Friday, April 11, 2008

Contador must go it alone in Basque Tour finale

A cold, wet and miserable penultimate stage in the Vuelta al País Vasco on Friday saw overall leader Alberto Contador finish second from an elite group just behind Lampre's Damiano Cunego. However, the Astana rider enjoys only an eight second lead over nine strong men going into the final time trial, which is just 20 kilometres in length.

Contador was happy to finish the stage, even if he did take second place, as he managed to avoid crashes in the finale which took down points leader David Herrero (Karpin Galicia) and Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval), and which held up Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto). All riders affected by the crash were granted the same time.

Herrero was the worst affected by the wreck, and was sent for x-rays following the stage. Fortunately, he did not have any broken bones, but his start on Saturday is still in doubt. "We have to wait to see how the night passes, because currently unable to move his right leg," his team doctor said. "There is no fracture, but he has a very deep contusion on his hip," he continued, explaining that muscular injury may prevent the points leader from starting the final stage.

For Contador, what remains is a tough solo effort if he wishes to win the overall classification after having the luxury of a strong team over the past five stages. "Until now, my team did really a great job. Tomorrow it is I who will have to work," he said. "I am surely one of the favourites, but Cadel Evans and Thomas Dekker are not to be underestimated."

In addition to Evans and Dekker, Contador's slim lead extends over CSC's Frank Schleck as well as Paris-Nice champion Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), all of whom are at the same time overall.

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