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Alberto at the finish line on the Alpe d'Huez (Colin Flockton)
Stage 20, July 25: Modane Valfréjus – Alpe d’Huez, 110.5 km
Alberto Contador, the reigning champion of the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia, will finish 5th overall in the 102nd edition of the Tour de France when the race concludes on the Champs-Élysees tomorrow. Contador reached the summit of Alpe d’Huez in 16th place in Stage 20 today after tiring on the final climb. He rode in with defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, who had punctured. Thibaut Pinot won the stage.
At the finish line, Alberto said that he was on the limit and that he “really felt the fatigue and the crash from the other day,” which had “pretty much taken its toll.”
Contador’s great objective this season - to win the Giro-Tour double – will remain a dream, since he was not able to regain form after winning the Italian grand tour in May and the Route du Sud in June. However, he’s already thinking ahead.
“I’ve a done a worthy Tour, even though it’s true that I’m less than pleased with it,” he said. “Honestly, many people would dream of coming in fifth, but for me… well, having made the attempt is very important, it’s better than winning just the Tour. If I hadn’t tried it, at the end of my sporting career I would surely have asked myself what might have happened if I had. So I’m really glad that I tried. Now I’m going to think about next year.”
“The main problem has been the demanding nature of the Giro. From the very beginning, Astana was superior to everybody else. They made it so that I had to bust my buns every day. The final week was a heart attack, so grueling. So maybe even though the head wanted it, it didn’t give the body time to recover,” said the nine-time grand tour winner.
Having that especially tough Giro in his pocket, Contador can be satisfied: “I call it a good season. The Tour is very important, and yes, I would’ve preferred to be 2nd instead of 5th, but when I finish my sporting career, it’s the grand tours that I’ve won that are going to be remembered, not the podiums that I’ve made.”
Alberto is already drawing up plans for 2016, an Olympic year, and Rio is penciled in. “Next year we’ll change the plan completely, we’ll focus totally on the Tour and we’ll come with different ambitions. I want to plan a season like last year: Ride all of the early-season races, at the maximum level, with intensity, do the Tour and the Olympics, which I think are hard, and could be a good fit for me for once. And afterward we’ll see,” he said, making no guarantees one way or the other about retirement. “It could possibly be the time to come to a full stop.”
Contador offered his congratulations to his compatriot, Alejandro Valverde, who was overcome by tears of joy when he clinched third overall on Alpe d’Huez today. “When we make the podium in the Tour, it can be very emotional. Congratulations, he did a great race, Movistar too. They weren't able take back enough time, I think that Froome and his team rode very intelligently.”
Steven de Jongh: “Everybody gave their absolute best today and in the end we competed in a very nice ambience up Alpe d’Huez, which is just one of the best settings in this sport. In the beginning of the stage, we tried to put Rafal in the break but they didn’t give him any space, as he was a threat to the mountains jersey. Alberto had a difficult moment on Croix de Fer and then Rafal had a flat tire. However, Alberto overcame this and on the descent from Col du Glandon, Rogers and Kreuziger made it back into the front GC group before we went full speed into Alpe d’Huez. Rafal did a really good job for Alberto and supported him on the climb."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 20, 16th (3:30 Pinot - 3:17:21). Contador in GC, 5th (9:48 Froome - 81:56:33)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Quintana (1:12), 3 Valverde (5:25), 4 Nibali (8:36), 5 Contador (9:48), 6 Gesink (10:47), 7 Mollema (15:14), 8 Frank (15:39), 9 Bardet (16:00), 10 Rolland (17:30)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 20
Stage 13, July 17: Muret – Rodez, 198.5 km
Alberto Contador finished Stage 13 of the Tour de France today in eighth place and maintained his GC position after his team devoted much of the stage to giving Peter Sagan a shot at the stage. Sagan missed the win – it was taken in a sprint by Greg Van Avermaet of BMC – but the Slovakian did consolidate his hold on the green jersey.
Contador pulled a mischievous stunt in the final meters, executing a brief cat-and-mouse game in which he darted by surprise around Froome, causing the Kenyan and the other favorites to scurry after him. He then relaxed and rolled in with the group behind the sprint.
“It was a really tough, really hot stage, and as these days pass, they take a toll,” Contador said at the finish line in Rodez, in spite of just having puckishly baited the yellow jersey.
Sagan was denied victory again even though Tinkoff-Saxo had come to the front on his behalf to collaborate with Giant as they worked for Degenkolb. Contador said, “It’s a shame that once again he wasn’t able to win, after the team’s excellent work, but you have to keep trying. Giant spoke with us, and it was in our interest, but in the end he wasn’t able to finish it off. But chapeau to Peter, who has been fighting since day one.”
After three cruel days in the Pyrenees, the race now moves to the Massif Central, then to the Alps next week. Contador knows how to win at Mende, tomorrow’s uphill finish, but needs more time to recover from his bad day at La Pierre-Saint-Martin. “I need time to continue to improve. I think that I´m going a little better every day, and that’s encouraging,” he said. “This is a Tour that I have to take in a different way than usual, but there´s still a lot left.”
“Of course, at Mende, with three kilometers at 10%, there will be people who lose time. We hope not to be one of them,” he said.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 13, 8th (0:07 Van Avermaet - 4:43:42). Contador in GC, 6th (4:04 Froome - 51:34:21)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Van Garderen (2:52), 3 Quintana (3:09), 4 Valverde (3:58), 5 Thomas (4:03), 6 Contador (4:04), 7 Gesink (5:32), 8 Gallopin (7:32), 9 Nibali (7:47), 10 Mollema (8:02)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 7
Doctors have told Ivan Basso of the Tinkoff-Saxo team that he has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. The news came this morning in the southern French town of Pau, where the peloton are spending the first rest day of the Tour de France.
Basso’s announcement took the place of Contador’s usual rest-day press conference. The Italian, who has won the Giro d'Italia twice and is roommate and an important source of moral support to Contador at the Tour, has already left for Italy, where he will undergo immediate treatment.
Contador told the assembly of reporters that today is only a time to think about Ivan, to support him, to wish him all the luck in the world, and not to talk about sporting questions. “We have to do everything possible to be able to celebrate the triumph with Ivan in Paris,” he said.
Tinkoff-Saxo covered the kilometers to Plumelec with strength and coordination (Reuters)
Stage 9, July 12: Vannes – Plumelec, 28 km (TTT)
Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team put in a good performance in the Stage 9 team time trail today in the Tour de France, finishing in 4th place behind BMC, Sky and Movistar. Contador moved to 5th place overall but lost 27” to Froome, extending his deficit to the maillot jaune to 1:03. He now leads Quintana by 56” and Nibali by 1:19.
Alberto did a post mortem of the TTT after showering in the motorhome that the team supplied for today only, since the team bus has already headed south for the first rest day in Pau. ““Obviously it’s pretty big time difference, taking into account that we still haven’t reached the mountains. But, on the other hand, there are lots of mountains ahead, with many, many opportunities. I would’ve liked it if the result had been a little more favorable, but I’m very happy. We gave it everything. Now we’ve got to rest because now the Tour is really beginning.”
“Maybe,” Contador continued, “even though it might seem to the contrary, as the efforts accrue and everyone accumulates fatigue, it will favor me and we cab even the score, and the capacity for recovery of each person will leave a little more of a mark, and that motivates me.”
“There’s a world left. This year in the Tour, luckily for us, there’s almost no day of respite, and if we add factors like the weather, we can still turn it all around,” said Alberto.
The Tinkoff-Saxo leader admits that Froome “is extremely strong. He demonstrated it above all on the Mur de Huy, and almost won.” And Van Garderen, to Contador, “is a terrific-quality rider. You could already see that he was very strong in the mountains in the Dauphiné, even though he still doesn’t know what it is to win a grand tour. He improves every year and is a rival.”
After the rest day in Pau on Monday, the Tour heads into the high mountains. Stage 10, on Tuesday, ends with the climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, a 15.3-km ascent at 7.4% average gradient. “It’s a tough climb,” said Alberto, “anything could happen. We’ll see how we feel after the rest day. If I have legs, I’ll try it.”
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “I had hoped that we would finish in the top three but overall I think the team was consistent. We simply didn’t have that high speed and we lost just below 1 second per kilometer. I think that, as a team, we did very well, we divided the work and the boys rode as we had planed - but we were just not fast enough. I don’t believe that we could have gone any faster, so I’m satisfied with the fact that everybody rode their best. Now, Alberto is 1’03” behind Froome, we still have much terrain, where we can try to turn the classification around and with the mountains coming up it will be up to Sky to control the race. I still think that Alberto can realize his goal and we will definitely be looking for opportunities.”
Christian Vande Velde, ex-pro and NBC commentator: “They did a great ride today. I think they went to their capacity today. I didn’t see too many faults. Some of the other teams, they really pushed themselves as far as they could. You saw Movistar faltering a little bit, you saw Team Sky faltering a little bit, you saw Astana faltering, but you know, I think that Saxo did a good ride. They did exactly what they’re capable of today.”
Michael Rogers, Tinkoff-Saxo road captain: “We went as fast as we could. I think we started fast and that was the plan. We held on as long as and I think we can be happy.
“It was very hard to pace. We didn’t want to start too fast, but saying that, we didn’t want to start too slow either, because once you lose time, it’s all time you have to make up. But looks like Movistar did a very good time, but we can be happy that we did everything we could.
“We have to fight everyday, that’s what the Tour is about. You can’t lose concentration for one minute. As I said, we did the best we could, I think we got everything out, we finished with five riders and it is what it is.”
RESULTS: Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) in Stage 9, 4th (0:28 BMC – 32:15). Contador in GC, 5th (1:03 Froome – 31:34:12)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Van Garderen (0:01), 3 Van Avermaet (0:27), 4 Sagan (0:38), 5 Contador (1:03), 6 Urán (1:18), 7 Valverde (1:50), 8 Thomas (1:52), 9 Quintana (1:59), Stybar (1:59)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 7
Alberto Contador at the start of Stage 3 (Colin Flockton)
Stage 9, July 12: Vannes – Plumelec, 28 km (TTT)
Alberto Contador rode comfortably to the top of the uphill finish today in Stage 8 of the Tour de France, arriving with the favorites’ group ten seconds behind stage winner Alexis Vuillermoz. Alberto maintained his GC position of 7th at 36” while conserving energy for tomorrow’s grueling team time trial.
“The truth is that it’s been a calm day in spite of the final squeeze,” Alberto said after crossing the finish line. “The peloton was going fast, but nothing out of this world. You could ride easy in the pack.”
That final squeeze was the 2-km ascent of the Mur de Bretagne, the one piquant moment in a rather flavorless afternoon. Contador negotiated the slope easily from the middle of the group, making no move to pursue an opportunity for himself. It was his teammate Peter Sagan, second overall at only 11” off the lead, who worked the front of the group in a bid for the win and the green, or even the yellow, jersey.
“In the finale I wanted to give Peter a hand, but due to our positioning and the action around us, it wasn’t to be,” Alberto said. Boxed in by Sagan himself, he saw his Slovakian teammate take 4th – and the green points jersey – a few meters in front of him on the Mur, following Vuillermoz, Dan Martin and Valverde. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Roman Kreuziger, also finished in this group, along with Quintana, Van Garderen, Froome, and many other top GC men.
Loser on the day was Nibali, who cracked on the climb and lost 20 seconds. Contador said that he had seen the Shark of Messina “behind the group, but I didn’t know if he was going to lose time. Gaining time on Nibali is always good,” he said with a smile.
Tactically iffy race-leader Froome set himself up to attack and take the stage, by all appearances, but either opted out or was not able to dispute the win. Delivered to the red kite by domestiques, he put in a couple of fast-spinning digs, then went on to haul the group up the hill himself, as other riders marked him comfortably. Froome stalled, drifing to the left across the entire width of the road, then all the way back to the right, nearly causing Dan Martin, who was attacking over Froome’s right shoulder, to crash into the barrier. Froome then let Sagan slip past to have a go at an outright time gain plus bonifications.
Meanwhile, Contador stayed out of the fray. “It’s okay because we got through the day and even better the team time trial being tomorrow. The objective is to go full gas. We have a good team, maybe the riders are a tad depleted, but we’ll do a good time trial,” he concluded.
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “It’s good, we had hoped for the win today but it is very good to see Peter pulling on the green jersey. He deserves it, he has been working very hard and he is a very versatile rider, which he showed today. We obviously knew that he could potentially do well today and in the end he got the necessary points. The boys rode a good race and they were positioned well before the start of the last climb. Alberto was perhaps a bit back, but he showed that he was ready to move up.”
“We had the TTT in mind during the stage, but we’ve also had that the other days in order to conserve as much energy as possible during the Tour. We’re happy to start tomorrow with nine riders - a complete team - and we have a good group of riders for this challenge. There are many strong teams so it will be exiting to see what the outcome of tomorrow will be”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 8, 14th (0:10 Alexis Vuillermoz - 4:20:55). Contador in GC, 7th (0:36
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Sagan (0:11), 3 Van Garderen (0:13), 4 Gallopin (0:26), 5 Van Avermaet (0:28), 6 Urán (0:34), 7 Contador (0:36), 8 Barguil (1:07), 9 Stybar (1:15), 10 Mollema (1:32)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 7
Contador on the road in Stage 7 (Kim Ludbrook)
Stage 7, July 10: Livarot - Fougères, 190.5 km
Alberto Contador stepped up to 7th place in the general classification at the end of today’s Stage 7 of the Tour de France as a result of injured leader Tony Martin’s retirement from the race. Martin was able to finish Stage 6, but did not start today, therefore, according to UCI rules, no rider wore the maillot jaune during the ride to Fougères. Instead, the jersey passed to its new owner, Froome, after the stage. Peter Sagan moved to 2nd overall after arriving 3rd in the final sprint behind stage winner Mark Cavendish.
Contador made news even before the race had officially started by crashing in the neutral zone with Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and some other riders. Here’s how it happened:
“I had a little crash in the neutral zone. Five or six riders went to the ground in front of me,” Alberto told reporters after the stage. “Actually, we were talking about the crashes, and I went down, too. It was impossible to dodge them. But luckily I didn’t do anything to myself, a crash of no consequence on a snag, and I got up calmly. It was only a scare. You’ve always got to pay close attention.”
“We weren’t feeling too tense at the start of the stage. The rest of day was relatively calm, with an escape that was kept under control by the pack. Except in the final ten kilometers, with the typical tension that comes from everybody wanting to occupy the front section. I feel happy to have survived the scare and not to have had any more mishaps.”
The focal point tomorrow will be the finish on the Mur de Bretagne, an uphill challenge that’s a little longer but generally less steep than the Mur de Huy. Contador knows the climb, in fact, he nearly won here in 2011. “We’re talking about an ascent on the boundary between the fast men and the GC men. Maybe it will turn out differently this time, since four years ago it rained and became really hard. I was on the verge of winning, but Evans won by a tire’s breadth,” Alberto remembered.
“Maybe this time is more for sprinters of Sagan’s type,” he continued. “Battle? Sure, every second is being fought for in an amazing way, and tomorrow, for sure, it will be a complicated finale.”
Of the two weekend stages that remain before the first rest day, Contador says that the team time trial on Sunday is more of a concern than the Mur de Bretagne, “because it could produce bigger time differences.”
“The weekend will be key, but there are other key days. I think that I’m fine, we’ll see.”
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Today was definitely a less hectic day than the previous stages. It was hot and the stage was done at a stable pace in what turned out to be a traditional sprinter’s stage. Peter once again came close in the sprint but the competition is very hard and today was more or less a flat sprint. I think the boys did well, did what they had to do to conserve energy whenever possible, while assisting Alberto. Tomorrow will be much more tricky in the finale with Mur de Bretagne and I don’t think it’s possible to make any certain predictions other than it will be important to stay well-positioned in the final kilometers."
Robert Gesink, Team LottoNL-Jumbo, about the crash in the neutral zone: "The race was still neutralized so it isn’t an actual crash in the Tour de France. Devolder made a weird move and the two guys in front of me, Paul Martens and Jos van Emden crashed. I crashed into them. Contador? I didn’t see or feel him.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 7, 60th (s.t. Cavendish - 4:27:25). Contador in GC, 7th (0:36 Froome - 26:40:51)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 Sagan (0:11), 3 Van Garderen (0:13), 4 Gallopin (0:26), 5 Van Avermaet (0:28), 6 Urán (0:34), 7 Contador (0:36), 8 Stybar (0:52), 9 Thomas (1:03), 10 Barguil (1:07)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 7
Alberto Contador rolls in safely with Urán and Valverde at the chaotic end of Stage 8 (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Stage 6, July 9: Abbeville – Le Havre, 191.5 km
Alberto Contador managed to avoid the crash that took out race leader Tony Martin today in the final kilometer of Stage 6 of the Tour de France. The German, who touched wheels with another rider at 800 meters before the finish line, initiated a pileup that saw Nibali, Quintana and Van Garderen land in the same pile. Froome nearly crashed as well.
“The truth is, you have to pay close attention all the time. There’s never a cease-fire, and the final part was a true battle of teams. Mine was extraordinary,” said Contador after the stage. “There was an incredible fight to be well positioned and, look, the finale was uphill on a côte,” he said.
“I’m happy about not crashing and about surviving the day. I hope the people that crashed recover,” Contador added.
Zdenek Stybar won the stage, and Contador remains in 8th overall. The GC will be shuffled tomorrow as Tony Martin goes for surgery and the maillot jaune will shift to second-placed Chris Froome or whoever might displace him tomorrow. Martin becomes the second man to crash out of this Tour while wearing yellow, following Cancellara, who broke two vertebrae in Stage 3.
The peloton spent another day today riding in a tightly-packed formation in which a moment’s lack of concentration by any rider could cause a crash that brings down fifty others in a domino effect. “You can’t let anything slip your notice,” Contador explained. “In grand tours, that’s what really wears you out, and often what makes them difficult. You have to be 100% focused for 21 days because you could lose time on any one of those days.”
Looking ahead to Stage 7, Contador’s tone remained cautious, even though, at least, wind is not in the weather forecast. “You never know. I’m sure that there will be tension, due to fear of crashing, and it’s important to be in front, and that makes for a complicated day,” he finished.
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “I think that today was less hectic than the previous days and the boys did a concentrated job once again. Sagan was free to ride for the stage and he showed that he’s in very good condition. He positioned himself very well on the final climb and showed that he had the speed to pull it off today. But Stybar had different plans and he made a very clever move, while the sprinters were waiting for somebody to take responsibility.
“Peter was isolated up there in the group following the crash. That’s how it is, as we also have our focus on Alberto, but Katusha had some guys up there but they apparently didn’t want to take control. Peter took 2nd place, it’s a bit of a shame, but with that said, we are very happy that none of our riders were affected by the final crash that unfortunately cost Tony Martin a broken collarbone”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 6: 16th (s.t. Stybar - 4:53:46). Contador in GC, 8th (0:48 T. Martin - 22:13:14)
TOP TEN: 1 T. Martin, 2 Froome (0:12), 3 Van Garderen (0:25), 4 Sagan (0:33), 5 Gallopin (0:38), 6 Van Avermaet (0:40), 7 Urán (0:46), 8th Contador (0:48), 9th Stybar (1:04). 10 Thomas (1:15)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 6
Alberto Contador at the start of Stage 3 (Colin Flockton)
Stage 3, July 6: Anvers – Huy, 159.5 km
Alberto Contador climbed further in the general classification today in a disaster-filled Stage 3 of the Tour de France. Even though he flagged in the final 400 meters of the steep, short ascent of the Mur de Huy, he now sits 8th overall, at 36 seconds off the race leader, Chris Froome.
Contador was bounding up the climb on Froome’s wheel as Joachim Rodríguez put in the decisive dig that would net him the stage win. As more riders responded to Rodríguez’ acceleration, however, Alberto sat back and stalled within sight of the line. “I lost a good amount of time,” he said afterward. “I was super locked-up, it was an effort to move the bicycle. I had stiff legs in the final part of the ascent and it was quite hot throughout the stage. It got really hard.”
The one-kilometer Mur de Huy has traditionally not been the place for Contador’s best moments, and he has commented in past years about how surprisingly difficult the iconic finish is, in its usual guise of finale to the one-day classic La Fleche Wallone. Today it was also brutal for his opponents, who, except for Froome, commented at stage end on the punishing three-minute finale.
“I never like to give up time to direct rivals,” Contador summarized, “but there’s a lot of race left ahead. Good moments exist, and so do bad ones.”
Tinkoff-Saxo did more than their share of pulling the peloton in the run-in to Huy. Was Contador after the stage win? “Well, we were riding well-positioned to avoid scares and to try something if we could. It couldn’t be done, because the pace was impressive.” He shifted his sights to tomorrow’s Hell of the North stage, and what comes beyond. “So we must stay focused, one day at a time. Now it’s time to recover for the cobblestones.”
“On the pavé you have to survive. It’s all about a putting on a spectacular show with the route, and I’m confident that my team and my teammates will help me through the sectors of cobblestones in the best possible way.”
Contador’s rival Froome, in his curious style, was able to answer Rodríguez today at Huy, even though his previous attempts at the Mur have been weak. About Froome in yellow, Alberto said, “Froome was very strong. He was on the verge of winning the stage. But there are still a lot of days left in the race. You have to maintain a positive attitude. The yellow jersey gives you confidence, but it also comes with pressure and responsibilities.”
Today’s stage was marred by two massive pileups at around 60 kilometers before the finish. Riders and bikes barrel-rolled and somersaulted to land crumpled by the side of the road. So many men were affected that there was not enough medical staff to attend to them, so the race was temporarily brought to a full stop while the situation was managed.
All of the Tinkoff-Saxo team were in front when the crashes happened; none of them were involved. As for Alberto and his group, they were not aware of the extent of the disaster that caused the maillot jaune, Cancellara, to abandon due to a broken vertebra. “No, during the stage we didn’t know what had happened,” said Alberto. “We didn’t know too much about the crash or the people who got injured either.”
Peter Sagan, Slovakian champion and Contador’s teammate: “Going into the Mur de Huy, I tried to stay right behind Alberto Contador to help him in case he'd need something but the rhythm was too high for me uphill. I lead the best young rider competition and I'm not far down in the green jersey but I'll see day by day if it'll be appropriate to look for points or not. My priority is to assist Alberto and we have a big job to do tomorrow on the pavés.”
Steven de Jongh, Contador’s DS: “Besides Sagan taking the white jersey, I think the most positive on today’s stage is the important fact that none of our riders were involved in the two big and serious crashes. A lot of guys were knocked down and the race was practically running out of doctors. We support the decision to neutralize the race temporarily - it was a wise decision in a hectic moment.
“I’m pleased with the team effort today and I think that everybody did exactly what they had to do to support Alberto. I think that their effort today can be seen in the fact that non of our riders were involved in the crash, as we spend energy on staying at the front throughout the stage.
“As for the stage finale on Mur du Huy, I think Alberto suffered on the last hundred meters. It’s not his type of climb and we know that Alberto is stronger on longer climbs. We still have most of the Tour ahead of us and we now turn our attention towards tomorrow and the cobbles. It’s pretty obvious that it will be a very tricky day."
Purito Rodríguez, stage winner: "Today I saw a gap and said to myself 'I’m going to take advantage of it even if my legs do hurt and it costs me to get to the finish.' The truth is that the final stretch has been the longest Mur de Huy that I’ve ever done by far. I knew that I could win but the truth is that in the final 100 meters I was pedaling up to my ears."
Nairo Quintana, GC rival: “It was very nervous and very hard, with the crash during the stage. It was tough all day. I didn’t feel very good on the climb, there was a lot of adrenaline before the climb and I had a lot of lactic acid.”
Vincenzo Nibali, GC rival: “I don’t think a final climb like that is very suited to my characteristics, but I tried to manage my strength as best I could from the bottom from the climb to the top. Froome made one of his typical accelerations and he showed that he’s really in condition. Even though this was a short climb and the real ones are still to come, we can get a small picture of what the form is. It was a hard day with a lot of heat.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 12th (0:18 Rodríguez - 3:26:54). Contador in GC, 8th (0:36 Froome - 7:11:37)
TOP TEN: 1 Froome, 2 T. Martin (0:01), 3 Van Garderen (0:13), 4 Gallopin (0:26), 5 Van Avermaet (0:28), 6 Sagan (0:31), 7 Urán (0:34), 8 Contador (0:36), 9 Thomas (1:03), 10 Stybar (1:04)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 3
Alberto Contador sails to the finish of the Stage 1 ITT (Colin Flockton)
Stage 1, July 4: Utrecht – Utrecht, 13.8 km (ITT)
Alberto Contador's second big objective of the year got off to a good-but-not-great start today in Stage 1 of the 2015 Tour de France. He put in a journeyman-like performance in the 13.8-km opening time trial in Utrecht, arriving 46th at 0:58 off the winning pace of Rohan Dennis of BMC.
It was a day for the specialists. Contador finished in a string of GC men well behind stage winner Dennis, who set an all-time record average speed for an ITT in the Tour of 55.4 km per hour.
Contador admitted that “I didn’t feel great physically.” “Even when they gave me the splits to the rest of the favorites, it gave me heart in a way because they were all times similar to mine, and that kept me calm,” he said.
The similarity of times among the big names was striking. “It was all pretty equal. All of us favorites were within a handful of seconds. I would’ve liked to have been in front of most of them, but in the end the differences were small. I got through the day, now we have to take it one day at a time and see how I respond physically,” he said.
“It was a really tough time trial due to the heat and a very explosive day,” continued Alberto, who, like others, had resorted to a cooling vest on the rollers before the stage. “From the first moment my pulse was very high and I decided to try to regulate to bring it into check,” he said.
“I don't think the wind was a factor because even if it was blowing hard, it was the same for everybody. Maybe the current high temperatures make the heart beat faster, but it wasn't an issue. Again, only a few seconds separate the main rivals and that is, in my opinion, a good thing.”
“As for the result, we’re talking about a normal time trial,” explained the leader of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, who finished the day 15 seconds behind Nibali, but several seconds ahead of Quintana.
To Alberto, who comes into this Tour with consecutive Vuelta and Giro wins under his belt, discretion is the better part of valor going into a second stage with a flat parcours along the coast to Zélande, where winds and echelons are always a threat. “We’re going to see how well we can survive the stage. It looks like rain is possible. The first week is dangerous enough in itself – if we add the possibility of rain as well… We’re going to try to survive the day. Every day that you get to the finish line without crashing and losing time is a victory,” he concluded.
Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Overall, I will say that it went OK, maybe Peter, who was our fastest guy in 19th place, could have done it a bit faster, as we know that he is strong on these short time trials. Alberto did well and finished among the favorites, I think we can be happy. It was fairly technical and the course did suit Alberto okay, but it was naturally a day for the time trial specialists.”
“We’re happy with the outcome of Alberto’s build-up and the Tour is now underway. It will be very exciting and the same goes for tomorrow. Right now, we don’t have any wind, but in the Netherlands that can change quickly so we are going to check again tonight. Wind would have a big impact on the character of tomorrow’s stage but what we do know is that tomorrow is going to be flat, flat, flat and very fast on a day suited for the sprinters. Our main goal is to protect Alberto and then we will see.”
Michael Rogers, Contador's teammate and three-time past world ITT champion: “It’s a very long time, since I’ve done such an intense individual time trial like this. The corners were relatively fast, I wasn’t as fast as I was ten years ago, but I don’t think I lost too much time around the corners. However, it was certainly a time trial for the pure specialists. The wind was definitely a factor on the later part of the first half, where it was a cross headwind and here it was really important to try to conserve energy for the final part, but I would reckon that the wind was the same for everybody”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 46th (0:58 Rohan Dennis - 14:56). Contador in GC, 46th (0:58 Dennis - 14:56)
TOP THREE: 1 Dennis, 2 T. Martin (0:05), 3 Cancellara (0:08)
GC MEN: 20 Van Garderen (0:42), 22 Nibali (0:43), 39 Froome (0:50), 43 Valverde (0:56), 46 Contador (0:58), 57 Quintana (1:01)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS, STAGE 1
Photos by Colin Flockton at PHOTO DAYBOOK
The 102nd edition of the Tour de France runs from Saturday, July 4 to Sunday, July 26, 2015. Le Grand Boucle, Alberto Contador's second big objective of the year, begins with an individual time trial in Utrecht before heading south to trace a counterclockwise loop of 3,360 kilometers around France.
Featured are nine flat stages, three hilly stages, seven mountain stages with five altitude finishes, one individual time-trial and one team time-trial, with two rest days.
In the mountain stages, the riders will tackle 26 passes, climbs and mountain finishes classed as Category 1, Category 2 or Hors-categorie: seven in the Pyrénées, three in the Massif Central, and 16 in the Alps. Look for plenty of climbing action in Stages 10-12 and 14-20, not to mention finishes on the Mur de Huy (Stage 3) and the Mur de Bretagne (Stage 8).
An unusual aspect of the route is the scarcity of time-trial kilometers, with a total of only 41.8 km against the clock throughout the three weeks. In fact, all time-trialing in this edition will be completed before the first rest day, after the 13.8-km opening ITT in Utrecht, and the 28-km TTT in Brittany in Stage 9.
And don’t forget, the riders will experience the Hell of the North again this year when they cross seven sectors of cobblestones totaling 13.3 bone-jarring kilometers between Seraing and Cambrai in Stage 4.
Note: Eight stages of this edition will be broadcast live from start to finish: Stages 1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 19, 20 and 21.
Go to our RACE ATLAS for maps, profiles, complete start order and much more.
Contador's start time for the Stage 1 ITT: 17:13. See RACE ATLAS, STAGE 1 for more information.
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo: 41 Alberto Contador, 42 Ivan Basso, 43 Daniele Bennati, 44 Roman Kreuziger, 45 Rafal Majka, 46 Michael Rogers, 47 Peter Sagan, 48 Matteo Tosatto, 49 Michael Valgren
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo: Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso, Daniele Bennati, Roman Kreuziger, Rafal Majka, Michael Rogers, Peter Sagan, Matteo Tosatto, Michael Valgren