getting another victory here in Castilla. But this is part of the game. Being up front, where the action is, is always dangerous."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1 and GC, 15th (s.t. Francisco Veloso).
TOP FOUR: 1 Ventoso, 2 Belletti (s.t.), 3 Kump (s.t.), 4 Roberts (s.t.)




March 27 - Volta a Catalunya overall title goes to Alberto Contador!

Volta a Catalunya 2011, Stage 7

Contador and Saxo Bank-SunGard win again (AC press room)

Alberto Contador won the Volta a Catalunya for the first time in his career today, and became the seventh Tour de France winner to triumph there. Alberto was proud of his victory and said that the Volta “has been a very tough race, harder than others that we’ve had to control, with more mountains. The last four days have been very tough, the escapes formed very late and I’ve even had to go after some attacks.” AUDIO COMMENTS

Contador said that today’s circuit, in Barcelona, “wasn’t bad, but some curves were wet, especially a roundabout that we entered skating, and that split the pack a little. The important thing is that we didn’t crash.” Alberto wasn’t involved in the crash that affected Scarponi, 2nd place in the GC. “The whole team were in front and none of us got hurt. It was a little tense, but nothing more.”

Alberto assured that this victory is not his way of responding to any situation. To the contrary. “What I like is competing and when I go to the races, it’s 100% to win. At the Volta I came to test myself, on Wednesday things went very well in Andorra and I managed to win. I’m happy because of that, and because of my team.”

Finally, Contador said that this victory was for him “an enormous satisfaction and even more so on the centennial of the race. The Volta has a great history. Until yesterday I hadn’t seen the names of the people who’ve won, but there are Merckx, Anquetil, Gimondi and Ocaña. It’s an impressive list and I’m extremely proud to be among them.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Stage 7, March 28: Parets del Vallès—Barcelona (Pla de Palau), 124.5 km

Sunday morning and the final day of the Volta’s centennial dawned 16 degrees (61° F) and rainy. Contador’s rival and ex-teammate Levi Leipheimer, in 2nd place overall at 23”, had dropped out of the race due to the flare-up of an intestinal injury he had received in childhood when kicked by a horse.

Leipheimer’s departure moved Lampre’s Michele Scarponi from 3rd to 2nd, also 23” behind Contador. However, the nature of the route—124.5 km (77 miles) spiked by only one categorized climb (Alt de Montjüic, km 99.8) and ending with four laps of an circuit in Barcelona—created a rosy scenario for Saxo Bank-SunGard’s prospects for an overall triumph.

164 riders left Parets del Vallès. A massive crash caused a pile-up after 13 kilometers, sending four riders home early, but the entire Saxo team plus five other riders were in front of the incident and avoided catastrophe. The peloton quickly rejoined them, and a four-man escape group flew off the cabeza.

The pack split, forming two groups with favorites in each half—Contador ahead, Ivan Basso and Scarponi behind. The Contador group continued in pursuit of the breakaway, which was absorbed by the peloton, now back together, at the 35-km mark.

Two kilometers later, a new escape of six formed, containing the eventual stage winner, Samuel Dumoulin of Cofidis. This group also failed, but was replaced at km 43 by the long-term break of the day. These six stayed away until the teams of Contador and Scarponi pulled them back in during the final lap, the last 5 km in Barcelona.

(Video: Splits in the peloton on wet roads in Stage 7)

Dumoulin took his second stage win of the Volta by sprinting to the line ahead of an 87-man bunch. A second large group arrived 2:57 later, within it the unlucky favorites Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov and Carlos Barredo, among others.

Contador arrived safely in the first group, same time as Dumoulin, and mounted the final podium batting a thousand at Catalunya with his fifth win of the 2011 season. Sharing the podium were Scarponi—a hot rider and potential Giro threat for Alberto who’s within one point of topping the World Tour Rankings—and Irish rider Daniel Martin, 3rd (Garmin-Cervelo).

Saxo Bank director Dan Frost summarized: “The team has been working very hard the whole week so they're all pretty tired now, but we are extremely happy to win. It's the first time we’ve won here and it's Alberto’s first time to participate in the race, and winning the anniversary version of the race simply makes the win even sweeter. Alberto has proven to be a truly world class pro and remained focused on the job throughout the week. A great win for Alberto and a great win for the team.”

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 7, 38th (s.t. Dumoulin). Contador in the GC, 1st (29:24:42)

TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 1 (29:24:42), 2 Scarponi, (23”), 3 D. Martin (35”), 4 Horner (35”), 5 Uran (38”), 6 Tondo (38”), 7 Basso (38”), 8 Evans (50”), 9 Seeldraeyers (1:12), 10 Mollema (1:12)



March 26 - Catalunya Stage 6: "These days will come in handy at the Giro," says Contador

Volta a Catalunya 2011, Stage 6

Penultimate stage at Catalunya wasn't easy, but there's light at the end of the tunnel (AC press room)

Alberto Contador kept his hold on the leadership of the Volta a Catalunya in today’s penultimate stage. It was another tough day at the office for his team, but now only one more day remains. AUDIO COMMENTS

Alberto acknowledged that the race continues to be very demanding, with many kilometers covered per stage, “but these long days, even though I don’t like them too much, will come in handy as a foundation at the upcoming Giro d’Italia.” In addition, Alberto verified that he’s receiving many signs of support from the fans. “Yes, it was great, I saw a lot of banners cheering for me and I really appreciate that.”

For yet another day, “it was a very fast start. The first hour and a half was incredible, until those of us at the top of the GC had to work to control attacks, until finally three riders got away who were not very far back in the GC—less than two minutes—so we had to buckle down fast.”

Today, unlike yesterday, the Saxo Bank-SunGard team was not alone. “Yes, Lampre and RadioShack collaborated,” said Contador, “so we were able to maintain control. The stage was smoother than yesterday, except for the first half hour. I had the power meter and it was incredible. Then, the rest of the day was more comfortable.”

Alberto congratulated the stage winner, José Joaquín Rojas, on the podium. “I congratulated him because he’s been working for that for the whole race but coming in second and third. It makes me happy, because I don’t think that there’s anyone who deserved it more, and that goes for the Movistar team as well.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, Contador expects fighting. “It’ll be the last opportunity for everybody, even though it’s shorter, almost 100 kilometers shorter than today. That’s our consolation, but victory is getting closer all the time.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Stage 6, March 26: Tarragona - Mollet del Vallès, 195 km

After many kilometers of skirmishing, a dangerous escape was lauched at the 64-km mark. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC Highroad), Darwin Atapuma (Columbia es Pasión) and Bauke Mollema (Rabobank), all of whom were less than 2:00 from Contador in the GC, quickly opened a gap of 1:30, putting Mollema into the virutal leader jersey. Mollema backed off voluntarily however, leaving it to the Belarussian and the Colombian to extend the gap.

The gap rose to 4:30. Sivtsov and Atapuma, both 1:57 behind Contador in the GC, duked it out for Contador’s jersey and the podium in Mollet des Vallès. Saxo Bank responded, taking command of the pursuit. RadioShack and Lampre, the teams of Leipheimer (2nd place overall) and Scarponi (3rd) soon joined in the hunt. Sivtsov was caught first, and a couple of kilometers later, Atapuma. The drama then shifted from stealing the overall to preparing for sprint victory.

Movistar managed to get J.J. Rojas into a good position and he finally got the win, after finishing 2nd twice and 3rd twice so far in this edition of the Volta.

“Once again, we succeeded in keeping the field in one piece but it's hard work out there in order to keep the jersey. Unfortunately, André (Steensen) crashed on the side of the road after being blocked by another rider after 70 kilometers of the stage but he managed to fight his way back to the peloton to finish his job in front of the pack. Tomorrow, there's a short stage that with 99.9 per cents certainty is going to end in a final bunch sprint,” summarized Saxo Bank-SunGard’s Danish director, Dan Frost.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 6, 42nd (s.t. Joaquin Rojas - 4:22:19). Contador in GC, 1st

TOP TEN: Alberto Contado (26:50:47), 2 Levi Leipheimer (23"), 3 Michele Scarponi (23"), 4 Daniel Martin (35"), 5 Christopher Horner (35"), 6 Rigoberto Uran (38"), 7 Ivan Basso (38"), 8 Xavier Tondo ((38"), 9 Cadel Evans (50"), 10 Bauke Mollema (1:12)




March 21-27 - Photos from all stages of La Volta's centennial

Volta a Catalunya 2011, Stage 3

Alberto Contador models a leader jersey in green and white, a change from the usual yellow. (AC press room)



Lloret de Mar to Andorra to Barcelona

Race Atlas

GO TO CATALUNYA RACE ATLAS for a closer look at the centenary edition of the Volta a Catalunya.


March 25 - Volta a Cataluyna Stage 5: “It’s been a very demanding day,” says race leader Contador

Volta a Catalunya 2011, Stage 5 Alberto Contador retained the leader’s jersey for another day today in the Volta a Catalunya, although he acknowledged at the finish line that it had been “a very, very demanding day.” AUDIO COMMENTS

“Supposedly it was a transitional stage, but until kilometer 87, the escape still hadn’t been made and the attacks were constant. My team was amazing, because everyone wanted to latch on to the escape.”

“When the escape was made, we had to keep it fairly close and only in the final 10 kilometers did they help us pull. All the work was done by my team,” he said.

“In this race it’s not easy to keep the leadership, you have to have a very strong team, not only for the mountains, but also for days like today, when there were 210 kilometers—more than had been announced. For this you need a very strong team in order to control the escapes.”

Alberto Contador said that he felt “very well and I recover very well every day, even though I like stages with a bit fewer kilometers, but anyway, I’m fine.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Stage 5, March 25: El Vendrell – Tarragona, 205.8 km

Looking at the big picture, the action in this longest stage of La Volta 2011 took time to develop. There were only two important plays, the escape of the day and the push to the sprint. However, minor dramas and a fast tempo spiced up the ride

The day began sunny and mild in El Vendrell, the birthplace of perhaps the most famous Catalan, Pablo Casals. A pile-up near the start line gave the peloton a case of the jitters, so for approximately the next 80 kilometers the warriors for the working day tried, in fits and starts, to make an impression.

The moment finally came for Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Remi Cusin (Cofidis), who opened a gap. Francesco Masciarelli of Astana and Chris Froome of Sky jumped and managed to bridge, forming an escape group of four who were the first to pass the two 2nd-category climbs and one remaining intermediate sprint.

Saxo Bank-SunGard then moved into position to control the quartet, especially Masciarelli, who was only 1:57 behind Contador in the GC. Masciarelli did in fact occupy the virtual leader position for a number of kilometers.

Near the 155-kilometer mark, Movistar moved up to help Saxo. For the next 30 kilometers, the two teams worked together to whittle down the gap, until the opportunistic RadioShack and Lampre lifted a hand in the final phase, hoping for a sprint win.

Saxo’s 65-kilometer effort to reel in the break was complete at 5 kilometers before the goal. The pack then surged en masse into Tarragona, where the Cofidis rider took the win. 161 riders finished in the same time as Dumolin, including Alberto Contador.

Said Saxo director Dan Frost, “It was just by the book, and by the look of the profile of the two final stages, the overall win is definitely within reach. However, races are never won beforehand and you have to stay prepared and expect the unexpected, so we will keep our focus on the job and stay in the front until the final kilometer of the race.”

Alberto tweeted a photo (top right) and message about an hour after the finish: “Behind the podium after keeping the jersey—very hard today.”

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 76th (s.t. Samuel Dumolin). Contador in the GC, 1st (22:28:28)

TOP TEN: 1 Contador (22:28:28), 2 Levi Leipheimer (23"), 3 Michele Scarponi (23"), 4 Daniel Martin (35"), 5 Christopher Horner (35"), 6 Rigoberto Uran (38"), 7 Ivan Basso (38"), 8 Xavier Tondo ((38"), 9 Cadel Evans (50"), 10 Bauke Mollema (1:12)



March 24 - Alberto Contador: “My innocence will become even clearer at CAS”

Volta a Catalunya 2011, Stage 4

Contador gave an informal press conference after Stage 4 (AC press room)

Alberto Contador learned of the UCI’s decision to appeal his case to CAS at the end of today’s stage.

The leader of Saxo Bank-SunGard made no effort to avoid the media and gave an informal press conference after the podium ceremony at the Volta a Catalunya, the race which he leads after winning in Andorra yesterday. Alberto said that he’s one of those people who thinks “that things happen because they have to happen. Maybe we have to go to CAS for my innocence to become even clearer,” he said emphatically. AUDIO COMMENTS

“I found out about the UCI’s decision when I got to the finish line. Today has been just another day,” he said, “even though I don’t like being put in this situation now, but I have complete confidence in all the arguments that my lawyers have made. I trust them completely,” he repeated.

Alberto admitted that it’s not good news. “I would’ve liked for there to have been no appeal or for them to have acted in a more logical manner, but as I said before, if this is happening, it’s because it has to happen, and I have full confidence in resolving the case at CAS.”

Alberto said firmly that he will continue “with the schedule that I’ve been following so far,” because, among other reasons, he continues to have the unconditional support of his team, Saxo Bank-SunGard, who today released a statement to that effect.

Furthermore, he said that the UCI “has had time to look at all of the documentation that we submitted, and I’m sure that they have never, ever seen documentation like what we’ve submitted and maybe that’s why they haven’t decided until the last day, even though the experts and the scientists know clearly that it’s not a case of doping.”

Finally, Alberto Contador said that cycling “has a lot of things to consider right now,” in reference to the fact that it’s events like this, not sport, that make big news.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Stage 4, March 24: La Seu d’Urgell - El Vendrell, 195 km

Alberto Contador rode today under the protection of his team, Saxo Bank-SunGard. He wore the green and white race leader's jersey, having earned it yesterday with a spectacular solo summit victory in Andorra.

In the opening kilometers - before the 8-kilometer mark - the announcement was made that the UCI will appeal the Contador case to CAS, since the UCI had scheduled the news to break within the first few seconds of the race.

The peloton, led by Saxo and some other teams with interests, controlled the fortune hunters to prevent large gaps. Head- and sidewinds were a factor, but crashes were minimal, even though 10th-place Cadel Evans went down without consequence.

As Contador said, it "was just another day," until the race arrived at El Vendrell and he learned of his fate, surrounded by a cluster of reporters.

The stage ended in a bunch sprint with photo finish, won by Manuel Cardoso of Portugal. Of the 179 riders that finished the race, all but two finished in the same time as Cardoso.

Saxo Bank-SunGard director Dan Frost commented after the stage, "We did what we had to do. We controlled the pace with a couple of other teams who wanted to enter the finish line in one group for the bunch sprint.

"We're only interested in the overall classification and for the sake of the race and the thrill of it, I kind of hope that a group of fortune diggers seek an opportunity to make it last to the finish line. However, no one is going to take the jersey away from us."

RESULTS: Alberto Contador in Stage 4, 64th (s.t. Cardoso). Alberto Contador in the GC, 1st (17:38:57).

TOP TEN: 1 Alberto Contador (17:38:57), 2 Levi Leipheimer (23"), 3 Michele Scarponi (23"), 4 Daniel Martin (35"), 5 Christopher Horner (35"), 6 Rigoberto Uran (38"), 7 Ivan Basso (38"), 8 Xavier Tondo ((38"), 9 Cadel Evans (50"), 10 Bauke Mollema (1:12)



March 23 - 100th Volta a Catalunya Stage 3: Contador says, “I didn’t expect to gain so much time.” Opponents wish he hadn't.

Volta a Catalunya 2011, Stage 3

Hey, Pistolero! Glad to see you back! (AC press room)

Alberto Contador logged his fourth victory of the season today, adding Stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya to two stages and the subsequent overall title in the Vuelta a Murcia after crossing the finish line 23” ahead of Scarponi and Leipheimer.

These other two riders are also out to capture the leader’s jersey, so now it’s up to Alberto to defend it during the remaining four stages if he is to win La Volta. For him, however, the most important thing was this victory—winning the queen stage at the ski station of Vallnord—and the margin that he gained on his opponents. “I didn’t expect to gain so much time,” he said.

Alberto knew this climb and Saxo Bank-SunGard worked for the victory from the get-go. “My team has done extraordinary work since kilometer 1, we took responsibility because we knew that nobody was going to help us. I’m very happy, because it’s a complicated climb and you had to know which way the wind was blowing. At five kilometers from the finish there were still 50 riders left, so I knew that that was the hardest part, so I attacked, then Leipheimer came back up and I attacked again and got to the finish line.”

Contador didn’t want to comment on whether this stage had been his hardest so far this year. “All the stages are hard,” he said, “no matter which race it is, but this one, in terms of names, is the most difficult.”

Alberto admitted that it’s also difficult to ride while thinking about the UCI’s pending decision. “These are not the best conditions, but I’m focused on my own business, on the bike and on talking about the race, because the rest isn’t up to me,” he said. “I try to focus on the race and I trust the people around me for the rest. Of course, it’s not as if nothing has happened, it’s noticeable, but I manage to deal with it pretty well.”

About his physical condition at this point in the season, he said that “being like this is a good sign, but it’s still a long time until the Giro. This victory gives me some peace of mind, it’s extra motivation and, over all, it’s the way to thank my team for all the support that they’ve been giving me—getting victories.”

Thinking about the general classification, Contador said that he’s going to try “to keep the jersey because it’s a very important race, it’s very prestigious and I don’t have it in my palmarès. It will be difficult, because there are four days and a lot of kilometers left.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 1st (4:45:31). Contador in the GC, 1st (13:05:55). Contador is also KOM (30 pts)

TOP TEN: 1 Alberto Contador, 2 Levi Leipheimer (23"), 3 Michele Scarponi (23"), 4 Daniel Martin (35"), 5 Christopher Horner (35"), 6 Rigoberto Uran (38"), 7 Ivan Basso (38"), 8 Xavier Tondo ((38"), 9 Cadel Evans (50"), 10 Bauke Mollema (1:12)



March 22 - “Vallnord is not too demanding” but rivals "look really strong"

Volta a Catalunya 2011, Stage 2

Relieved to be home safe after a wet and dangerous final circuit (AC press room)

Alberto Contador concluded Stage 2 of the Volta a Catalunya holding on to his place in the general classification in advance of tomorrow’s summit finish in Andorra and the play for a victory that would normally lead to the overall triumph as well. ”It’s not a very demanding climb,” said Contador about the end of the stage in Vallnord, “but we’ll have to adapt to it.” AUDIO COMMENTS

“I’m happy with these first two stages, I haven’t lost time and I haven’t crashed,” said Contador in review. ”Yesterday was a pretty tough day for a first stage, and today, in the final part—the circuit—it was very dangerous. It started to rain just when we got into it; everybody wanted to be in the front and it was a little riskier than I would’ve liked.”

Tomorrow’s stage is, for Contador, “the only one where I’m really in my own element. I’ll try to do it well, even though some people look really strong, like Evans, Basso and especially Scarponi. It’ll be the crucial stage for the overall, although there could be some action later. Everything depends on how the race breaks apart on the final climb.”

Alberto says that the climb to Vallnord “doesn’t have the slope that I’d like, it’s not too demanding, but it is what it is and we’ll have to adapt to it,” he concluded.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Stage 2, March 22 : Santa Coloma de Farners – Banyoles, 169.3 km

The centerpiece and main difficulty of today’s route was the first-category Alt dels Angels at kilometer 84, but a flat final circuit pointed to an almost-guaranteed sprint finish in Banyoles. Nevertheless, the aventureros began attempting to beat the odds right after the start signal.

By the 15-km mark, a four-man escape had already gapped the peloton by 5:00, namely Ruben Pérez (Euskaltel), José Benítez (Andalucía-Caja Granada), David de la Cruz (Caja Rural) and Mark Rutkiewicz (CCC). The four continued in front throughout a stage marked by nothing much more remarkable than two guys puncturing once simultaneously and one guy puncturing twice in rapid succession. They were overtaken on the rainy circuit at about 20 km from the finish line by a pack driven hard by Lampre and Movistar.

Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre sprinted to victory over Joaquín Rojas of Movistar in a photo-finish. Alberto Contador and most of the favorites finished in the pack with the same time as Petacchi.

Contador's team did a good job of protecting him on the dangerous wet roads and delivering him to the finish line near the front of the pack. According to Saxo Bank-SunGard director Dan Frost, after the stage: “Our main objective today was to guard Alberto as close as possible and keep him away from crash and small gaps very likely to occur in a dramatic sprint like this, and the team did a perfect job.

"Now, we'll focus on tomorrow's key stage where the first battle is to be fought. If we haven't got a guy in a break, we will try to put some heavy pressure on the field and tire our opponents before it all breaks loose on the uphill finish.”

Contador’s new teammate and super-domestique, Chris Anker Sørenson, added, "It's going to be a rough stage tomorrow, but I'm up for the challenge. I'm feeling stronger and stronger by the day and I'm all set to sacrifice myself for the greater good – Alberto.

The Danish climber continued, “The Andorra climb is not new to me so I know how much I can do on every spot of the mountain. I have to give it my best so Alberto hopefully will take the stage and time on our opponents”.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 2, 22nd (s.t. Petacchi). Contador in the GC, 9th (28" Smukulis)
TOP THREE: 1 Smukulis (8:19:56), 2 Petacchi (28"), 3 Rojas (28")



March 21 - All's well for Contador, but Sastre and Menchov take a beating

Volta a Catalunya 2011, Stage 1

A tough but satisfactory Monday (AC press room)

Contador: “The team has done an extraordinary job” AUDIO COMMENTS

Alberto Contador finished the first stage of the Volta a Catalunya in 10th place, 28 seconds behind the winner, after the peloton almost completely neutralized a wide gap established by the break of the day. It was a tough stage in which, according to Alberto, Saxo Bank-SunGard “did an extraordinary job, because it was important that the escape not arrive with four or five minutes of advantage.”

Contador described this first stage as “tough and very demanding. We went very fast from the start in order to try to catch the escape and, when it got away, it lasted for a long time and they got a big advantage. The team had to pull together with others, we trimmed off the minutes, but of course we had to work hard, because there was an advantage of almost 15 minutes and the stage was not very long.”

At the finish line, Alberto was among the top placings because, he said, “I was trying to avoid a crash and possible splits.” And finally, tomorrow he expects a calmer day. “Today’s been a very demanding day from the start, and I hope that tomorrow everything will be calmer.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Stage 1, March 21: Lloret de Mar - Lloret de Mar, 166.9 km

Alberto Contador of Team Saxo Bank-SunGard finished Stage 1 of the centenary edition of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya today in 10th place, arriving with the pack 28” behind stage winner Gatis Smukulis of HTC Highroad.

Contador’s result after the first day leaves him in a competitive position for disputing the overall victory. In preliminary results, two other GC favorites were in the top 15: Cadel Evans (7th) and Danilo Di Luca (11th) both finished in the same time as Contador.

Those who were looking for a close fight between Contador and the leaders of the new Geox team—former Tour-winner Carlos Sastre and Vuelta/Giro-winner Denis Menchov—will be disappointed, since both champions lost 13:17 and saw their chances of overall victory fade before they had blossomed.

The Centennial Edition of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 1 began at Lloret de Mar on the coast, then traveled inland, taking in two first-category climbs, the Alt de Sant Hilari and the Alt de Sant Grau. Smukulis, along with Ben Gastauer and Julian Sánchez, had established the escape of the day by kilometer 22.

The group led by 14:30 at kilometer 54, but the peloton had already gently tightened the reins by the 76-km mark. Pulled by Saxo Bank-SunGard, Katusha for Di Luca and Lampre in hopes of a sprint win for Petacchi, the gap was wiped away as the pack negotiated the Alt de Sant Grau and final kilometers back to Lloret de Mar. Smukulis hung on for the win.

Saxo Bank-SunGard’s director Dan Frost said, "The stage turned out harder than expected but we had Alberto, Chris, Hernández and Daniel in the front group of favorites but we had to put in an effort to minimize the gap. It doesn't really matter that the breakaway lasted all the way as it is still on stage three the battle will be fought. Tomorrow's stage is for the sprinters.”

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 10th (28” Smukulis). Contador in GC, 10th (28” Smukulis)
TOP THREE: 1 Smukulis (4:08:48), 2 Petacchi (28"), 3 Rojas (28")



March 21 - 100th Volta a Catalunya, March 21-27

Riding for Saxo Bank-SunGard: 11 Alberto Contador, 12 Benjamín Noval, 13 Andre Steensen, 14 Chris Anker Sørensen, 15 Daniel Navarro, 16 Jesús Hernández, 17 Nicki Sørensen, 18 Volodimir Gustov


March 9 - Video summaries of all three stages


March 8 - Alberto Contador wins three stages in two days

XXXI Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia (2011)

"Contador has come back as he always does, fresh and like brand-new" (AP)



March 6 - UPDATED - Vuelta a Murcia GC, ITT and queen stage wins put the twinkle back in Alberto's eye

XXXI Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia (2011)

Besos for the sponors from the Murcia 2011 champion (AC press room)

Alberto Contador pulled off the best of all possible finales today with a victory in the final time trial that led to an overall conquest in this year’s edition of the Vuelta a Murcia. In spite of the difficulty posed by a totally flat route that was better suited to his two direct rivals, Coppel and Menchov, Contador took top honors on the 12.4-km ride through the streets of Murcia city, besting the Frenchman by 8 seconds and the Russian by 12. “It’s been an incredible weekend, better than I expected,” said the leader of Saxo Bank-SunGard. AUDIO COMMENTS

"I came here with a lot of desire, because in the Algarve, for different reasons, I was below par; I couldn’t focus on training, but now I’ve been in Mallorca with the whole team and I’m very happy with the result,” he said about his victory. “Winning in Murcia is very important, because I didn’t have this race in my palmarès and also because of what’s been going on the last few months, which haven’t been the best of my career. Winning here has been a special dream.”

Alberto admitted that he saluted the victory with rage both yesterday and today. “Yes, it’s been something special because of everything that’s happened recently. Also, it was something that I was eager to get for the people all over the world who’ve been supporting me, and also for my team.”

As in his finest moments, Alberto won again both in the mountains and in the time trial. “Yes, yesterday I won and today I was also very eager to get the stage. This victory was something special,” he admitted. He put his director, Bjarne Riis, in the same category, describing his feelings as “enormously grateful, because he’s putting incredible faith in me. He’s a director that everybody would like to have and I’m delighted to be with him.”

As usual, Contador didn’t forget the fans, who’ve been very supportive all weekend. “The people are amazing, I’m indebted to them because they’re heaping all their affection on me, and they’re the ones that encourage me to sacrifice more.”

Alberto didn’t reveal plans for a future method of posting-up, even though he skipped the famous pistol shot again today. All he said was, “We’ll see what I’ll do.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 1st (14:10). Contador in GC, 1st.
Contador also won the points competition with 51, total.

TOP THREE: 1 Alberto Contador (9:27:18), 2 Jerome Coppel (0:00:11), 3 Denis Menchov (0:00:17)


XXXI Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia (2011)

Contador and Saxo Bank-SunGard set the Specialized TT bikes whirring before Stage 3 (AC press room)


March 5 - Contador at Murcia Stage 2: "This victory is for the team"

XXXI Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia (2011)

Contador thanks his sponsors on his first victory podium of the year (AC press room)

Alberto Contador got his first victory of the year today, and his first with his new team, Saxo Bank-SunGard. He dedicated the victory to them. “This victory is for the team,” he said immediately after crossing the finish line, where he skipped his traditional pistol salute in favor of framing the sponsor’s name on his jersey with his hands, a clear sign of appreciation for the support he has received during recent months. AUDIO COMMENTS

“We’ve already premeired the year” he said, “and I’m very very happy, above all about the team, about the great confidence that all the sponsors have had in me. And I’m happy about all the people who’ve supported me through these months that have not been easy. They’ve given me encouragement to keep training seriously and today we’ve gotten the reward of winning here.”

The Vuelta a Murcia finishes tomorrow with a short time trial, 12.7 km in which the general classification will be in play among the top three riders. Alberto Contador doesn’t want to venture a prediction. “It will be a difficult day because Coppel and Menchov are very strong against the clock. I think we’re on equal terms.”

About today’s victory, he admitted that he took risks in the run-in to the finish, a very complicated descent. “Yes, especially on a lefthand curve where I nearly went off the road. We had to risk it, but we did it,” he said.

Contador indicated that even though he won, he’s still not in top form. “My fitness is perfect for this month, I’m overweight, I’m improving little by little, but I’ve still got a lot to do.”

Alberto built his victory on the climb of the Collado Bermejo. “At a little more than a kilometer from the top, I attacked the first time, but there were a lot of hairpins, I had to pull back and I couldn’t go on alone. Then, at 500 meters from the top, I attacked again and left them behind in order to summit it with a little advantage.”

Finally, Alberto Contador admits how difficult his victory was. “The plans went as I had hoped, because I felt well on the last climb, but the entire Geox team was impressive,” he admitted.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


RESULTS: Contador in Stage 2, 1st. Contador in GC, 1st (9:13:08)
TOP THREE: 1 Alberto Contador, 2 Jerome Coppel (03"), 3 Denis Menchov (05'")


March 5 - Two finish line views, the podium and comments


March 4-6

XXXI Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia (2011) The thirty-first edition of the Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia runs Friday, March 4, through Sunday, March 6.

Originally planned as the traditional five-day tour, organizers have cut the race to three days due to the economic crisis. They've promised, however, to make up for the two missing days by packing plenty of spectacle into the remaining three. Two climbing stages with downhill finishes will be followed by a flat 12.4-km individual time trial for the specialists on the final day.

Riding for Saxo Bank-SunGard: (41) CONTADOR, Alberto, (42) BOARO, Manuele, (43) GUSTOV, Volodymir, (44) NAVARRO, Daniel, (45) HERNANDEZ, Jesús, (46) JÖRGENSEN, Jonas Aaen, (47) MARYCZ, Jaroslaw. Director: FROST, Dan.

Among the star attractions, besides Contador: Denis Menchov, Carlos Sastre, Carlos Barredo, Christian Vandevelde, Igor Antón, Ruben Plaza, Mauricio Soler.


March 4 - Cold, wet and dangerous start to the weekend

Alberto Contador finished Stage 1 of the Vuelta a Murcia in 15th position, 2” off sprint winner Michael Matthews, while his Saxo Bank teammate Jonas Jorgensen finished 6th.

Contador managed the day’s cold and rain, as well as the dangerous descent of the final climb, with no problem. There was a crash in the last kilometer, but the Saxo Bank-SunGard riders escaped with no consequences. AUDIO COMMENTS

Alberto Contador said after crossing the finish line that it had been “a really hard and dangerous day. It looked like it was going to be simple, but it was very complicated due to the rain. The final part of the stage was very dangerous, but we managed to get through the day without crashing. Ultimately I don’t know if there were splits, but we managed to arrive in front.”

Contador said that it was “a very cold and rainy day, but the most difficult part of the stage was the dangerous final descent. Tomorrow,” he said, referring to Stage 2’s possibly decisive finale, “it will be different, but it’s complicated, too, because the stage ends after an 8-kilometer descent. If it’s a bad day like today, there’ll be more differences on the descent than on the climb itself.”

Finally, Contador singled out Denis Menchov from among his rivals. “On a day like today, you can’t see much, but the person who looked most involved in the race at all times was Menchov,” he concluded.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 15th (2" Matthews). Contador in GC: 15th
TOP FIVE: 1 Michael Matthews (4:26:09), 2 Russell Downing (s.t.), 3 Davide Appollonio (s.t.), 4 Aitor Galdos (s.t.), 5 Martin Reimer (s.t.)


February 23 - Relive all five stages of Contador's first race this year


February 20 - Winning's better, but “just being here is a triumph”

37 Volta ao Algarve

Riding a blue streak, Contador covers his first TT course of 2011 (AC press room)

Alberto Contador completed the Volta ao Algarve today with a 15th-place finish in Stage 5, moving him to 4th in the general classification. For Contador, however, the most important thing was being able to participate in the race, and to ride competitively: “The time trial didn’t come out quite right, but just having been here is a triumph,” he said in reference to everything that he’s been through during the last six months.

“I’m very happy, even though you’d always like to do better,” he said after crossing the finish line and learning his rivals’ times. “I think that I’ve done a good performance for the first race,” he said. “I read in some paper that I’ve gone 205 days without competing, and that’s too much.”

Alberto Contador said that as of now he’s “on a path towards the next races. My performance was very good, because the people that were in the time trial were specialists, like Tony Martin, who showed that he was very strong when he finished with the climbers on Friday. The guys that were in front were very strong riders.”

Contador took a relaxed approach to this first time trial of the year, “thinking that I had nothing to lose. I did it differently than in past years, when I came here under a lot of pressure to win the race. This year, on the other hand, I haven’t been able to train much, but this will also work out better, because I always start the year too strong and then really have to gauge my breaks. This year, however, I’ll be able to be take it a little easier.”

The Saxo Bank-SunGard leader will continue his program by joining the rest of his teammates for a training camp in Mallorca on Tuesday. His next race will be the Vuelta a Murcia (March 4, 5 and 6).

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 15th (45" Tony Martin). Contador in the GC, 4th (41" Martin)
FINAL TOP FIVE: 1 Tony Martin (18:48:45), 2 Tejay Van Garderen (32"), 3 Lieuwe Westra (39"), 4 Alberto Contador (41"), 5 Andreas Klöden


37 Volta ao Algarve

Alberto drove to a solid overall 4th in his first race after six months of nightmare (AC press room)

37 Volta ao Algarve

Bjarne Riis steadies Contador before Stage 5 (AC press room)


February 19 - “Tomorrow I’ll do a test and we’ll see what the result is”

37 Volta ao Algarve

Contador stetches his legs in Stage 2 (AC press room)

Alberto Contador intends to ride aggressively tomorrow in the Stage 5 ITT of the Volta ao Algarve. This final stage is identical to the closing time trial of the 2010 edition, when Contador took second on the day and won the overall victory. On that occasion, he rode in the race leader’s jersey, whereas this year he's in second place. In 2010 his rivals were tough, but this year they’re tougher, mainly because this season the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader is behind in form.

“Tomorrow will be a complicated day, because the four of us at the top of the standings all have a chance, and you have to add in Tiago Machado and Andreas Klöden as well as a lot of others who could fight for the stage,” said Contador.

“Tony Martin’s maybe the most dangerous rival, but for me the most important thing is to focus, to try to do the best I can, and then we’ll see what the result is.”

The route won’t be a problem because he’s already familiar with it. “I’ve already done it, last year, and although I had to do it on a bike that I wasn’t accustomed to, I did pretty well. But it’s not a really hard time trial—in 2010 it was very windy. I think that it could go perfectly for Martin. I’ll go out and do a test, give it everything, and we’ll see what the result is,’ he repeated.

After a year, Alberto admits that things have changed a lot at this stage of the season. “Yes, of course, they’ve changed,” he says. “The team wants me to take it easy, they want me to focus so that I get into the competitive frame of mind I’ve always had, and that feels a little strange.

"Every day I improve, but I’m not in form to make the best run at a victory in these first few races. In spite of that, I’m happy with my current position and tomorrow I’ll try to see what I can do.”

Doing a test, nevertheless, isn’t the same as winning. Alberto knows that, and he’s cautious in making a prediction. “I really want to do well for all the people that have supported me during these months, because there’ve been days that I didn’t want to do anything at all, and they’ve been the ones who’ve helped me get up and muster some enthusiasm for going for a bike ride.

"And I also want to thank the Saxo Bank-SunGard team for all the support that they’re giving me, and the same for my teammates, who are doing incredible work. That’s why I’d like to do well, but winning is very difficult,” he concluded.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 24th (s.t. Greipel). Contador in GC: 2nd (6")
TOP FIVE: 1 Cummings, 2 Contador (6"), 3 Martin (10"), 4 Van Garderen (12"), 5 Taaramae (18")



February 19 - Contador's start time for tomorrow's ITT is 14:40

37 Volta ao Algarve The 37th edition of the Volta ao Algarve runs Wednesday through Friday, February 16-20 over the hills of South Portugal.

The parcours covers rugged terrain in the first four days, with a summit finish on the Alto do Malhão in Stage 3. Stage 5 is a nearly-flat 17.2-km individual time trial.

This is Contador’s third time riding the Volta ao Algarve—he won the overall title in 2009 and 2010. This year, he arrived at the startline less than 24 hours after the end a successful suit that ended an enormously difficult six months’ provisional suspension. While he “without doubt has trained” in spite of circumstances, he does not expect his form to be at the level of the last two years, and predicts that this year a repeat victory will be “very difficult.”

Riding for Saxo Bank-SunGard: Alberto Contador, Matteo Tosatto, Michael Mørkøv, Juan José Haedo, Daniel Navarro, Baden Cooke, Jesús Hernández, Gustave Larsson

Please join us at Twitter for Live Twicker updates throughout the stages. Follow @Contador_Notebk.



February 18 - Alberto Contador: “I’m very happy with the result”

Alberto at the finish line

The press pursue Alberto almost as vigorously as he pursues the finsih line (Dani Sanchez)

Alberto Contador was third on the Alto do Malhão today, reaching the finish with the same time as stage winner Stephen Cummings, who is also the new race leader. Contador is second in the general classification, at 6”, followed by Tony Martin (10”) and Tejay Van Garderen (12”).

“On the whole, today gets very good marks,” said Alberto. “I’m very happy with the result because I was able to finish in the front, and although I was third, I was fighting for the win until the very last moment.”

Alberto said to keep in mind that “it was a short climb, and everything that happened before. That’s why I’m happy with the result.”

He also emphasized the performance of his rivals. “I saw that there are people who’ve come here with miles already in their legs from previous races and also riders who are really fast against the clock, looking ahead to the last day. It’ll be complicated to get the overall victory, because they’re very strong.”

The Saxo Bank-SunGard leader stressed the role played by his team in this third stage. “The team’s been incredible at every moment,” he said. “They worked when I needed it and I’m delighted to be on this team.”

Again this year, the time trial will be key in deciding the final podium. Contador has already identified his toughest rivals. “Our times are very close, and Tony Martin, as well as Cummings himself and Van Garderen are very fast time trialists, and we’re all within ten seconds of one another. I’ll do it like today,” he concluded, “doing the best I can, and we’ll see what the result is.”

But, over all, what Alberto Contador wants is to enjoy the bike after having gone through some difficult months. “Yes, I’m enjoying it enormously, in spite of the sore legs that you often get. I’m enjoying it after so much stress and thinking about other things.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Results: Contador in Stage 3, 3rd (s.t. Stephen Cummings). Contador in the GC, 2nd (6” Cummings 14:30:47)


February 17 - Contador says “Tomorrow I’ll try to do my best” on summit of Malhão. "We'll see what happens."

37 Volta ao Algarve How good it must feel to be back at the races! (AC press room)

Alberto Contador finished 13th today in the second stage of the Volta ao Algarve. Stage 2 was decided in an explosive uphill sprint, a type of finale that could anticipate the approach to tomorrow’s finish line on top of the Alto do Malhão, where Contador, now the leader of the Saxo Bank-SunGard team, won a year ago.

“Tomorrow will be a tough day, with a summit finish that’s good for me, but I don’t have the same legs as in other years,” said Alberto in reference to his current state of form.

“Tomorrow I'll try to do my best, because I want to do it for my team and for everybody that’s supported me in recent months. We’ll see what happens.”

Alberto said that his feelings during the these first two days of racing were “not bad, because these have been two very complicated days. I’m very happy, too, because the team is working well. Tomorrow’s the day for coming to conclusions,” he said.

Among all the possible favorites for the victory on the Malhão, Alberto pointed to Tiago Machado, “because he’s been the toughest rival in the last two years. But there could be others, too, because it’s a short climb of only two kilometers.” And he concluded with a comment about his own chances: “I’m not like in other years, but you can never count out a victory.”

Official press release, Alberto Contador press room


37 Volta ao Algarve Contador roars in Stage 2, just a little (AC press room)


February 17 - Asturian riders tell the hometown paper after Stage 1 that Contador is well and happy on the bike

The Prinicpality of Asturias has played a crucial role at key moments in the career of Alberto Contador.

The champion from Pinto has always had Asturian teammates, even before he experienced a life-changing health crisis there in 2004. Since the illness, Asturians have been so important in his grand tour campaigns that, for years, the winner of three Tours and cycling's Triple Crown has a kept a loyal guard of Asturian gregarios with him, at Discovery Channel, at Astana and now at Saxo Bank-SunGard.

In the 2008 Vuelta, when Contador won on top of the mammoth Angliru, then again the next day at Fuentes de Invierno, he completed a journey from near-death to apotheosis in a land of miraculous battles and mythic victories against all odds. Asturian men guarded his steps.

Journalist and former rider José Enrique Cima of La Nueva España keeps track of a champion close to the hearts of his readership: Alberto Contador.

His gregario Dani Navarro says that “he’s happy competing”
La Nueva España – by J.E. Cima

February 16, 2011 - Alberto Contador was the main attraction at the start line of the Volta ao Algarve, and the Pinteño, in his return to competition, was fine on a very rainy day, ending in a group 5” behind the stage winner, Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian classics rider took advantage of a steep slope to take a decisive win plus 10 bonus seconds.

The very-happy Contador was with Santí Pérez at the goal in Albufeira. Dani Navarro (Gijón) arrived a few meters later, and then came Joaquín Sobrino (Llanes). This trio of Asturians was witness to the first pedal strokes of the three-time Tour champion after his acquittal by the Spanish Federation from a doping accusation.

Dani Navarro, faithful lieutenant of Contador who reached the hotel in Faro at three o’clock last night with the Pinteño, told La Nueva España after the first stage that “I’m blown apart because we hardly slept at all and got up at eight o’clock in the morning. But Alberto and I were happy because we’re riding together again.”

Navarro, a climber, said definitely that “the stage was tougher than we thought, having 2,300 meters of ups and downs. I protected Alberto, who wanted to stay in the first 20 riders, and it was really windy and rainy. He was doing well and motivated and I’m sure that in the third stage, which ends on a summit, he’ll want to be with the best. The director told me that I should stick with Alberto, and that job is an honor.”

Dani Navarro already knows that he, along with Benjamín Noval (Mieres), will accompany Contador to the Volta a Cataluña, the Vuelta a Castilla y León and the Giro d’Italia.

Santí Pérez also got to the finish line next to Contador and talked to him for quite a while before the feed zone. Pérez says that he told him that “he’s very happy, after going through so many problems, and that at last he sees the end of the tunnel. The acquittal took longer than expected, but he’s happy because he’ll be much calmer riding.”

He also congratulated him on his return to the peloton as did many other riders from the intenational roster. Santí Pérez didn’t venture any advice, because “I thought that it wasn’t the time to bring up bad memories. He’s doing well in the race, even though it was a tough and rainy day. Just as he won this race in the last two years, I’m sure that in the mountain stage he’ll look for another win if possible. His team protected him well from the wind and the risk of crashes. It’s good for cycling that a champion like that is competing again.”

Stage 1 results: 1 Gilbert (Omega), 2 Ciolet (Quick Step), at 5”; 3 Greipel (Omega), 28 Contador (Saxo Bank), 41 Santí Pérez (Barbot), 108 Dani Navarro (Saxo Bank), at 48”, and 147 Joaquín Sobrino (Caja Rural), at 2:55.

2009 RACES

Alberto Contador 2009

Race reports: Spanish Championship, Dauphiné Libéré, País Vasco, Castilla y León, Paris-Nice, Volta ao Algarve, criteriums


2008 RACES

Race Watch 2008

The Year of the Triple Crown: Reports, results, photos, comments


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.