www.albertocontadornotebook.info - Alberto Contador Fans Notebook



July 24 - Contador - brilliant as an underdog, gracious in defeat - says: “In this Tour, I’ve learned to savor the good days”

98th Tour de France, Stage 21

Over and out for Alberto Contador in Tour 2011 (Dani Sanchez)

Stage 21, July 24: Créteil - Paris Champs-Élysées, 160 km

Alberto Contador closed the book today on the 2011 Tour de France, three weeks of bad luck and injury that kept him off the podium for the first time since his rookie appearance in 2005.

In spite of a thrilling finsih at the Mur-de-Bretagne and outright brilliance on the descents to Gap and Pinerolo, plus a hair-raising day on the attack at the Alpe d'Huez, Alberto never claimed a stage win or special jersey.

Crashes produced handicaps in the form of an early time loss and a nagging knee injury which turned the Giro-Tour double into a mirage. And yet the race does not end on a sad note.

98th Tour de France In the face of the challenges of this edition, Contador behaved with grace when victory eluded him, then dug deep to produce some of the most dazzling and fearless cycling the Tour has ever seen.

The suffering and disappointment of these last three weeks have revealed character assets in the three-time champion that aren’t associated with a rider defending the yellow jersey at the top of his game. Adversity has brought out Contador’s humility in defeat, his guts, initiative, and descending skill as an underdog, which would not have been seen in better times.

Alberto Contador didn’t win any prizes at the Tour de France this year, as he did at the Giro, or at Murcia, Catalonia and Castilla y León. Instead, he has been victorious at the character level, and therefore leaves France not with a title, but as a true champion.


The riders made the long transfer from the Stage 20 city of Grenoble by air early this morning.

It was perfect weather for the ceremonial ride into Paris, which was led by overal winner ex-World Champion Cadel Evans - the first Australian and one of the oldest riders ever to win the Tour -, King of the Mountains Samuel Sanchez, and Best Young Rider Pierre Roland. The points contest was finalized on the road in Stage 21, ending with the green jersey in the possession of Mark Cavendish.

Alberto Contador enjoyed the ride in the peloton like all the others, with one difference: he was already thinking about returning to win a fourth title in 2012.

Cavendish won the final sprint.


Saxo Bank DS Bradley McGee: “We're happy to be in Paris with all nine riders and with Alberto who kept fighting to the very last. We entered the race to win but different circumstances didn't allow us to but we're optimistic regarding future success and we will be back to win again next year. It's been a fantastic Tour de France overall. The suspense of this year's race has been phenomenal and as a viewer, you really can't ask for more as the GC wasn't decided until the penultimate stage. There are some safety issues regarding the crowd on for example the Alpe d'Huez stage and I hope that the Tour organization will provide a safer Tour de France 2012. Now, we're teaming up to celebrate.”


You’ve been left at the doors of victory in the crono.
I felt well, I’m happy, but when I climbed onto the rollers to warm up, I did notice the fatigue from yesterday. It was a tough day, lovely, and one that you’ll always remember but it also really saps your strength, especially if it’s on the eve of a demanding crono like this one. But aside from not having gotten a stage win, I’m happy with the result.

98th Tour de France It’s been a Tour on the back foot, but you’ve fought until the end?
I know what I’ve been through in this Tour and during the whole year. It wasn’t the best start to the race, there’ve been a lot of factors that have had a negative influence, but I still decided to continue and give the maximum. Those last few days I have had good days and days that were less good, but I’m very happy. It’s clear that if you make the podium it’s better but the goal that I brought was to win the overall, I didn’t do it, but the affection of the people is more satisfying than having another winner’s symbol in my palmares.

What have you learned in this Tour?
I’ve learned things in this Tour, there are days that are not very good and those allow you to savor the ones that are. At the end of the Alpe d’Huez stage I saw that my cell phone batteries were dead because of the number of messages that had come in and this time it was different from other times, just thanking me because they had enjoyed the stage. That was much more satisfying that getting the victory.

Cadel Evans will win this Tour.
He deserves it. His riding style isn’t spectacular, but he did a great race, he was very strong from the first stage where he was contending with Gilbert, and in the mountains and he defended really well. He did an extraordinary time trial, he deserves the victory.

Do you think that the Schlecks lost the race by not attacking in the Pyrenees?
That’s not my thing, I’m not going there. They were asked that question, not me; I was focused on my own race. They were, however, watching a lot of riders and maybe they need to clarify each one’s options more, but in the end the race turned out the way it did, and it’s easy to analyze in hindsight.


AS.COM (EFE) | Alberto Contador, 5th overall in the Tour de France, has begun to think about the reconquista of the Tour, saying in the Champs Elysées that next year he will not go to the Giro and will come back “to win.”

“Next year I’ll come back to win the Tour and focus entirely on this race, which is the most important. And for that reason, I won’t go to the Giro. Never again to the Giro,” said the three-time winner of the French grand tour.

Contador, who saw his streak of six consecutive grand tour victories broken in Paris, experienced an unsual feeling there. He didn’t even climb on to the podium.

“It’s a different year, a feeling I haven’t experienced since 2007, but it leaves me with a good feeling. The year has been exceptional and that remains with me. Anyway, I’m gonna ask them to let me up on the podium for just a second,” said Contador jokingly.

The Madrilenian cyclist evaluated the fact of having done the race at less than his best. “I started on the wrong foot and the last few days were better. I haven’t won any stages, but I’m leaving with a good feeling,” he said.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 21, 71st (s.t. Cavendish-2:27:02)

FINAL TOP TEN: 1 Evans (86:12:22), 2 A. Schleck (1:34), 3 F. Schleck (2:30), 4 Voeckler (3:20), 5 Contador (3:57), 6 S. Sanchez (4:55), 7 Cunego (6:05), 8 Basso (7:23), 9 Danielson (8:15), Peraud (10:11)

Photos of Contador in Stage 19 and 20 from the Tim de Waele free access gallery


July 23 - Contador: “Cadel Evans is a fair and worthy winner of the Tour”

98th Tour de France, Stage 20

Alberto Contador, with Tony Martin and Cadel Evans, was one of three stand-out riders in the Stage 20 ITT (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador, third in the Tour’s Stage 20 individual time trial at Grenoble and fifth overall, acknowledged at the finish line today that “Cadel Evans is a fair and worthy winner of the Tour de France” and stressed that, in a “year of difficulties,” he gives his season a positive review.

“Cadel Evans deserves the Tour and is a worthy winner. His style of riding isn’t spectacular, but he has demonstrated that he’s very strong, has fought for stages, today he did a great time trial and he’s a fair winner,” said Contador.

The three-time winner of the Tour, who won his second Giro d’Italia this year, admitted that he had had to overcome difficulties from day one of the present edition of Le Grand Boucle.

“Nobody knows what I’ve been though in this Tour and during the whole year. The beginning wasn’t the best, but I continued, I gained strength and gave the maximum. I’m happy with my season. The affection of the public is also very special. Yesterday my cell phone was jammed with messages, congratulating me on the stage, and that’s more satisfying than the stage win,” he said.

Contador gave his impressions the Grenoble time trail, won by Tony Martin of Germany, where Evans dislodged Andy Schleck from first place in the general classification: “I’m happy with the time trial, I felt well. Yesterday was a tough day and today I felt it. I didn’t make the podium, but I came here to win. There were better days and worse days, but what I take away is a very positive review of the year,” he emphasized.

The cyclist from Madrid said that he did feel “fatigued” when he was on the rollers. “On the Alpe d’Huez day it was very nice, but I it left me without much strength,” he explained. “Obviously, when you expend that much energy, you pay for it the following day.”

“The affection of the people is more satisfying than the stage win. When I got to my hotel room, my cell phone batteries had run out from all the messages they sent to thank me for the tremendous display of effort,” he said.

Asked about the role of the Schleck brothers in this Tour, Contador said: “They looked around for other riders a lot, and I think that they should clarify things.”

more to come


July 22 - Contador on Stage 19: "Today I had to risk it"

98th Tour de France, Stage 18

Contador receives recognition for Most Combattive Rider on Stage 19 (AC press room)

Stage 19, July 22: Modane - Alpe-d’Huez, 109 km

Alberto Contador closed out Tour 2011’s Alpine stages today with an impressive performance that only lacked the victory, banked on an attack at 90 kilometers to go with which he demonstrated his caliber as a rider by destroying the field. “It’s a shame not to have gotten the stage win. Maybe I attacked too soon,” said the leader of Saxo Bank-SunGard.

Alberto said that yesterday “when I reached the finish line, it was a very tough blow, but I’d barely crossed the finish line before I started analyzing it all, and I thought that today I had to give it everything,” he said about how he built his strategy. “Yesterday I didn’t like what happened. I’ve been on the back foot for the whole Tour, so today I went out to do whatever I could, God willing. I didn’t care whether I finished 5th or 24th in the general.”

Contador said that he had come to the Tour thinking only about the general classification. “Honestly, everything that’s not winning the general is all the same to me. I came to the Tour thinking about victory in the general, but knowing that it was very difficult because of the famous Giro-Tour double. Once the chance of victory disappeared, today I had to risk it.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

Riis and Contador after Stage 19 PLAYBOOK

Alberto Contador took a gamble today in Stage 19 of the Tour de France and attacked at 20 kilometers after the start of the grueling last road stage in the Alps.

The stage was only 109 kilometers long, but included another climb of the Galibier - following up the summit finish there in yesterday's massive queen stage - and a finale on the legendary Alpe d'Huez.

Alberto's attack put the cat among the pigeons. While the peloton reacted to a feigned attack by teammate and decoy Chris Anker Sorensen, Alberto sailed around the edge of the fray and launched himself on a bonzai mission that had more to do with self-expression than with a final grab for the yellow jersey.

As Contador powered into the distance, a rich drama played out among the favorites, including a potentially disastrous mechanical by Cadel Evans - prinicipal favorite for the overall - and an epic fight by Thomas Voeckler, ultimately unsuccessful, to save the maillot jaune.

Desperate efforts by the favorites group brought Alberto back into the fold, but at 12.5 km to go, on the lower slopes of the Alpe, he attacked again.

He maintained the tete de la course until Pierre Roland and Samu Sanchez (who was after the polka-dot jersey) caught him in the final two kilometers. The stage win went to the young Frenchman.

Contador - the Most Combattive Rider of the day, nursing an injured knee and plagued by an unlucky Tour - refused today to calculate or ride the wheel, and instead rode outside the box, delivering something spontaneous and free, rebellious, beautiful and unforgettable.

Photo: Riis and Contador embrace after Stage 19 (Nils Meilvang)


Saxo DS Bradley McGee: ”Alberto gave everything he had in him to come back and to create the stage and he surely made it a day to remember. He missed his usual power on the last kilometers of the stage and we're obviously disappointed to miss the stage win but we know he gave us all and the race a 100 % effort. Rolland was a bit of a surprise but he's obviously a powerful rider and took a stunning stage win on the legendary mountain."


DIARIO VASCO | by Benito Urraburu - Alberto Contador said that next year he will return to the French race, “but not to come in fourth or fifth, but to win. I don’t regret anything, I’ve ridden the way I like. Going in the group or attacking only on the final climb wouldn't have had the same satisfaction,” he said.

“I had to give it everything. I told myself 'that’s what God wants.' It’s all the same to me being 5th or 24th. It’s been a shame not to win here, but everything that’s not winning the general is all the same to me.”

He confessed last night, after having lost all his chances of winning the Tour on the Galibier, that he thought about going home, but he marked the challenge of getting a win on the Alpe d’Huez. “I function based on motivations. When I was in bed yesterday, I thought about spending a Tour as a nonentity and it made me feel like going home. So I decided to try something. I knew that I’d either break the race or they’d let me go. And it was broken.” he said. “It would’ve been simpler to attack on the last climb, but it wouldn’t have been equally satisfying,” he insisted.

“I came to win the Tour, but I knew that getting a double with the Giro was going to be very difficult. It’s difficult to tackle the Tour with a schedule that’s too loaded. The Giro d’Italia has taken a toll,” he said. “And as if that weren’t enough, I’ve been on the back foot the whole Tour, with the crashes, the knee problems, the efforts of the whole year…,” he said.

Contador congratulated the stage winner, French rider Roland, and highlighted that the Tour is still open. “Andy Schleck has a gap of a minute over Evans and he’s shown that he’s very strong.”

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 19, 3rd (0:23 Pierre Rolland-3:13:25). Contador in GC, 6th (3:55 A. Schleck-82:48:43). Most Combattive Rider

TOP TEN: 1 A. Schleck (82:48:43), 2 F. Schleck (0:53), 3 Evans (0:53), 4 Voeckler (2:10), 5 Cunego (3:31), 6 Contador (3:55), 7 Sanchez (4:22), 8 Basso (4:40), 9 Danielson (7:11), 10 Rolland (8:57)




July 22 - Messages for Alberto

from a fan

from a fan

Good luck today, Alberto!


July 21 - With flare up of knee pain, Alberto doesn't have the oomph to shut down the younger Schleck

98th Tour de France, Stage 18

Contador stayed within the pack on Stage 18 (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 18, July 21: Pinerolo - Galibier Serre-Chevalier, 200.5 km

Alberto Contador experienced a bad day today and couldn’t respond to the attack by Andy Schleck on the Izoard, resulting in a significant time loss on the Galibier, the final climb. “It wasn’t a good day. I had no power left in the final 10 kilometers; I was incredibly sapped. Due to what, I don’t know,” said the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader.

Alberto said that he didn’t know “if it was a bonk, I don’t know, but the last few kilometers were really tough. It was easy enough riding on the wheel, but I couldn’t do it, so I concentrated on reaching the finish line and getting out of there.” In addition, he acknowledged that the hope of victory “is practically impossible.”

Contador was confident that, after Schleck’s attack, “we could make up the time, but he played it very smart and possibly the riders in front worked well and reached some sort of agreement. It was a good tactic and we have to congratulate him.”

Alberto also praised Cadel Evans. “He did an incredible job and took on the responsibility. Now the important thing is to recover and fill our energy tanks because we’re empty. We have to think about tomorrow and rest well.”

Contador said that this was not the saddest day he’s ever had. “Not at all. In the end, I’m pretty used to coping with different situations and the truth is that it was not my saddest day.”

h Alberto repeated that he realized that he was hitting a wall “at 7 or 8 kilometers from the line. I already felt really bad there, I was suffering and hanging in there until I decided to go at my own pace and get it over with.” He also explained that things weren’t going well at the beginning of the stage. “The beginning of the stage wasn’t good, I had to go back to the doctor’s car for an anti-inflammatory. I didn’t expect this, though.”

About Andy Schleck’s effort and the effects it might have later, he said that “you always feel it later, but he opened at big gap and I think that he’ll be able to maintain it.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Saxo Bank-SunGard DS Bradley McGee: ”Obviously, we have to accept today's defeat as true sportsmen. That's a big and important part of any sport. Andy took a big risk out there and he had the legs to back it up. But I really respect guys like Evans and Voeckler for their effort today. It surely was a great for the race, Tour de France and we're truly sorry that we were not in the main characters today. Alberto just didn't have it in him to keep up on the final kilometers. There's still a few stages left of the Tour and we are here to be a part of it."

Attitude beyond reproach

El Mundo | by Fernando Llamas - The worst time may be the best time to admire an athlete. Alberto Contador’s defeat on the slopes of the Galibier offers us a new profile of the cyclist from Pinto. And, rather than putting a black mark on his resume, his manner of understanding the competition in any situation, even negative ones, brightens it.

A winner like Contador, who hasn’t known defeat in grand tours for four years (six victories, one after another) could have filled our ears with excuses, ones that any fan who has followed cycling in recent months could easily track down.

He congratulated Andy Schleck for terrific race tactics and Cadel Evans for having “taken on the responsibility.” He didn’t give a detailed explanation for the failure, for feeling ”incredibly sapped." It’s hard to believe that he is not going to revive on Alpe d’Huez, but after having seen him say that “winning is impossible” we have only a few chances in the remaining hours of racing to see him riding with the light, pure climber style that has delighted us for so long.

Surely there are many people that are happy. Knocking down a winner pleases a a certain type of person. But they’re wrong: Alberto Contador, who, according to all the pronoucements of the experts, will emerge unscathed from his case involving last year’s positive, has room for progress. He has been one of the most spectacular cyclists of this edition of the Tour while burdened with dead weight, crashes and inflammation: What will happen when he returns after a normal winter and a season without monumentally exhausting projects like the Giro?

Whatever happens on Friday and Saturday, the behavior of the champion from Pinto has been impeccable at all times.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 18, 15th (3:50 A. Schleck-). Contador in GC, 7th (4:44 Voeckler-79:34:06)

TOP TEN: 1 Voeckler (79:34:06), 2 A. Schleck (0:15), 3 F. Schleck (1:08), 4 Evans (1:12), 5 Cunego (3:46), 6 Basso (3:46), 7 Contador (4:44), 8 S. Sanchez (5:20), 9 Danielson (7:08), 10 Peraud (9:27)



July 20 - Incendiary duo of Contador and Sánchez scorch another crucial descent, but the others survive the flames!

98th Tour de France, Stage 17

For the second day in a row, Alberto and Samu dive-bombed the descent (Reuters)

Stage 17, July 20: Gap – Pinerolo, 179 km

Alberto Contador attacked again today on the descent of the Pramartino in a quest to gain time on his rivals in the GC, succeeding in distancing Voeckler and Basso on the eve of the two great Alpine stages that will decide the overall winner of the 2011 Tour de France. “I spent the same amount of effort as the others,” he said about his attack, “but it was not too risky. It was a dangerous descent but I was always under control, never going beyond the limit.”

Alberto said that it was very difficult to gain time in Stage 17 today because “there were a lot of riders behind us and it was easy for them to catch back up, but the important thing is to try every day.” Concerning his rivals, he said that he thinks it’s strange that the Schleck brothers are not attacking: “They’re waiting for me, but I’m doing my race. End of story.” And about the time robbed from Voeckler, he said that it’s a “pretty sweet payoff, because he’s a terrific rider who defended incredibly well in the Pyrenees and any time that you can take away from him is important.”

Alberto believes that tomorrow’s stage is the most important in the Alps “due to it’s difficulty, but the final part on the Galibier is very open and the percentages are not very steep. Everything will depend on which way the wind is blowing.” About the Alpe d’Huez stage, he said that it’s “short and explosive, but it’s definitely harder than tomorrow’s.”

Asked whether we’ll see the same Contador who won the Giro, now that he’s back in Italy, the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader said that Giro memories were strong “when we passed Sestrière. The penultimate day of the Giro seems like a long time ago, but today I knew that we were on a typical Giro descent and that I had to try, because going uphill everybody was watching and the climb wasn’t very hard. I tried, which is important. Now I would like to be the same as at the Giro. What I can do, I will do, but the rest of riders are very strong and everybody has the same motivation. It’s going to be very difficult.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

RTVE | Alberto Contador said at the finish line in Pinerolo that “it’s always good to have allies,” in reference to the collaboration with Samuel Sanchez that produced a split in the favorites’ group on the descent of the Cote de Pramartino at 11 kilometers from the banner.

“You have to look for allies, but they have to be up to the task and have a common interest. It’s good to have them,” Contador said at the finish line, after shaking hands with Samuel Sanchez, with whom he shared a joint-escape in the final kilometers of the previous stage, in which both reduced time differences on the other favorites, as did Evans.


The drama in the favorites’ group took place on the 2nd-category Cóte de Pramartino, a narrow road without shoulders running through a dark wood.

Young Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen had broken away—with 11.1 km remaining—from the escape of the day to ride to a solo win in Pinerolo. Behind him, the favorites began the climb.

At 8.9 km to go, Contador attacked. Schleck and Evans got back on his wheel immediately and leadership of the favorite’s group began to yo-yo, with Alberto lifting the pace, and Andy taking tentative digs.

Rein Taaramae attacked off the group at 5.8 km, lifting the pace again. Andy followed, Alberto behind him, then the others, winding down a road that was crowded with fans and too narrow to pass.

When Voeckler overcooked a corner at 2.7 km, Samuel Sánchez and Alberto attacked, screaming down the descent in tandem. Samu took a corner too wide, but Alberto, in firm control, took the lead and hammered hard toward the finish. Samu rejoined, and the two time-trialed with slick precision cooperation toward Pinerolo, tucked in, snarling furiously.

Meanwhile, the favorites stayed the course behind, except for Voeckler, who ran off the road into a parking lot before resuming the descent, thus losing time. Nearing the finish line, Contador and Sánchez—after creating a splendid example of the kind of spectacle that Spanish riders have a knack for, and which has been lacking in this Tour—suddenly discovered they had company.

The group containing most of the favorites rejoined the Spaniards and they finished together at 4:26 behind Boasson Hagen. Losers on the day were Voeckler and Basso, but the Frenchman retained the yellow jersey while the stage’s finale put 27-second crimp in the Italian’s chances for an overall win.


Saxo Bank-SunGard DS Bradley McGee: “Certainly, we have to take advantage of every opportunity there is and the ones we can create ourselves. Surely, Alberto showed that masters both attacking uphill and on the descent. It ensures us that he physically looks like he's where he has to be at the moment and it looks promising in terms of the entire race and of the next few days. He was actually held up by a crash in front of him at the bottom of the climb. But he kept his cool and rode right up to the front – to attack. There's no way around it. Tomorrow, there will be another thrilling stage and I think we all have a lot to be looking forward to."

Frank Schleck: "It was very dangerous today. Unfortunately another guy lost some seconds and maybe the Tour because of a downhill, and this time it was Thomas (Voeckler) who had to pay for for it. I don't think any athlete wants to win or lose the Tour de France because of a downhill."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 17, 22nd (4:26 Boasson Hagen-4:18:00). Contador in GC, 6th (3:15 Voeckler-73:23:49)

TOP TEN: 1 Voeckler (73:23:49), Evans (1:18), 3 F. Schleck (1:22), 4 A. Schleck (2:36), 5 S. Sánchez (2:59), 6 Contador (3:15), 7 Cunego (3:34), 8 Basso (3:49), 9 Danielson (6:04), 10 Uran (7:36)




July 19 - Alberto surprises rivals on Col de Manse, advances in GC

98th Tour de France, Stage 16

Contador attacked and gained precious seconds in Stage 16 (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 16, July 19: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Gap, 163 km

Alberto Contador was pleased today with the result of his attack on the road to Gap, a move that had been planned in advance. “I was very clear about wanting to attack and I didn’t care who got on my wheel. I knew that someone could fail and at the end it was better than I expected,” the leader of Saxo Bank-SunGard said at the finish line.

“This result is no reason to be euphoric,” said Alberto, “but the most important thing is that my legs responded better and that always motivates the team as well as myself. There are still three more days of mountains left and we’ll have to try to take advantage of them.”

For Contador, what happened was more important than the seconds gained over his rivals. “The most important thing has been how my legs felt and that there were no accidents,” he said. “The rivals are still the same as yesterday.”

The purpose of Alberto’s attack was surprise. “It was very clear that it was possible to attack on a day like today, and I wanted to try. I didn’t know about the result, because the climb wasn’t very demanding. I’ve always been motivated, but this motivates me more.”

Alberto said that the collaboration with Samuel Sánchez will continue in the upcoming days. “We’re very good friends, and in the time trial neither of us is superior to the other. He can be a great ally at some particular time,” he said before acknowledging that Sánchez was “the only one I told that I was going to attack when we got to the climb. It was a shame, because he told me that he was on the edge, otherwise we could have made more time differences.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


El Mundo | “'I’m here. Stop. I’m back. Stop. I want to win the Tour. Stop.' So went the telegram sent by Alberto Contador to his rivals on the Col de Manse, the appetizer to three Alpine days where the final winner in Paris will be decided. A day spent in rain and and an attack on that second-category climb, too much for Andy Schleck, the big loser, with 67 seconds lost to Alberto at the finish line. On the road to Gap, defying every risk, emerged the figure of Cadel Evans, imposing on the descent, the first of the favorites to the finish, with three seconds advantage over the tri-champion." (end of excerpt)

Alberto Contador launched a brilliant attack on the Col de Manse at 14.9 km from today's finish line in Gap to take back precious seconds in the GC.

He accelerated coming out of a curve on the rainy ascent of the 2nd-category climb. His rivals were caught by surprise, in spite of Contador's public warnings that he would take advantage of any chance to gain time.

Contador's move made a strong statement that he is able to fight for the win after injuring his right knee days ago. The other aces responded as they were able, in short, Cadel Evans and Samuel Sánchez joined Alberto in a thrilling chase to Gap, where Thor Hushovd had gone before and taken the stage win.

The other favorites struggled. Voeckler and the Schleck brothers couldn't hold Contador's wheel in spite of Cancellara's help. Basso and Cunego sat farther back, riding side by side in an attempt to minimize losses on the dangerous wet descent.

The big loser of the day was Andy Schleck, who was unable to cope with the tempo on the climb, then choked on the hazardous descent. He sank, losing over a minute to Contador. On the other hand, both Contador and Sánchez - who worked together - moved up in the GC, and Evans's strength and courage guaranteed a gripping final phase of Tour 2011.


Saxo director Bradley McGee: “Alberto today showed that there's a bike race going on. We knew there was a good opportunity of making a move on the climb distance the rivals before the descent which favored Alberto as it was slippery wet. Cadel is obviously looking strong and he's an expert descending. I hope and I think we're going to see a lot more attacking the following days. It was a good day for us and a good day for the race".

Samuel Sánchez: “We got through a difficult day and on the descent we stayed clear of trouble by being at the front. You have to take this Tour one day a time. In this Tour, it’s not worth it to think about what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen two days from now. The most important thing is to try to recover as best you can for the next day’s stage. Now we’re in the third week of the Tour and the strength is starting to wear down. You just have to be steady in this Tour, there’s no other secret.”

Frank Schleck: “We didn’t expect him (Contador) or any of the other big favorites to do that. Bjarne knows we don’t like bad weather and that the descent would be quite tricky for us. Hats off to them. But it’s not a tragedy. We will stay focused on what we have to do and we’re looking forward to three days in the mountains.”

Andy Schleck: "It was a dangerous finish. I was not feeling great when he attacked and I did a bad descent. People don't want a race that is decided in a downhill. We don't want crashes or thoughtless risks. We have families waiting for us at home. Do the public want a fair race or a race which ends in hospital?"


EFE | Samuel Sanchez, 5th in the general classification after Stage 16, said that in spite of having had a day that was “formidable for having taken time on the direct rivals” it had been “a shame” not to have been able to collaborate more with Alberto Contador so that the time differences they could’ve gotten would’ve been larger.

“It was clear that the only person who could turn the Tour upside down was Alberto Contador, and what we did today has been formidable for both of us because we’ve taken time,” said the Olympic champion.

The Euskaltel leader explained that on the ascent of the Col de Manse, which peaked at 11 kilometers from the line, he spoke with Contador, who proposed a mutually-beneficial strategy for attacking and descending together to the goal.

“We spoke about trying to get an advantage on the descent. I told him it was absolutely super by me. The pity was that I was on the edge and couldn’t collaborate more.”

“We’ve both moved up a place in the general, but we still have a deficit. We have to continue to be consistent, there are no secrets beyond that.”

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 16, 12th (4:26 Hushovd-3:31:38). Contador in GC, 6th (3:42 Voeckler-69:00:56)

TOP TEN: 1 Voeckler (69:00:56), 2 Evans (1:45), 3 F. Schleck (1:49), 4 A. Schleck (3:03), 5 S. Sanchez (3:26), 6 Contador (3:42), 7 Basso (3:49), 8 Cunego (4:01), 9 Danielson (6:04), 10 Uran (7:55)




July 19 - Nicki Sørensen says team has stepped into character for protagonist role in Tour Week 3

Nicki Sørensen Alberto Contador and Saxo Bank-SunGard had a tough start to the Tour de France, but the Danish champion, Nicki Sørensen, told Feltet.dk on the second rest day that we have not yet seen the best from the team’s side.

"It was a big shock at the beginning when we lost 1.20 in the first stage, but otherwise I think that, as a team, we’ve gotten more and more into character as we’ve entered the mountains, so I really don’t think we've seen the best yet. "

"I can’t say anything other than that Alberto has looked better the last few days, so I think it looks good. Additionally, I think the Alps are really good for him. There are better roads in the Alps than, for example, the narrow roads in the Pyrenees, which create some stress. We certainly can’t say that the Alps don’t come with enough challenges, so it's going be a super exciting race."

Alberto Contador tranquilo

Despite three crashes and the lack of time gains in the Pyrenees, Alberto Contador has been crushingly calm after the stages, which according to Nicki Sørensen has been very important for the whole team.

"He’s a rider with a huge mental strength in general, and it also affects the rest of the team. He is very, very professional, even if it is not a Contador in top-top shape we've seen so far. I hope and believe it will come. He has already run and won a very tough Giro, so if he wins here, it's just super, super nice. "

New role, strong Spaniards

Nicki Sørensen intended to play a role at Tour de France that involved keeping a low profile at the start, in order to be ready to work starting with the Massif Central and throughout the rest of the race. The unfortunate start for the team meant, however, that Bjarne Riis gave the Danish champion a new role as a valuable personal attendant to Contador.

"After we rode into the mountains, where I've had some tough days, it’s obviously taken its toll. So I’ve been used a lot, but I think it’s been a sound decision. I probably won’t play the major role in front in the next stages, which is more for the climbers, although I feel that I’m not so much in my mountain form as last year, "he explains.

The entire Saxo Bank-SunGard team and especially the three Spanish helpers—Daniel Navarro, Jesús Hernández and Benjamín Noval—have been subjected to some criticism in the Danish press, criticisms which Nicki Sørensen is far from agreeing with:

"I think that both Navarro and Hernández have done really well. In addition, I also highlight Benjamín Noval as a super team rider. But look, unfortunately not all the work he is doing is shown on TV, but he’s been really sharp."

Nicki Sørensen was also able to say that he’s chosen to extend his career for at least one more season. Whether or not it’s at the Saxo Bank SunGard team, which he has been part of since 2001, is not yet known.


July 18 - Alberto Contador at the second rest day press conference

98th Tour de France, 2nd rest day

Contador attends rest day press conference, Monday, July 18 (AC press room)

“We have to take advantage of the three Alps stages”

Alberto Contador was present at today’s press conference, held one day prior to the decisive assault on the Alps. The Saxo Bank-SunGard leader was calm and confident in his possibilities, promising to do his best and saying that every remaining stage will be important for the final result. “These three days are going to be important, the time differences are quite large and everybody’s going to play an important role.”

For Alberto, “the days on the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez stand out, and the finish at Pinerolo is going to depend on the weather because the finale is dangerous and could open gaps in bad weather. The Galibier is extremely tough, and Angelo is impressive and if you want to get anything, you’ll have to set a good pace from the beginning of the stage. Everybody knows Alpe d’Huez, but it’s a short stage, with only the Galibier before it—we’ll have to see what the time differences are like. We have to take advantage of the three stages because the time differences in the general are big.”

Alberto acknowledged that he’s at a different level than at the Giro d’Italia. “I couldn’t say exactly , but I’m at another level. You have to keep in mind that the Giro is not the best preparation for the Tour. You notice it in the recovery time—all you have to do is look at the others, none of whom are high in the general. I’m not fresh like I was at the Giro, which allowed me to attack. At the Giro, things were more conducive to attacking because the climbs were closer together. In the Alps, the climbs are very far apart and it’s difficult to attack.”

At any rate, he hopes that he’ll be “better in the Alps than in the Pyrenees. The main problem in the Tour has been the crashes. My knee has been badly affected, and that makes you not pedal naturally and change styles. It’s been giving me problems at the start line, but then improves. I’m counting on being better in the Alps.”

Alberto said that he didn’t attack in the Pyrenees because he couldn’t. “If I’d had the legs and if I’d been in good shape, I would’ve tried, because that’s the way I ride and because of the great atmosphere there, with all the fans.”

About the Schleck brothers and the possibility that they could’ve lost the Tour in the Pyrenees, he said that there is more race to come, “but every day that goes by without knowing which one is their card to play for the general makes it more complicated. It seems like there’s a lot left, but in two days we’re in Paris. They have to think about tactics. They know who’s best and one will sacrifice for the other. If not, it’ll get complicated with Evans and with Voeckler himself, who’s going to be hard to get rid of after that.”

Alberto declined to say which rider he’d like to see win in Paris if it’s not him. “Everybody has his preferences, but I’d rather not name names. They asked me that same question in the Giro and I didn’t want to respond so as not to create conflicts.”

For him, of course, “it will be impossible to win the Tour with this current classification” if he only relies on the Grenoble time trial. He must attack, even though each rider has an equal level of strength to tap after the Pyrenees. “It’s been an amazingly hard beginning to the Tour due to the narrow roads, the wind and the rain. It has been the most tense ever, with incredible exhaustion, and we’re noticing it in the mountain stages.”

Andy Schleck referred to Evans and Voeckler as the candidates for the victory, without mentioning Contador, but Alberto thinks that “I am considered a rival. I’d love it if they didn’t follow me when I attack, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

In the Alps, he’s confident that everything will be different and there will be attacks, because the terrain is different. “In the Alps, the climbs are longer and at higher altitude. A lot of people are not going to feel well. We have to attack and break the race” in order to try to dislodge Evans, “who’s getting closer to victory every day,” and to Voeckler, “who, with his amazing form, is going to be difficult to get rid of.”

In fact, to Contador, Voeckler is “a clear candidate for the overall victory. He passed the Pyrenees with flying colors and, in the Alps, he won’t have problems in the Pinerolo stage. In the other two he could lose time, but he has a big advantage in the GC. I don’t know if he’s the top favorite, but at the very least, he has the same chances as Cadel Evans.”

Finally, Alberto said that he’s not “facing the great challenge of my career, but it is an extra motivation for riding. I have deep peace of mind thanks to the season that I’ve had and everything I’ve achieved this year. Now the Tour is a challenge, not the greatest of my career, but I am eager to start the race all over again.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

98th Tour de France, 2nd rest day

While changing shoes, Alberto allows us a look at his injured right knee (AC press room)

98th Tour de France, 2nd rest day

Alberto and Jesús confer with team staff on the second rest day (AC press room)


July 18 - Bjarne Riis, Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso are among those who think the Schleck brothers fumbled on Plateau de Beille

Bjarne Riis at Fleche 2011

Bjarne Riis, owner and manager of Team Saxo Bank-SunGard (Kahane)

July 17 | VeloNews - Contador, the comeback kid? by Andrew Hood

Bjarne Riis says his former pupils the Schleck brothers made a mistake by not eliminating Alberto Contador in the Pyrénées.

Contador was on the ropes in the opening mountain stages, unable to open up the searing attacks that typify his style of racing. But while he couldn’t attack, Contador was able to hang close to the Leopard-Trek tandem.

“It’s a mistake — a big one,” the Saxo Bank-Sungard boss told VeloNews on Sunday. “Yes, they missed an opportunity.”

The Contador camp is quietly growing confident that the Spanish climber will be able to recover from a rough-and-tumble first half of the 2011 Tour and use the Alps to try to ride back into contention for overall victory.

Contador is four minutes down on Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler and still more than two minutes behind Fränk Schleck. Contador was able to respond to the Schlecks’ attacks in two summit finishes at the Pyrénées, with Contador only losing 33 seconds to Fränk at Luz-Ardiden and two seconds to Andy at Plateau de Beille.

“If some of these guys sitting in that group, if they want to win this Tour, they have to attack,” Riis said without naming names. “They have to make it harder, there has to be more selection.”

Riis said the rest day comes at a good time to give Contador one more day to recover going into the Alps. Contador has vowed to go down fighting, but Riis is hopeful that his team captain will be able to have one good day and drop everyone.

“I am confident that Alberto is going to be good in the Alps,” Riis said. “We are going for the victory — nothing else.”

Riis said the Schlecks’ inability to drop Contador or BMC’s Cadel Evans in the Pyrénées bodes well for Contador.

“I think it has been good for Alberto. (Saturday) was important to see that he’s improving. If he can regain his level, he’s going to be dangerous,” Riis said. “To win, he has to attack, that’s obvious. Why should he wait for L’Alpe d’Huez? I don’t see a reason to wait.”

July 16 | Sidney Morning Herald - Control and conserve: Evans will not tow the Schleck brothers to Paris, by Rupert Guinness

Cadel Evans: "The Schleck brothers are there. They ride all day, they have the yellow jersey to gain and then they look at me to pull for them. Hang on a second, 'I am not here to tow you to Paris'

July 16 | Cyclingnews - Basso Critical of Schleck tactics on Plateau de Beille, by Barry Ryan

Ivan Basso: "I think that if Andy and Frank want to try and drop Cadel Evans and the others, they need to start their forcing earlier on the climbs, otherwise it will be difficult."


July 17 - Shut up, knee! We're going to attack!

98th Tour de France Stage 15

Contador, the unknown quantity: Can he find winning form in the Alps? (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 15, July 17: Limoux – Montpellier, 187 km

Alberto Contador got through “a complicated day for those of us in the peloton, although maybe on television it seemed like a quiet day,” he said after finishing Stage 15 today.

“There was a lot of tension. There were 70 kilometer per hour gusts of tailwind and constant changes of direction. It was a day of tension and stress, but I’m happy and encouraged. The team was amazing. They protected me at all times and my legs have responded very well, too,” said the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader.

Alberto is confident that things continue to improve for him every day throughout the rest of the race. “I’ll have to see how everything goes. Yesterday that was the best situation for me, even though there were two or three times when I was on the point of making a move,” he said in reference to a possible attack on the Plateau de Beille, “but I saw that it was too flat and that I had to wait. I hope that my legs respond well in the Alps and the only thing I can say is that I’m not going to get to Paris with the doubt of what would’ve happened if I had tried,” he said, implying that he will attack in the upcoming stages.

What he did not reveal is which stage will be the most important in the Alps. “All of them are, same as the classification. You can’t waste any of them,” he said. And about Voeckler, Contador said that his state of form “is incredible, and so is his teammate’s. He has several minutes on me and it’s going to be hard to get them back.” About the Schleck brothers, he said that they still don’t know which of the two is the leader: “They still have two trump cards to play.”


Stage 15 was a quick flat run to Montpellier. Mark Cavendish won the day.


Saxo Bank-SunGard directeur sportif Dan Frost: ”You really can't say that the riders got a chance to recover today. We were extremely cautious due to the hard cross winds at the beginning of the stage and even though the wind settled towards the end of the stage, we took no chances and stayed in the first row of the peloton. Other teams had the same idea and took the pace up to an extreme level and especially in the final three kilometers where the pace didn't go under 70 km/h. But we're certainly happy about the team's performance today. Alberto was brought safely to the finish line and that was today's objective. Tomorrow it's time to recover and I guess the riders are all looking forward to recuperate before it goes down in the Alps.”

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 15, 43rd (s.t. Cavendish-4:20:24). Contador in GC, 7th (4:00 Voeckler-65:24:34)

TOP TEN: 1 Voeckler (61:04:10), 2 F. Schleck (1: 49), 3 Evans (2:06), 4 A. Schleck (2:15), 5 Basso (3:16), 6 S. Sánchez (3:44), 7 Contador (4:00), 8 Cunego (4:01), 9 Danielson (5:46), 10 De Weert (6:18)



July 17 - Comments by Dani Navarro and Benjamin Noval

Sanchez, Barredo, Noval and Navarro LA NUEVA ESPAÑA | JE Cima - Dani Navarro, Alberto Contador’s mountain gregario from Gijón in Asturias, says, “I’m doing well and I’m eager to do good work for Alberto. The day at of Luz Ardiden I made a mistake and didn’t eat and bonked. We always learn from errors and I hope that doesn’t happen to me again, so l can do my job well.”

About his boss, the Asturian from Saxo Bank is confident that he’ll recover because “we’re going to see a good Alberto.”

Benjamin Noval, Saxo Bank rider from Mieres who is once again protecting his leader in this Tour, explains that “I already did the most difficult work in the first twelve days where it was my job to help Alberto on the flats. There was a lot of tension and it was really exhausting, but I’m doing well. Now my duty is to help the team at the beginning of stages because then Dani Navarro, Jesús Hernández and Chris Sørensen are the ones that have to help him in the mountains.”

The Asturian ATV, who’s also the friend and roommate of Alberto Contador, acknowledges that there have also been moments in which they’ve had to encourage him because, “his knee hurt. That had a psychological affect that kept him from being one hundred percent. But he knows to be focused on the race and that’s why I see in him the desire to do well.”

Photo: Samuel Sanchez, Carlos Barredo, Benjamin Noval and Dani Navarro: Tour 2011's Asturian fighters (Toni Albir)


July 16 - Alberto, slowed by knee injury, disliked nature of riding on Plateau de Beille, looks forward to doing it his way in Alps

98th Tour de France Stage 14

Contador stayed with the favorites on the Plateau de Beille in spite of his knee injury (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 14, July 16: Saint-Gaudens - Plateau de Beille, 168 km

Alberto Contador gave a positive review of his performance in the Tour today, since even though he didn’t manage to take back time on his rivals, he neutralized all attacks and got some precious recovery time for the Alps, even though he didn’t ride with his characteristic attack style. “I don’t like riding like that at all, it’s a totally different type of cycling than mine, but due to one thing and another, things are not going the way I’d like,” said the leader of Saxo Bank-SunGard after crossing the finish line.

“Today I didn’t have a bad day, I was fine and I hope to get better as days go by. In the Alps I’m confident I’ll be completely recovered and able to take back time,” said Contador, satisfied with having come in with the favorites. “Physically, I’m not feeling great, but I’m sticking with them. Today I didn’t have too many difficulties and that’s encouraging for the stages that are coming up.”

Alberto said that the others have had “a calmer beginning to the Tour, without accidents, while I’ve had a lot of problems, not forgetting that my schedule has not been ideal for tackling the Tour de France. That’s why I’m happy, and now I’ve got to take advantage of every minute to recover, thinking about the stages that are left.”

Asked if the Schleck brothers could lose the Tour if the race continues going as is, Contador responded that, at the very least, “every day that goes by without gaining time on riders like Cadel Evans makes a win more difficult.” About Voeckler, he said that he’s a “tough rider, who’s holding on tight, but the day that he cracks, if he ever does crack, he’ll lose a lot of time, even though he’s incredible right now.”

Alberto said that today he had “better pedaling than yesterday. Every day I’m getting better, although I really don’t like riding the way it was ridden today, but I have to adapt to how my legs are doing and how I feel physically.” And he said that the Alps will favor him because “people will be more physically spent and the climbs are at higher altitude, which works out well for me. There’s still a lot of Tour left,” he said optimistically.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Stage 14, with its summit finish at Plateau de Beille, saw Contador noticeably more comfortable since injuring his knee. He wasn’t mended enough to launch his own attacks yet but, benefiting from the help of all of his mountain gregarios on the lower slopes, he was able to answer the attempts by rivals to shake him. Contador stayed to the back of the favorites’ group after the selection had been made, riding as he had said he would, with the goal of watching others (uninjured) who were under more pressure to attack.

It had been seen as one of the most important stages of the Tour, but in the end, for the favorites, it was a twaddle. After shelling off their Leopard Trek teammates before the final climb, the brothers—who had everything to gain in the face of an upcoming long ITT, their Achilles heel—never deployed the one-two punch. Andy Schleck’s lackluster attempts failed to produce a spark until a final surge left too late, which only netted a gain of two seconds.

Pussy-footing around and frequent backward glances is a poor substitute for attack cycling.

The top placings in the GC saw little change at Plateau de Beille. Winners on the day were Jelle Vanendert, the young Belgian who slipped past the favorite’s sparring group and won the stage; Samuel Sánchez, 2nd, who nearly stole the show just as he did at Luz Ardiden; and Thomas Voeckler, who rode admirably to stay with the GC men and retain the yellow jersey.


Saxo Bank-SunGard DS Bradley McGee: “The top names still seem to be looking at each other and seemingly, they are all at about the same level. It's kind of a surprise that such a large group of riders cross the finish line at the same time after such a tough stage. We're happy to see that Alberto seems to be doing better. And it was not a bad day for us. Nothing was gained and nothing was lost. I'm happy to see the team is working very well in the peloton and especially Chris is looking strong at the moment. Tomorrow, we are going to pay attention on the weather as the forecast doesn't look too good. Wind and rain is going to hit the field and we have to make sure Alberto finishes safely.”

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 14, 6th (0:48 Vanendert-5:13:25). Contador in GC, 7th (4:00 Voeckler-61:04:10)

TOP TEN: 1 Voeckler (61:04:10), 2 F. Schleck (1: 49), 3 Evans (2:06), 4 A. Schleck (2:15), 5 Basso (3:16), 6 S. Sánchez (3:44), 7 Contador (4:00), 8 Cunego (4:01), 9 Danielson (5:46), 10 De Weert (6:18)



July 15 - "Tomorrow I hope to be as good as new," says defending champion

98th Tour de France Stage 13

Alberto Contador, Stage 13 (AS.com)

Stage 13, July 15: Pau – Lourdes, 156 km

Alberto Contador was happy about the condition of his knee at the end of Stage 13 of the Tour today, even though he is still taking precautions. “It was doing better, but at the beginning of the stage it bothered me a tiny bit once again, but at the end of the day it wasn’t giving me any problems. I hope that tomorrow I’ll be as good as new.”

Contador thinks that tomorrow’s stage “could be perfect for getting back time if I’m feeling well. Plateau de Beille is a very hard climb—I remember it from 2007—and we’ll have to see what happens. But the stage will amount to more than just the last climb, instead it’ll be incredibly exhausting from the beginning and we’ll have to see how I feel.”

One thing Alberto Contador is clear about is that the Schleck brothers will have to try to shake things up. “Absolutely, they have to do it. Their situation is pretty complicated, because yesterday it’s as if they wasted a of day putting time into people like Evans, a rider who’s very solid in the mountains and very strong in the time trial. Definitely, they’ll have to make a move.”

Alberto doesn’t want to reveal anything about his strategy or about whether he’ll attack, or how—from far out or on the climb. “We’ll have to see how the legs are working, that’s the first thing.” But he doesn’t count out the possibility of an attack. “I’ve got to see how the rivals are, but if I see the opportunity, I’ll take it.”


Aware of the rigors of tomorrow's stage with a summit finish at Plateau de Beille, the favorites took it easy today, in spite of a climb up the Col d'Aubisque. One of the most combattive riders in this edition of the Tour, Jeremy Roy, managed a long solo escape that was only neutralized in the final 3 kilometers by World Champion Thor Hushovd. Hushovd, on a very impressive day, won the stage while Roy took possession of the KOM jersey.


Saxo climber Chris Anker Sorensen: ”We had to save some energy today and even though we were able to just float along in the main field, it was a rather tough day. At the beginning of the stage, the pace was really high so it wasn't just a matter of transportation today. But we are as ready for tomorrow as we can be and I think Alberto looks better for each day and I have a feeling that we will experience a gruelingly demanding stage in high pace tomorrow."

Saxo DS Bradley McGee: “We had an excellent stage saving energy and at the same time, we had all nine riders in the main group so I guess it was another stage well done in the pocket. Today was actually all about getting ready for tomorrow where I think we're going to witness an exciting performance from the overall favorites. I'm looking forward to it and I guess the crowd and viewers should too."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 13, 38th (7:37 Hushovd-3:47:36). Contador in GC, 7th (4:00 Voeckler-55:49:57)

TOP TEN: 1 Voeckler (55:49:57), 2 F. Schleck (1:49), 3 Evans (2:06), 4 A. Schleck (2:17), 5 Basso (3:16), 6 Cunego (3:22), 7 Contador (4:00), 8 S. Sánchez (4:11), 9 Gilbert (4:35), 10 Danielson (4:35)




JUly 14 - The aces show their cards, Contador nurses the injured knee

98th Tour de France Stage 12

Contador, hampered by the injured knee, hung back and let others make the first move in Stage 12 (AFP)

Stage 12, July 14: Cugnaux - Luz-Ardiden, 209 km

Alberto Contador managed to keep time losses to a minimum today on the Tour de France’s first mountain finish, where he rode with a handicap: the cumulative effect of accidents suffered throughout the first part of the Tour. Under the circumstances, he was able to give the stage a thumbs-up. “I’m happy with the result because I’m sure that I’ll get better with every passing day, and that’s what’s important,” said the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader.

“As I said this morning, my goal was to allow other people to make the first move, because it was the first mountain stage after so many setbacks and I had to be a bit cautious and not take too many risks,” said Alberto at the finish line. “You could tell right away that the Schleck brothers were going to play two cards, that they were going to take turns attacking in quick succession. In the end, when Frank got away, it was not due to strength.”

Contador said that in the final part of the stage, “maybe due to using a little higher gear than necessary, the knee seemed to bother me a little, but I’m happy with the result of the first mountain stage. I’m sure that I’ll get better as day go by. Today I didn’t do very well as a consequence of the crashes. I didn’t feel all that well and I couldn’t get into my natural pedal stroke.”

Alberto also said that tomorrow’s stage comes along at the right time, before the Plateau de Beille stage, because “every day that there is in between helps me be able to get back on the right wavelength, since recovery is my strength.” Finally, talking about the Schleck brothers, he said that the two “are equally dangerous, but it’s true that Frank has been very strong so far.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Asturian rider Samuel Sánchez of the Basque team Euskaltel-Euskadi took the dramatic win after outstripping the favorites and resisting the solo attack of Frank Schleck.


Saxo Bank-SunGard director sportif Bradley McGee: ”It turned out to be an exciting stage where Alberto stayed at the front but by the look of it, he seemed to have an off-day as you often see on the first day of the mountains and I saw many of the other big names being dropped early on the stage.

"I think Alberto will only become stronger and stronger each day. On the final part of Tourmalet, we launched Jesús to keep up the pace of the pack and at the foot of the final climb we were positioned just like we wanted. Tomorrow's stage will probably be controlled and as I see it, the single climb won't play a major role but it's hard to predict anything in this exciting Tour."

Rival Ivan Basso of Liquigas-Cannondale: "I think Contador has had a lot of problems in the first part of the Tour, a lot of falls, but let's be careful not to underestimate him. Contador is a champion. You need to remember that he might only need one real attack to win the Tour de France."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 12, 8th (00:43 S. Sánchez-6:01:15). Contador in GC, 7th (4:00 Voeckler-51:54:44)

TOP TEN: 1 Voeckler (51:54:44), 2 F. Schleck (1:49), 3 Evans (2:06), 4 A. Schleck (2:17), 5 Basso (3:16), 6 Cunego (3:22), 7 Contador (4:00), 8 S. Sánchez (4:11), 9 Danielson (4:35), 10 Roche (4:57)




July 14 - Olympic champion from Asturias says "If I'm in a position to help him, I will"

Samuel Sánchez REUTERS | The Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez and Alberto Contador are rivals in the Tour de France, but the Asturian is willing to help his compatriot and three-time Tour winner if the national interest is in play in the upcoming stages.

The leader of Euskaltel-Euskadi, like Contador, lost crucial time in the first stage of the Tour and warned that he would take advantage of any opportunity to attack.

Since Contador is in the same situation, collaboration between the two is a serious option for taking time from the race leader, Thomas Voeckler.

“When Alberto attacks in the mountains, it will be very difficult to follow him, but if I’m in a position to help him, I will,” he added.

Sánchez said that a stage win is his principal objective in this Tour, but he would be happy to avenge the disappointment that he experienced last year when he was knocked off the podium by Russian Denis Menchov in the final time trial in Pauillac. Menchov is not competing this year in the Tour since his team Geox were not invited, which makes third place a reasonable goal for the Spaniard.

“It would be logical for me to end up on the podium, but the Tour didn’t start exactly the way I wanted,” said the 33-year-old rider. “It was the crash in the first stage that cost Alberto and me 1:20. But there’s a lot of road ahead and we’ll see if we can gradually recover the lost time,” he said.

Criterium Ciudad de Oviedo 2010 Everything could change in the Pyrenees, where Stage 12 will take place on Thursday and in which the Spaniard will be almost in his home country.

“A stage win in the Tour remains with you forever. And if it’s in the Pyrenees, it’s even better because we have a lot of fans there who turn the stage orange with their t-shirts, and it will be especially emotional,” he said.

In spite of his lack of pull in the first week, Sánchez is confident that this edition of the race is a good fit for him and he thinks that the Alps, even more than the Pyrenees, will see the decisive moments of this year’s Tour.

“I think that the Alps will be decisive, especially the stage on the climb of the Galibier. For me, it’s the queen stage. It will mark a bigger selection than at the Alpe d’Huez,” he said.

Photos: (upper) Samuel Sánchez, leader of Euskaltel-Euskadi; (lower) Contador, with Sánchez and Ivan Basso, cuts the ceremonial ribbon at the 2010 Criterium Ciudad de Oviedo (Criterium Ciudad de Oviedo)


July 13 - After a cold wet day's work, Contador says "The knee never once bothered me"

98th Tour de France Stage 11

The sooner the Pyrenees get here, the better, according to these soaked riders (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 11, July 13: Blaye-les-Mines – Lavaur, 168 km

Alberto Contador crossed the finish line today happy to have avoided crashing and, more than anything, happy to have proven that his right knee is practically recovered before the Pyrenees. “The knee is responding well and that’s why I’m so happy, but you have keep in mind that today I didn’t climb the Tourmalet. I have to see how it responds and, based on that, make a decision about the last big climb.”

“The knee never once bothered me,” said the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader. “Maybe for me the rain was just the medicine, because it was like ice,” he said light-heartedly, and continued joking that part of tomorrow’s stage reminded him “a little of the Giro d’Italia, except over there they’d have more like 200 kilometers of climbs.” “Tomorrow will be a difficult day, the first hard day, and one where the favorites have to show their state of form on very demanding mountains. We’ll see how all the legs respond.”

Alberto was pleased with his teammates’ work during the stage. “It was a stage where we wanted to be in front every minute, and the team was exceptional—they maintained positions at the front because it was important in the first part of the race, on the non-stop climbs. At the end it started raining again and it was quite dangerous, but I counted on the support of my teammates so now there’s one day less and without crashes. Now I want to take advantage of every minute to recover for tomorrow.”

On Luz-Ardiden, Contador thinks that everyone “will be waiting for someone to pounce. There are people who have to try to shake things up, especially the Schleck brothers, but until we see how the stage develops there’s not much you can say. Besides, the weather will have a big influence.”

Alberto repeated that other people will have to take the initiative “because I’m still recuperating from the crashes, so my moment will come a little later.” Also, he thinks that “the Pyrenees and Alps are equally important, it’s fifty-fifty.”

About the importance of the Pyrenean stages, he said that the most important ones are “the one at Luz-Ardiden, because it comes first, and the one at Plateau de Beille, because it’s more demanding than the one tomorrow: The two are equally important.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Stage 11 was only 168 km, leaving extra time for Contador and the many aching riders in the peloton to rest and recover in preparation for tomorrow's first contact with the high mountains. There was rain all day, including a deluge during the last 10 kilometers that put nerves on edge for fear of crashes. Saxo Bank-SunGard, however, stayed upright and made it safely to the finish. Mark Cavendish won the sprint ahead of Greipel and Rojas.


Saxo Bank-SunGard DS Dan Frost: "It was a rainy wet stage with a lot of narrow roads where we primarily did what we could to stick to the front to avoid accidents and the boys did a great job. We're ready for tomorrow where a lot pieces fall into place in between the overall favorites. I expect the stage will be opened on the final climb and I can't wait to watch it. Usually, a few of the favorites have a bad first day in the mountains as they sort of have to find the rhythm. We also expect that Alberto is ready."

Richie Porte: ”Today, we simply followed the plan. The experienced guys on the team followed Alberto safely to the finish line on the final part of the stage which was wet but not as cold as you may think. The morale within the team is in top condition. Everyone's really excited about tomorrow's stage which I think will be crucial to the outcome of the overall GC in Paris. My job is to keep Alberto safe on the penultimate climb and despite knowing how much pain I'll be in, I'm looking forward to getting the job done. Chris (Sørensen), Daniel (Navarro) and Jesus (Hernandez) are all ready to take on the climb to Luz Ardiden and I know they can't wait to enter their kind of terrain,” said Saxo Bank-SunGard's Richie Porte.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 11, 47th (s.t. Cavendish-3:46:07). Contador in GC, 16th (4:07 Voeckler-45:52:39)

TOP THREE: 1 Voeckler (45:52:39), 2 LL Sanchez (1:49), 3 Evans (2:26)



July 12 - Contador sets the record straight: the knee is better, and “Going home has not even entered my mind”

98th Tour de France Stage 10

Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos was with Alberto Contador at the start today, where the two reigning Giro champions congratulated each other on their victories (AC press room)

Stage 10, July 12: Aurillac - Carmaux, 161 km

Alberto Contador categorically denied reports today hinting that he would abandon the race in the Pyrenees because of his right knee. “Going home has not even entered my mind, only when the Tour is over,” he said before the start of the stage. Later, at the finish line, he confirmed these words. “In the beginning, it’s always difficult, because the start was very fast, but it kept getting better as the stage went by,” he said about his knee.

“At first it bothered me a little, but I got along fine. We really had to watch out at the end of the day, because there was a split on the last climb. I was a little behind and I had to get back to the front, but I’m glad because that shows that the legs are working well,” he said about his physical condition during the race. “At the end, I was careful to avoid crashing again and made it through the transitional day.”

Contador commented that he had no problems in the crash at the 14-kilometer mark, in which the majority of the leaders were caught out. “Practically all the favorites were held up, but it wasn’t stressful because it was practically all of us, the Schlecks, Basso, Klöden… the majority. It wasn’t tense.”

Alberto said that he had fielded many questions about his knee. “Yes, they’ve asked me how I am, but that’s common these days. The topic of conversation is finding out how everybody is, because practically all of us have had crashes.”

He denied any possibility of abandoning. “I’m going to do everything I possibly can to achieve my goal, which is to fight for the victory in Paris. I’ve made it through the day and that’s good for my leg because it wasn’t a very demanding stage. So now I’m going to recover and think about tomorrow,” he said of another day that, in his opinion, will be good for him. “It’s one of the few days left for recovering, because it’s not too demanding. I hope to get through it comfortably and with no knee trouble.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

The stage ended in a sprint finish won by Andre Greipel of Omega Pharma-Lotto.


Bjarne Riis: ”The stage went as we had hoped. We didn't spend too much energy at any time even though everyone seems to think the pace was high. Tosatto and Noval are doing a tremendous job shielding Alberto from the wind. Alberto seems to be doing a lot better so we're very optimistic."

Saxo Bank-SunGard climber Chris Anker Sørensen: “I'm feeling really strong so obviously, I'm looking forward to reaching the high mountains and not least to reaching the Luz Ardiden climb. According to plan, I was supposed to relax today and just finish the stage but I decided to stay with Alberto until the very end."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 10, 31st (s.t. Greipel-3:31:21). Contador in GC, 16th (4:04 Voeckler-42:06:32)



July 12 | SuperSport - Contador meets fan who caused crash

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has met, and forgiven, the young fan who caused a crash in the first stage of the race and left the Spaniard with a significant deficit.

At first reported to be a woman the fan, as it turned out, was a rugby-loving teenager from Les Herbiers called Theo.

After a first peloton had passed on the road to Mont des Alouettes the 13-year-old poked his head out to look up the road at the peloton.

Seconds later Kazakhstan's Maxim Iglinsky collided with the teenager, sending him into the ditch. While he suffered cuts and stings from nettles, the subsequent split in the peloton left Contador frantically chasing his rivals but finishing 1min 14sec behind most.

It was the worst possible start to the race for Spain's three-time champion, who has since crashed another three times.

Contador finally got to meet the teenager who may have derailed his bid for a fourth yellow jersey in a meeting organised Monday by French sports daily L'Equipe.

After an ironic "Gracias hombre! (Thanks man!)" to Theo, Contador warned of getting too close to the peloton when speeds can easily reach 60km/h.

"The important thing is to pay attention to the peloton next time you're on the road," Contador said in L'Equipe.

"We ride fast and it's dangerous. I would rather you enjoyed seeing the riders go past."

Theo, who endured a few sleepless nights after reliving the incident on television, admitted: "It was the first time that we saw the Tour go past. But after that happened my Mum was really ashamed.

"My parents, brothers and friends haven't stopped making fun of me since.

"The thing is, I'm not even a cycling fan. I play rugby at Les Herbiers. It's my Dad and uncle who are big fans.

"But of course, I had heard of Contador."


July 12 - Samuel Sánchez on Contador: "Many times he has confronted situations more difficult than this."

Samuel Sánchez at the 2011 Tour de France July 11 | MARCA - Samuel Sánchez:"Contador is the favorite"

The reigning Olympic road race champion and leader of Euskaltel’s Tour squad, Samuel Sánchez, has little doubt about who the principal candidate for victory in the 2011 Tour is. “Contador is the number one favorite, he has six grand tours in his palmares and many times he has confronted situations more difficult that this,” he commented.

The Asturian rider said that this Tour will be for one who falters least and that Contador’s role will be to attack. “That means spectacle. It will be a lovely Tour, and we’re going to see how the others respond,” he said.

To avoid accidents, Samuel commented on some aspects that could help to reduce the number of crashes. “Measures that could be adopted? We all want to arrive as quickly as possible. You have to look for roads with escape ramps, without barbed-wire fences, so that what happened to Hoogerland doesn’t happen, roads with hard shoulders, that don’t have shrubberies in the median. This year the problem is that there was no prologue, no time gaps were made, and a lot of people wanted to be leader, so there’s more risk,” he said.

July 11 | El Norte de Castilla (EFE) - Igor González de Galdeano: “Contador’s the one who will dynamite the race”

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano Igor González de Galdeano, director of Euskaltel Euskadi, thinks the job of “dynamiting the race” will fall to Alberto Contador, probably in the Pyrenees, and when the race leaves the those mountains, the winner will be known, according to the directeur sportif of the Basque squad.

After a week of crashes, among them two riders from the orange team, Txurruka and Velasco, the balance sheet can’t be seen as positive by Igor González de Galdeano.

“It hasn’t been a good week for us. Samuel Sanchez lost 1:20 on the first day, but we’re going to go with him 100% in the Pyrenees,” he said. Igor is clear that much will be clarified in the Pyrenees starting Thursday, and points to his favorites.

“On Luz Ardiden the first list of favorites will make the news, and I think that Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans are going to be in the first places on it. Samuel is behind now, but you have to remember that he didn’t come here to lose,” he said.

“I think that the Pyrenees will be more decisive than the Alps. In the first mountain stages the strongest will appear and in the last, coming unhitched will mean elimination. Whoever emerges as leader in the Pyrenees will have won much,” he said.

The job of dynamiting the race “will be Alberto Contador's, and the Schlecks will have to hit back.”

“To Andy: every day I see him (Contador) with a better pedal stroke,” he warned.

Photos: Samuel Sánchez/Josu Garai; Igor González de Galdeano/Tropela


July 11 - Contador optimistic about injury, looking forward to Pyrenees

98th Tour de France, 1st rest day Contador's smile is bright in spite of nursing an injured knee (Reuters)

Alberto Contador devoted the first rest day of the 2011 Tour de France to a 90-minute workout to test the condition of his right knee and, after eating with the rest of the team, holding a press conference during which he confirmed he’s much better today, after yesterday’s crash, and is looking forward to seeing the first indications in the Pyrenees of how the fate of the race will play out.

First, Contador answered a question about Tour safety and the crashes that occurred throughout the first week. “This is turning out to be a slightly different Tour than the ones in recent years, and it reminds me a bit of 2005, the first one I rode, which was also complicated. One of the reason it’s complicated this year could be bad weather and rain. Another factor is the uphill finishes, where the sprinters think that they can take it, but where the GC men also have to keep from losing time. This year we’ve also got particularly narrow roads. Also, the first crash where I lost time has had an impact, because since then everybody has been more cautious and that’s caused a lot of tension. Finally, it’s necessary to take measures for clear hazard indications, because the curve where the crash happened yesterday was dangerous and there was no signage.”

Could it also be that there are a lot of inexperienced riders and that there was no prologue to make a selection in the GC?

Not everybody can be required to have experience in his first time here but, of course, that has ramifications. About a prologue, it’s clear that it makes a selection and that makes things more relaxed, but this is what the route is like and there’s no need to go on about it.”

Does your knee hurt? How much?

Yes, it hurts. It wasn’t a very dramatic crash, due to getting tangled up with Karpets, but I sustained a hard knock on the inner part of the right knee and that’s produced a large area of inflammation. I didn’t lose time yesterday and today I was able to go out for a spin, so now I must take care of the knee and try to recover.

Are you worried that the knee will be a problem when you get to the mountains? /

You always worry about that, because the Tour is a demanding race, and not only in the mountain stages, because I can’t pedal as normal, with the high cadence, nor can I have a normal massage, but it is what it is and I’m dealing with it optimistically. There are still three days left before the Pyrenees and I hope to respond with no problem.”

What worries you more, the lost time or the knee?

I’ve got to wait for the first stage in the Pyrenees or even tomorrow in order to say, because we’ll have to wait and see how it’s going with the knee to see which is more important.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador Notebook


July 10 - Contador: “This is not turning out to be my Tour, but I’ve got to be optimistic”

Stage 9, July 10: Issoire - Saint-Flour, 208 km

Alberto Contador was unlucky again today and experienced another crash, this time caused by snagging his handlebar on Vladimir Karpets’ saddle. “It was an accident,” said the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader, “but as the stage went by, I felt some more pain in my right knee and I’m a little worried, because these last few days this same right knee has been bothering me. Now it’s on the inner side; I hope that between today and tomorrow, with a lot of ice, I can recover.”

Alberto, still impressed by the hard crash which involved his former teammate Alexandre Vinokourov, acknowledged that luck does not seem to be on his side. “This is not turning out to be my Tour, it’s a complicated Tour, full of accidents and bad luck, but I’ve got to be optimistic. There’s still a lot left and I must focus on recovering as quickly as possible for the stages in the Pyrenees.”

In that context, he was happy that tomorrow is the first rest day, “because there’s a lot of inflammation and the best thing for me is to do no more than stretch a little.” Alberto also offered some reasons to explain so many crashes. “We’re riding a Tour with narrower roads than usual, maybe due to having gone to the north, and rain makes you really prone to crashing,” he said. “In the big crash today, we were going at an extremely fast pace and couldn’t see the curve. I saw what happened to one rider, and it made your hair stand on end. I hope that everybody is okay and that they recover soon.”

Contador explained that the cause of his crash was that “my handlebars got hooked on another rider, and there were some spectators in the road and I collided with them. I had bad luck and whacked my knee somewhere on the bike and I was in pain for the whole stage.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 9, 12th (3:59 LL Sanchez-5:27:09). Contador in GC, 16th (4:07 Voeckler-38:35:11)



July 9 - Super-Besse not decisive for the favorites

98th Tour de France Stage 8

The GC favorites stayed close enough to keep an eye on each other at Super-Besse (Pascal Pavani/Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 8, July 9: Aigurande - Super-Besse Sancy, 190 km

Alberto Contador arrived at the top of Super-Besse “feeling good, but the finish wasn’t demanding enough in terms of slope and it was complicated to break it,” he said to explain the day’s result.

“It went at a very fast pace all day and there was no time to get into the rhythm of climbing a big mountain, but I’m happy that it’s one less day and that every day we’re closer to the Pyrenees,” said the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader.

For Alberto, it wasn’t a day for dueling with Andy Schleck, because “it was more a tough hill for people able to climb in the big chainring than one for climbers, and that’s why I’m happy. Not much more could be done in a stage like today’s. The best thing is that I got through it without crashing.”

Contador reckons that taking time before the Pyrenees will be difficult. “I see it as very complicated, but you never know which is the best place, whether it’s the Pyrenees or the Alps. We don’t have to obsess about taking time in the Pyrenees, because the Alps are in the last week and you can take time there, too. You have to watch for the right time and take advantage of it. We saw that people’s strength is waning, and these first nine stage are going to play a very important role in the next mountains.”

And finally, Alberto said that Gesink’s loss of time was important because this stage “could take its toll on someone. Whenever riders of Gesink’s level lose time, it’s good.”


Saxo Bank-SunGard rider Chris Anker Sørensen after the stage: "It was good to enter my kind of terrain and see that the form is alright. I went to the front at the start of the final climb to pick up the pace and as we expected no one was able to create the crucial gap. Tomorrow there's a stage full of climbs meaning we have to stay alert and stay in the front of the pack."

Bjarne Riis: “We didn't see the big battle among the overall favorites and we didn't really expect that either on this short uphill finish. Richie (Porte) and Chris (Anker Sørensen) were up front to set a high pace on the final part of the stage and we're just happy that everything went as we had planned."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 8, 8th (0:15 Rui Costa-4:36:46). Contador in GC, 20th (1:42 Hushovd-33:06:28)

TOP FIVE: 1 Hushovd (33:06:28), 2 Evans (0:01), 3 F. Schleck (0:04), 4 Klöden (0:10), 5 Fuglsang (0:12)



July 9 - Continuing his in-depth talk with the Spanish sports daily, Contador discusses Tour prep and replies to Merckx

Contador wins on Mount Etna MARCA | June 29 | Between your cycloturista ride (I Marcha Cicloturista Alberto Contador), the Alps and the Spanish Championships, it seems that you haven’t had much time for yourself.

I do the best I can to be organized, in spite of the all the commitments, and I think that, yes, I have rested enough.

Basso, Evans, Wiggins and many others who in recent years have ridden the Giro before the Tour, have been unsuccessful in France. Aren’t you afraid the same thing will happen to you?

Of course. I have to be aware that going to the Tour doesn’t mean that you’re going to win it, and that winning the double is, I’m not going to say impossible, but it’s very difficult, since we have to take into account that nobody has done it since Pantani in 1998. Furthermore, in modern cycling, more is done to measure efforts and recovery, and that makes it still more difficult. I’m going to go do the best I can.

This year, furthmore, the Giro was extremely hard. Is it possible to blame the efforts in the last week?

It’s clear that if there had been four summit finishes in the Giro instead of six, and if there were about half as many mountains in the Tour, it would work out better for me, but the Tour is what it is and the Giro was what it was, and that’s that.

The Schleck brothers, Evans, Basso, Gesink, Van den Broeck, Leipheimer, Horner, Kloden, Samu…, all your rivals have skipped the Giro in order to arrive at the Tour at one hundred percent. Is that an advantage?

It’s always better, and better guarantees success, to tailor preparation exclusively to a particular race. That’s why there’ll be a lot of riders who’ll arrive at one hundred percent, after having prepared every detail, with training camps of over three weeks at alititude and having meausred efforts, but those riders are also playing their big card for the season and out of 10 or 12 who’ve done it, only one can win.

You’ve already done a full season of work, right?

I’m very happy with the year I’ve had. And not just due to the victories, but rather because in every competition I’ve been at very high level and I’ve been a main player. That gives you great composure.

Winning for Xavi at Nevegal Nevertheless, Eddy Merckx said on Monday in L’Equipe that he was stronger in the Tour when he had disputed the Giro before it.

I really hope that’s how it goes for me, but honestly, I see it as difficult. I don’t think that it’ll be like that in my case.

Have times really changed all that much?

I didn’t experience his times, I don’t know how they’ve changed or how much they’ve changed since then, but I do know that you pay for all the effort you make and that this year I’ll show up at the startline of the Tour with twice as many days of competition as in past years. Plus, from the Volta ao Algarve to the Giro, I’ve ridden everything to win. It’s been many months of racing and training camps, and it all adds up.

Merckx also said that in his good days he wouldn’t have been afraid of Contador, that he would’ve looked for a weakness and made war constantly.

True, riding against him had to be very difficult. That was a an era unto itself and cycling was very different: before, it was more soloistic and now it’s more strategic, with more control of forces. You can’t compare them, but Eddy wasn’t the greatest in history for nothing.

Photos: (upper) Victory on Mount Etna; (lower) Contador on his way to a win in Giro Stage 16 at Nevegal (Tim de Waele free access gallery)


July 8 - After scratches and dents of first week, Contador says “I expect that tomorrow I’ll be in mint condition”

Alberto and Jesus before Stage 7

Contador and Hernandez before Stage 7 (AC press room)

Stage 7, July 8: Le Milla – Châteauroux, 215 km

Alberto Contador congratulated his teammates for a job well done after crossing the finish line of Stage 7 of the Tour de France today. He was already looking forward to tackling the Massif Central, which, as the first mountains in this edition, are a prelude to the Pyrenees.

Stage 8 At the start line, Contador commented that today’s stage would be “another long, complicated day—200 kilometers—and during which we’ll constantly have to beware of the wind,” although his hope, which in the end was fulfilled, was “to avoid crashes and to have one less day before we get to our own turf.”

Alberto said that, starting tomorrow, “the terrain is more selective, mainly because it makes it a match of strength, as was seen in the group that arrived yesterday—small. I’m eager to get to this terrain, especially the day after tomorrow’s. They’re two demanding stages after these early days of racing that are causing people to arrive already worn out.”

Stage 9 Contador acknowledged that the recent rainy days “are worse for recovering from injuries. Yesterday afternoon (after the stage), I was much worse, but this morning I woke up already feeling a little better, and I hope that when I get up tomorrow, I’ll be in mint condition.”

Alberto has only seen tomorrow’s stage on video. “I haven’t done this climb, but I’ve seen the year that Riccò beat Valverde, and it’s hard. It will also depend on whether the race is full speed from the outset, but it could create splits.”

Stage 10 He believes that Sunday’s stage will be the more demanding one, “although there’s less danger of splits at the finish, but throughout the day there are climbs of 8% and six kilometers long. They’ll be the first big climbs of this Tour.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

Thumbnail images of Stage 8, 9 and 10: letour.fr


After the stage, Saxo Bank-SunGard DS Bradley McGee said, “We kind of knew that this could be the last very nervous stage so we were extremely cautious and focused on keeping Alberto out of trouble and the boys did a perfect job. Nicki, Benji and Matteo were absolutely astonishing today and they were constantly guarding Alberto. Now, we're looking forward to go uphill to something that just might be our terrain."

And according to Bjarne Riis: ""It was another and hopefully final nervous stage of the race. I'm sorry to see that Wiggins (Bradley) is out because of a crash. Now, we're simply happy that we have reached the first mountains and we are probably going to see some of the top riders make an attack tomorrow. But I don't think it's going shake the GC that much. But I'm excited to see the race open in the mountains."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 7, 33rd (s.t. Cavendish-5:38:53). Contador in GC, 23th (1:42 Hushovd-28:29:27)

TOP FIVE: 1 Hushovd (28:29:27), 2 Evans (0:01), 3 F. Schleck (0:04), 4 Millar (0:08), 5 Klöden (0:10)



July 7 - Alberto Contador after Stage 6: "I feel pretty good."

98th Tour de France Stage 5

Contador on the way to Lisieux in Stage 7 in spite of pain and swelling from yesterday's crashes (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 6, July 7: Dinan - Lisieux 226km

Alberto Contador finished Stage 6 of the Tour de France today feeling quite well in spite of his bruises after being active at the front of the peloton on the final small climb before the goal. A nasty crash yesterday meant taking the start with injuries all over his right side, but the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader survived another danger-filled day. “I’m very happy because I got through the day,” said Alberto.

Contador said that it had been “a bit of a struggle starting the stage, but once there, I felt pretty good. It was dangerous, because at one point we could hardly see anything because of the rain, and at the end, a rock or something got into the wheel bearing and I decided to change bikes. To be on the safe side, I took Dani Navarro’s bike first, and then my second one. Finally, at the finish line, I paid very close attention, above all to keep from losing time.”

Alberto said that his injuries hadn’t caused too much pain. “I’ve got the same soreness everybody else has—sore legs.” And he acknowledged that what cost him the most misery was “the first part of the stage, because you wake up bruised all over, super-uncomfortable, and at first the abrasions are dry. That’s the worst part, but in the final kilometers I thought less about that and more about trying to stay clear of crashes, because it was dangerous.”

Eventually, he was even seen at the front of the pack. “I saw Voeckler start, but I didn’t want to try anything in the end because I didn’t have the legs to be able to finish. I was very badly positioned on the curve below the climb and I had to pass the entire peloton to get back on. I didn’t have the strength nor was it my kind of finish. The best thing was to stay quiet there.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Rain, narrow roads and some tricky final kilometers—the usual suspects—put nerves on edge once again today, making Stage 6 a day of wariness and apprehension, especially for the GC favorites.

The peloton moved from Brittany into Normandy along the longest route of this edition. Saxo Bank-SunGard only drew attention in the last act, when, at 30 kilometers to go, Contador experienced a mechanical and pulled over. In an efficient operation, he quickly switched bikes with teammate Dani Navarro and was ridden back up to the pack by Porte, Vandborg and Nicki Sørensen.

At 27.5 km to go, the reverse swap was made. Contador got his second bike from Navarro and bridged with the help of Noval as the rain began to pour. The Saxo squad was at the back of the peloton when Leipheimer crashed, but skirted the incident with no problem.

Contador continued to ride himself toward the front, accelerating out of a dangerous left-hand curve in the final 3 kilometers and onto the last hill. He rapidly reached the front of the pack and appeared to be on the verge of attacking, but laid back when Voeckler jumped, continuing uphill a few places back until time to get out of the sprinters’ way.

Norwegian sprinter Edvald Boassen Hagen took the win.


After the stage, Saxo boss Bjarne Riis said, “This stage was much more calm than the previous stages and I think everything went as we had hoped for despite of heavy rain and wind. Alberto had a completely undramatic bike change due to problems with his pedal. Now we just have to focus on getting through tomorrow-s stage before entering a terrain that suits our team and our riders."

Danish climber Chris Anker Sorensen: "It was long, wet and windy day in the peloton but the most important thing is that we finished the stage safely. I'm now looking forward to do a little bit of climbing in the hopefully sunny moutains."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 6, 48th (s.t. Boassen Hagen-5:13:37). Contador in GC, 34th (1:42 Hushovd-22:50:34)

TOP FIVE: 1 Hushovd, 2 Evans (0:01), 3 F. Schleck (0:04), 4 Millar (0:08), 5 Kloden (0:10)



July 7 - "It's a great effort, but Contador is the great champion"

MARCA | Italian cyclist Ivan Basso of the Liquigas team has had words of praise for three-time Tour de France champion, and at the end of the sixth stage of the Tour said that the Madrileño is “one of the riders able to win the Giro and Tour in the same year.”

Richie Porte “Contador is one of the riders that can win the Giro and Tour in the same year. It’s a great effort, but Contador is the great champion,” said the rider from Gallarate in reference to the Spaniard’s options on recapturing his title of champion in Paris.

Basso was clear that in spite of having lost a minute in the first stage, the Pinteno is still among the group of favorites for the overall win. “Cadel Evans is the strongest rider in the general at the moment, but Alberto, Schleck and Gesink have their possibilites. A minute is not a big thing with the climbs that still remain,” he said.

About his own role in this edition of the Tour, Basso wanted to state that after having reached the podium in the Champs Elysees twice, his goals might be low. “I won the Giro twice and I’ve been on the Tour podium twice. I can’t have low goals. I have to maintain the maximum ambition and time will tell if I have to lower my goals,” Basso explained.

In this sense, the Italian didn’t want to specify how are he can go in this competition although he clarified that it wil be difficult to reach the podium. “My plan is to be as consistent as possible, but in order to get on the podium, it’s not necessary to have a good day, but rather four. I can’t say in which place I’ll finish but I know that I’m going to do a good Tour de France,” indicated the Liguigas leader, who is currently in 20th position in the general, at 1:03 from the front.

Photo of Ivan Basso by Team Liquigas Cannondale


July 7

July 7 | VeloNews - Sky's Sean Yates: 'There's more pressure on Andy, less on Alberto' by Andrew Hood"

Q. Contador losing time in the first stage was quite surprising, how do you see that changing the dynamics of the Tour?

A. He will have to regain that time, which means he will have to attack. Maybe Andy Schleck will not get dropped, but Alberto will have to try. Not at all the guys who gained time on him will get dropped in a natural selection, so he will have to attack often. It will shake things up a bit.

The strategy will not be to follow Contador’s wheel and you make the podium in Paris. It cannot be, because he’s not in podium position now. If Andy is riding like he was last year, Contador’s got to drop him big-time. He cannot wait until the last TT, so that’s going to change the outlook of the race. Who is going to try to follow Alberto and who is not is the big question.

July 7 | NOS video - (Translation): "You wake up and you feel like you're black and blue. You don't feel good, and all those dried scabs...That was the worst. And in the last kilometers, I was really focused on not crashing because it was dangerous, and I wanted to finish my day safely. I'm happy."

July 5 | Velonation - Sean Kelly: In terms of resilience, Contador has 'a concrete head', by Shane Stokes"

Speaking before Stage 4, Kelly tags Contador as a possible winner over Gilbert on the Mur-de-Bretagne, and says, "

“I don’t think it’s possible to crack Contador. Mentally he’s concrete. He has a concrete head. When you see what he went through with Armstrong, he has had a lot of this before. I wouldn’t be concerned that’s a problem.”

July 5 | Cyclingnews - Sastre: "There's a lack of respect for Contador," by Peter Cossins

Carlos Sastre 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre has criticised the way that the rules were applied on stage one of the Tour de France, resulting in defending Tour champion Alberto Contador losing a significant amount of time compared to his main rivals. Writing in his current role during the Tour as a consultant for Spanish national TV, Sastre said he believes that some bodies are taking a stance "against Alberto at all costs". He added that his compatriot is not being shown the respect he deserves.

Currently riding for his Geox-TMC team at the Tour of Austria, Sastre said he had been talking there with two former teammates about the Tour's opening stage, and all agreed that Contador appeared to have been treated unfairly according to their knowledge and experience of the sport's regulations. "We agreed that Alberto Contador has not been sanctioned [for his positive test for clenbuterol], which gives him every freedom and right to compete. Contador has been and continues to be a scapegoat, and it seems that the only way of dethroning him is to take a stand against him and not support him on any decisions," said Sastre.

Photo of Carlos Sastre by Andres Fernandez


July 7 - Alberto spent the evening on ice, but is already looking ahead to Super-Besse

BICICICLISMO | Alberto Contador was calm at the start line in Dinan at the outset of Stage 6 of the Tour de France, before tackling the longest day of the Tour, a 226.5-kilometer ride to Lisieux. Contador crashed twice in yesterday’s stage.

“I hope that today and tomorrow will be comfortable days and calmer so I can recover for Saturday’s stage at Super-Besse. I’ve got some bruises on my left side but mainly I hurt all over my right side, with my knee and elbow pretty inflamed,” he told Cadena Ser this morning.

After crashing yesterday, Contador made reassuring gestures to the television cameras, even though he had to apply ice all over his body after the stage to bring down the swelling.


July 6 - Alberto crashes twice, painfully, but it could've been worse

98th Tour de France Stage 5

Contador's jersey is perforated by two spills (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 5, July 6: Carhaix - Cap Fréhel, 158km

Alberto Contador managed to get through today’s stage in spite of crashing twice and having to change bikes. “I’m very glad,” said the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader, “because I survived the day without serious problems and my teammates have done excellent work.”

Tour de France Stage 5 Alberto explained that he experienced “a first crash when I was more or less twenty riders back. It was ahead of me, before the intermediate sprint. I got up right away, put the brakes right, but the derailleur had gone bad or something, and when I shifted, the chain jumped and I crashed again. In the end, the important thing is to get up, although the injuries aren’t good because the body suffers.”

Contador is also unhappy about the accident involving his teammate Nicki Sorensen, who was run over by a photographer’s moto. “Thanks to a photographer who pushed my teammate; I don’t know how he can continue in the race after that blow. He dragged the bike for more than a kilometer.”

Alberto acknowledged that things were bad for him after the second crash. “At the time, I was angry because I had just survived the other crash (the one with Gesink) two kilometers before and we were all incredibly stressed out.” Finally, his injuries are not serious. “I’m affected on the right side, from the knee to the shoulder, but there’s nothing serious, even though I have to wait and see when I cool off. Today I knew that it was an important day and to be constantly on the alert, because in these stages you can lose the Tour and they can be more dangerous than a day in the mountains.”

(Official press release and photo of ripped jersey, Alberto Contador press room)

El Norte de Castilla, in an article entitled “Contador licks his wounds,” reported some details about Contador’s pair of misfortunes, referring to the bloodied rider as having been “tattooed with Brittany.”

The first crash happened early, a massive pile-up at shortly before the intermediate sprint located about midway the stage. Contador, shepherded by Matteo Tossato, was one of the first to go down, but it was a relatively soft fall amid the congestion of the crash, the “wall of people.” He noticed that the brake was awry, adjusted it, and took off “in search of the group. Problem solved, or so he thought. He was carrying an enemy in tow.”

Five kilometers after the first crash, it became obvious that there was a problem with the shifter “when he activated the mechanism in order to shift from the large chainring to the small one, and the chain jammed.” The bike froze in place instantly, as if it had collided with something, and Contador went flying off. Once back on his feet, Contador did a quick visual diagnosis—which revealed scrapes on from top to bottom on the right side: shoulder, elbow and leg—and commented, “I think it’s nothing. I’m fine.” He threw the useless bike angrily into the ditch and, according to witness Samuel Sánchez—who escaped the melee unharmed—uttered a few choice words.

Mark Cavendish won the stage in a final bunch sprint.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 35th (s.t. Cavendish-3:38:32). Contador in GC, 39th (1:42 Hushovd-17:36:57) TOP FIVE: 1 Hushovd, 2 Evans (0:01), 3 F. Schleck (0:04), 4 Millar (0:08), 5 Kloden (0:10)



July 5 - Contador within a hair of robbing Evans on the Mûr-de-Bretagne, recovers 8 seconds in 1-kilometer climb

98th Tour de France Stage 4

Cadel Evans won the day, but given a few more meters, it would've been Contador (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 4, July 5: Lorient - Mûr-de-Bretagne 172km

Alberto Contador finished second in Stage 4 today at the Mûr-de-Bretagne, bested by Cadel Evans by only a few centimeters. Commenting about the result, the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader looked at both sides of the coin. “On the one hand, I’m happy because I felt well. In the end, I was the one that had to shake up the race and I jeopardized my options for the win at bit, but today was about seeing how the rivals doing and, over all, seeing if I could put time into another rider. About that, I’m happy.”

On the other hand, however, Alberto said he was “a bit miffed because my team did a lot of work and winning the stage when it was so close would’ve been a huge joy. We’ve begun a somewhat unlucky Tour, but in the end, my goal is victory in the general, and that’s why I’m encouraged by how good I feel.”

The eight seconds of advantage over Andy and other favorites seems like a good payoff, “for a kilometer of climbing, it’s hard to beat,” said Alberto. “Taking back eight seconds in the team time trial meant an incredible effort—everything that trims the gap is good.”

About Cadel Evans, he commented that “it’s still too early to say anything. What we had today was a hill, not a mountain, but Evans’ solidity is considerable. The fact that Andy and whomever else got left a few seconds behind doesn’t mean that that they’re not in shape.”

Contador expected something else on the final climb, namely, an attack by Gilbert. “I waited and waited for him to start, but I saw that he wasn’t going, and—although I wasn’t too comfortable because when I got out of the saddle, sometimes the wheel skated, lost contact and spun (I can’t push big gears)—I’m very happy with the result. Physically, I feel pretty consistent.”

Alberto said that as the stages have passed, “I’ve been feeling better, but you have to take into account that the effort of the Giro is there and I don’t know how I’ll recover after the first week of the race,” in reference to his future performance.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Saxo Bank-SunGard DS Bradley McGee said after the stage, "The attack wasn't planned out like this. We had talked about the opportunity of going away if Alberto was feeling well but he surely shows good legs and great morale by attacking like this. It was a very tight sprint decision but I guess we have to wait a bit to raise our arms."

Bjarne Riis added, ”The stage shows that Alberto is ready for the Tour which we have known from the start of the race. But remember that there's a huge difference from climbing a slope like this and climbing Galibier or Alpe d'Huez. You can't count on seeing the same riders finish like this on the big mountains. But it was a great and exciting finish today."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 2nd (s.t. Evans-4:11:39). Contador in GC, 41st, (1:42 Hushovd-13:58:24)

TOP FIVE: 1 Hushoved (13:58:25), 2 Evans (0:01), 3 F. Schleck (0:04), 4 Millar (0:08), 5 Klöden (0:10)




Contador says team in Stage 3 were "fantastic", checks off another day before the mountains

98th Tour de France Stage 3

Saxo riders on a sane ride to Redon (back to front): C.A. Sorensen, Contador, Noval, Vandborg, Tossato (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 3, July 4: Olonne-sur-Mer–Redon, 198km

Alberto Contador rolled across the Stage 3 finish line today feeling happy with the performance of his entire Saxo Bank-SunGard team. “The team has been fantastic and I thank each of my teammates, who have protected me at all times. Yesterday they were also exceptional in the time trial. We hope to continue like that until the Tour ends.”

The stage was complicated due to “fears about the wind, after what happened on the first day,” said Contador. “We tried to avoid bad luck by being towards the front in order to avoid crashes, because with so many people at the side of the road, it was really dangerous—there were children, chairs, armchairs… It’s just like on the big climbs, but at 70 km/hour. The final kilometers were scary, but the team was fantastic and I finished near the front with no problem.”

Alberto said that he feels “better every day and there’s already one day less before the mountains.” After the mishap on the first day, he admitted that he has a smaller margin for error. “You don’t think about that, but honestly, there’s less of a margin. That’s something that depends on me—that’s why I’m trying to do the best I can. I’m eager, I want to get to my own turf, and once we’re there, we’ll see how the legs are working.”

Tomorrow he also expects “a complicated finale, very tense, because the Mur-de-Bretagne is a pretty tough hill, ideal for Gilbert, and it’s likely that he’ll get a repeat victory. I’ll be there to see how I do at the finish.” Alberto sees as a no-go the idea of a result tomorrow like the one at Tropea in the Giro, when he launched a surprise move on his rivals one day before his first victory on Etna. “This is different; they’ve mentioned to me that it’s a very good road. The surprise factor is quite a bit less than what there was in the Giro.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

Stage 3 of the 2011 Tour de France was the first stage clearly earmarked for the sprinters, after a classics-type finish on Saturday and yesterday's team time trial. It was a sunny and hot day on a flat parcours that ended in a tricky final five kilometers.

The velocistas stirred up spectacle at the intermediate sprint contest, where Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd made some questionable moves that resulted in relegation, putting Jose Joaquin Rojas - who recently beat Contador in the Spanish national road race - into the green jersey.

The final sprint on this 4th of July stage was taken by Yankee Tyler Farrar, who fulfilled his vow to win a stage for best friend and training partner Wouter Weylandt, whose tragic death shook the Giro d'Italia last May.

Contador finished uneventfully for the first time in this Tour, crossing the line in the pack behind Farrar.


“It was an extremely nervous stage with an incredible pace in the finale where the peloton was close to exploding several times," said Contador's teammate Brian Vandborg. "Crossing the bridge, we were all up in the front of the pack as we knew it was a crucial point of today's stage. Besides, I think Benjamin, Matteo and Nicki were amazingly good at supporting Alberto all the way through the stage. A good but very nervous stage."

And according to Saxo Bank-SunGard DS, Australian Bradley McGee, "It was very nervous stage where we simply wanted to stay in the front as long time as possible but most importantly crossing the bridge. Tomorrow, there's another stage in high pace where the sprinters might be excluded from the finish as several small climbs in the finale could cause trouble."

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 34th (s.t. Farrar-4:40:21). Contador in GC, 69th (1:42 Hushovd-9:46:46)

TOP FIVE: 1 Hushovd (9:46:46), 2 Millar (s.t.), 3 Evans (0:01), 4 Thomas (0:04), 5 Gerdemann (0:04)




Bjarne Riis instructs the team in video glimpse

Saxo Bank-SunGard riders are Alberto Contador, Jesus Hernandez, Dani Navarro, Benjamin Noval, Richie Porte, Chris Anker Sorensen, Nicki Sorensen, Matteo Tossato and Brian Vandborg.


July 4 | Cyclingnews - Tour de France news shorts

Contador makes wish come true for aspiring ten-year-old Belgian journalist with serious illness

July 3 | Cyclingnews - Roche still ranks Contador as Tour de France favorite

Former Tour winner Stephen Roche thinks Contador could win the Tour over Andy Schleck even if he entered the Stage 19 time trial at Grenoble with a deficit of as much as two minutes.


July 3 - Contador looks for come-from-behind perspective to win Tour

98th Tour de France Stage 2

Nicki Sørensen, Matteo Tossato, Alberto Contador and Chris Anker Sørensen warm up before the team time trial (AC press room)

Stage 2, July 3: Les Essarts (TTT), 23km

Alberto Contador offered a first analysis of today’s team time trial even before the end of the stage, although he already knew Garmin’s result, the time that would turn out to be the best of the day. The Saxo Bank-SunGard leader said that he was “happy because my team has given everything, and so have I. We gave it the maximum and now we have to think about the next few days and try to keep what happened yesterday, which was bad luck for us, from happening again.”

Alberto acknowledged that he’s coming out of these first two days of the race “with quite a time penalty, and now there are other riders who are bigger favorites for winning the Tour than I am, but there are more important stages left and in it’s possible to make big time differences in them. The most important thing will be recovering well every day.”

After two days of competition, Contador says that he feels well, “although I’m still missing competition rhythm. I’ll improve every day because I come here lacking competition compared to other riders who’ve done the Dauphiné or the Tour de Suisse. I’m confident that I’ll recover well each day—which is my strength—already thinking about the mountains.”

In spite of the lost time, Alberto is not abandoning his options, in fact, quite the contrary. “Throwing in the towel is the last thing I’d do. Now there are riders who’ve got more options that I do for the victory, because they’re in a very beneficial position, but there’s no way I’m going to throw in the towel.”

Of course, said Contador, “it will be a different Tour, I’ll have to tackle it from a different perspective. The important thing is to let the days go by until the mountains get here, to see how we are.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)


Yesterday's bad luck put Saxo Bank-SunGard on the road first in today's 23-kilometer time trial. Heading the start list is considered a handicap, since the first team can't measure their efforts based on the splits from previous teams. Saxo, however, put in a fine ride in their role as the day's icebreakers, in spite of a gloomy forecast from pundits, who seemed at a greater disadvantage in commentating with no splits than the team were in competing.

At the end of the day, a powerful ride by the Garmin Cervelo team of top-notch specialists Millar and Zabriskie was unbeatable. Contador and the other GC favorites, Samuel Sanchez and Kreuziger, who lost time in Stage 1 lost a bit more today, but the upshot was Contador moving up a few places, to 75th, Garmin's Hushovd--the reigning World Champion on a lackluster season--capturing the yellow jersey by one second over Evans, and no team incurring a deficit that's likely to be crippling when the race moves into the mountains.


One of Contador's Danish teammates, the popular and respected rider Chris Anker Sørensen, said after the race, “We did an excellent race, finishing in a satisfying time. We were not favorites to win so surely we can be happy with our performance. With this result, we are able to boost our self-confidence after a pretty unlucky day yesterday. Now, we have a few days where we get to battle against cross winds and soon we will enter our kind of terrain."

Bjarne Riis added, “I'm absolutely content with the guys' performance today. They did a great team time trial and finished in an impressive time. We entered Tour de France with an overall victory as the main objective and we will stick to our plan. Today, we demonstrated that we are able to ride as a team and we did an even greater time that I had hoped for."

Tour de France More from Contador:

(EFE) Contador: "I'll have to recover in the mountains what I lost on these days"

Spanish rider Alberto Contador finished comfortable with the performance of his team in the 23-kilometer team time trial disputed in Les Essarts, in which the Madrileño expected to lose time to some rivals, as opposed to the first stage, which was “something that was expected by no one.”

“We did a good time trial, but I know there’ll be better teams, who’ll increase the time gaps, but we planned on that,” said Contador immediately after crossing the finish line.

The cyclist from Madrid evaluated the collective effort of his team and looked to the future with optimism for recovering the time lost in these first two stages. “Of the first two days, today was pretty good for us, but we didn’t plan on the loss of time yesterday. In the Tour, it’s possible to lose time on any day. Now we’ll have to recover in the mountains. It’s important to stay focused,” he said.

“The current situation in the Tour is very open, but the favorites are Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans. Andy is very strong in the mountains and has a good advantage over me. The last Tour was won by a very small distance, and I’m coming from behind. Evans is very solid and he could manage an advantage with the others,” he said.

Contador admitted having felt very hurt by the jeering of the public during the race, stemming from the doping suspicions.

“It was difficult to be there. I’ve sacrificed in the Tour and managed to get good results, the fruit of effort, and being received like that—it hurts,” said the Pinteño.

About the resolution of his case for the clenbuterol positive in last year’s Tour de France, Contador said that “it’s not good for anyone” that there had been no ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) before the beginning of the Tour.

“I’m the first person who would’ve liked for this to be over. The experts know that there was no doping, for me it’s clear, but it’s been hard for my family and for me. They’ve discredited me. I wish for this to end soon. I’m very optimistic,” he said.

RESULTS: Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) in Stage 2, 8th (0:28 Garmin-Cervelo). Contador in GC, 75th (1:42 Hushovd).



Photos to follow


Richie Porte July 2 | Cyclingnews - Porte: Stronger for riding the Giro, by Jane Aubrey

Richie Porte: "I know guys who rode the Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse and they were hard races too. They are probably on the back foot a little bit compared to us. We've had a month to recover. Alberto was just second and third in Nationals, while it's totally different to a Grand Tour, it's Alberto Contador, I think he's ready for a good Tour."

July 1 | Geelong Advertiser - The team is united behind our man, by John Trovorrow

There is a huge respect between Evans and Contador, writes former rider, now journalist John Trovorrow.

"I really don't know him very well personally. Whenever I do see him at a race we are normally competitiors. So it's not as if we hang out together after the race and talk," Evans said.

"But on a personal level I have raced in teams with many of his ex-teammates and they all speak highly of him on a human level. A simple guy who likes the simple things in life.

"And a fabulous bike rider. There is no doubting that.

July 1 | Sidney Morning Herald - Rising star Porte to be Contador's Tour lieutenant, by Rupert Guinness

July 1 | Sidney Morning Herald - Contador defies critics, by Rupert Guinness

More according to Richie Porte, this time about Saxo's kickoff press conference at the Tour: "It would have been nice for it to be a little more about cycling. He (Contador) is here to do a job, but to be honest I think he is thriving a little bit off the controversy. He is a hard nut to crack. He can just thrive off it. they are giving him plenty of ammunition."

June 29 | Saxo Bank-SunGard - Saxo Bank-sunGard announces new technical partnerships

Danish company CeramicSpeed will provide state-of-the-art bearings, Spanish-based X-SAUCE will provide anti-puncture sealant, and Techniche will provide HyperKewl and other cooling and heating products to Saxo Bank-SunGard in 2011 and beyond.

Nicki Sørensen June 29 | Eurosport -Nicki Sørensen on TTT, Contador

In spite of the original headline, Nicki Sørensen is full of praise and support for Contador.

Sørensen: "Alberto is a great captain to support. He's such a fantastic guy to be around and he's a man that I instinctly want to help because he's openly appreciating the things you do for him.

"He's complementing his team-mates and is generally a generous person which makes him easy to be around.”

June 29 | Cyclingnews - 3.5 million euros up for grabs in Tour de France

Can you put a price on a Tour win? Yes!The prize money for Tour de France classifications: 450,000 euros for overall winner, 200,000 for 2nd, 100,000 for 3rd, etc., each day in yellow - 7,000, each intermediate sprint - 1,500, etc, etc, etc.


July 2 - Stage 1: Alberto gets caught behind a crash and loses time

98th Tour de France Stage 1

Fate gave Contador a handicap in the form of a 1:20 deficit to most of the favorites (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

Stage 1, July 2: Passage du Gois La Barre-de-Monts - Mont des Alouettes Les Herbiers 191.5 km

Alberto Contador lost 1:20 to the Stage 1 winner Philippe Gilbert today after missing a split due to a crash at eight kilometers from the finish line. The Saxo Bank leader managed to avoid the crash, but it happened right in front of him and he couldn’t avoid losing time. “It was a complicated day,” said Alberto. “There was plenty of tension and we were going forward all the time. At the time, I was not in bad position, but the road was very wide and a lot of us riders were caught.”

“I was close to the front of the group,” Contador continued, “but there was a crash right in front of me and even though I managed to brake in time, I had to go over the bikes as best I could. When I wanted to start up again, the group was already far away. There was only one teammate to help me at the time and another that had gone ahead, but I lost a nice amount of time. Cycling is like that, the race went like blazes until the goal and there was nothing you could do; you just have to think ahead.”

Alberto Contador, in any case, didn’t count on the people ahead to wait for him. ”Effectively, that’s racing, and today it happened to me and tomorrow to somebody else. Today I didn’t have very good luck, but the Tour is long. I have to be optimistic and motivated, that’s the important thing.”

Tomorrow he expects an important stage as well, the team time trial. “There are other teams who are maybe better than we are, teams that are more prepared, but I hope that the time gaps won’t be too great because if so, together with the one today, they’re complicated,” said Alberto.

About his own physical state in Stage 1 of the Tour, Contador said that he felt well. “That’s what I find encouraging, that I felt well, because losing that much time on the first day bothers you a little. In today’s cycling, races are won or lost by seconds and losing 1:15 to all the favorites is an amount of time that’s hard to recover.”

(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)

The spirit of the tidal Passage du Gois's slippery mischief-making in 1999 seemed to be in the air today as the 2011 Tour de France began with a neutralized ride over the causeway that is synonymous with mayhem in Tour history.

It was a nervous 191.5-kilometer introduction to this edition, amd numerous crashes took place where least expected. Alberto Contador escaped uninjured from the chaos that errupted at 8 km before the goal when a fan interfered with Maxim Iglinskiy of Astana, who then fell, initiating a pile-up.

However, Contador's place in the standing did not escape harm. He found himself at the wrong end of a 1:20 gap after the front group pushed ahead while he and podium rivals Samuel Sanchez and Roman Kreuziger remained tangled in the crash.

Although most of the favorites were in front of the incident, many of them were caught in another crash at 2 km to go, but were saved time losses by the 3-kilometer rule.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 35th (1:20 Gilbert). Contador in GC, 82 (1:20)

TOP FIVE: 1 Gilbert, 2 Evans, 3 Hushovd, 4 Rojas, 5 Van den Broeck



July 2 - Alberto the Conqueror campaigns for a fourth triumph, July 2-24

98th Tour de France

Alberto Contador and his Saxo Bank-SunGard team embark today on a three-week war against the mightiest forces in cycling.

The next stage of Contador's iconic 2011 season is now set in France. The first battle begins with a crossing of the Passage du Gois, followed by 228 kilometers to Mont des Alouettes.

Good luck, good health and courage to Contador and his team. Estamos contigo, Alberto!


July 2 - Go where the Tour goes with the panoramic streetview: If you haven't tried this, you must! Instructions below

View Larger Map

Experience the Passage du Gois in photographic detail from your archair!

Click "View Larger Map" in lower left corner. Find the little orange man icon, click and drag to the Rue du Gois (to the right of Point C). Pivot for panoramic view by using the compass in the top left corner. Click on the road to advance.


July 1 - Contador's ready to compete in spite of a rude crowd at the presentation

Alberto Contador did his first training session in France today, together with his Saxo Bank-SunGard teammates, with whom he completed two laps of the circuit for Sunday’s team time trial.

Prior to training, Alberto attended the race’s traditional kick-off press conference and answered questions from a room packed with accredited journalists. Alberto was fully confident in his chances, he announced that he comes to France to fight for the win, in spite of it being very difficult to pull off the Giro-Tour double, and said that he’s already fully focused on the race and on enjoying the bicycle, which for him is the most important thing.

Alberto was accompanied at the media appearance by the rest of his teammates and by Bjarne Riis, who reiterated that the entire team supports their leader while expressing his total confidence that the case will be resolved in Contador’s favor.

Alberto acknowledged that the pressure in this race is often greater outside the competition than within it, but that he’s used to managing the pressure and has no problems staying focused in the race.

During the subsequent presentation of the teams on the stage in Puy de Fou, near the starting point for Saturday morning’s stage, the public was divided in its reception of the Saxo Bank-SunGard leader, some applauding and some whistling and booing. Nevertheless, Alberto, like the rest of the team, shook it off, emphasizing that the important thing is that there are also many fans on his side, in spite of the campaign launched against him in some local media.

(Official press release, Alberto Contador Notebook)


June 30 - Alberto Contador tells Josu Garai, "It's not going to be mano a mano between Andy and me"

Saxo Bank-SunGard trains on Thursday before the start of the 98th Tour de France

Contador and Saxo Bank-SunGard train in France on Thursday, June 30 (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

You finished the Giro physically and mentally wrung out, but we saw this weekend in the Spanish Championships you already seem to have recovered.

As time goes by, it’s plain to see, I feel better. In the time trial I made a good start, but my pulse really went up and recovering from it cost me. That’s a symptom that I’m lacking miles in my legs and competition, but also that the body is rested, therefore a good sign.

What does your body tell you, that you’re already ready for the next battle?

I think that the first days of the Tour will not be the best for me, but that first week I have to allow myself to do a tune-up. I’ve gone many days without competing and the Tour is the best race, so in order to tackle it, you need the rhythm, but I’m confident that my teammates will keep me more or less under cover for the first few days and I’ll get into into the rhythm.

How have you gone about recovering? What have you done since the Giro ended?

I still don’t know if I’ve managed to recover because I don’t know how my body will recuperate when it makes continuous efforts. What have I been doing? Very simple: leaving the bike alone for a while, going out now and then sporadically and starting training at my cicloturista. Then, reconnaissance of the Alps stages. At the mental level, I think I’m fully recovered, and that’s very important; but at the physical level I have to see how I feel as the days go by.

To be continued...


June 30 - It's almost here! Review the route with these two videos


June 30 - The Tour kicks off this Saturday in the beautiful Vendée, and their tourism department is ready!

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