Saturday, April 12, 2008

Contador time trials away from his greatest rivals

Spaniard Alberto Contador continued his dominating performance in the Vuelta al País Vasco and won the final stage, an individual time trial over 20 kilometres with start and finish in Orio. The 25 year-old Astana rider was 22 seconds faster than the Australian Cadel Evans, from Silence-Lotto, which secured the overall victory for the stage winner. Rabobank's Thomas Dekker was third, 27 seconds back . The top three was also the order in the final overall classification.

Euskaltel – Euskadi's Egoi Martínez held on to the mountains classification, while Iban Mayoz from Karpin Galicia secured himself the jersey in the meta volantes. While Astana had the stranglehold on the stages and the GC, it was the Dutch Rabobank team that won the teams prize.

Race winner Contador was ecstatic in the press conference. "The win of this Vuelta al País Vasco has a prestigious value for me. The victory has not been easy, neither for the profiles nor for the climatic conditions." He was surprised about the gap between him and Evans. "I beat him for 22 seconds? That is really surprising to me!" He dedicated the victory to his grandmother, who deceased some time ago, a fact that "affected me a lot," and also to his grandfather Avellardo. He admitted to struggle with a molar infection, a fact that "only Benjamín Noval knew. I did almost not sleep in those days, but I did not want to say it as the rivals could have heard about it and tried to attack me even more."

Rabobank's Grischa Niermann was happy about the win of this team: "The Vuelta al País Vasco is one of the hardest races, it is great that we have been able to win the teams classification. The race has not been that hard, like in the past years, but yesterday and today were really two hard stages and you can say that they were worthy of the Vuelta al País Vasco." The German commented about the Alto de Aia that "yesterday, some of us would not have been able to reach the summit without the help of the spectators, because the wheels raced due to the bad weather."

How it unfolded

The weather was kinder to the public and to the riders than the previous day. Along the coast of the Basque country, the sun was out and the temperatures were around 20 degrees Celsius – perfect conditions for this last day of the Vuelta al País Vasco. A lot of cycling fans had come to Orio to support their heroes.

The course started near the beach, before crossing the little village of Orio (Gipuzkoa), direction to the port, along the luxurious yachts. It then left the village and affronted the Alto de Aia, with a maximal gradient of 22 percent. After four kilometres of climbing, a turning point and a descent of five kilometres over very narrow and curvy streets awaited the riders. The peloton descended with a speed of 85 kilometres per hour. Back in Orio, they passed the port once again before ascending to the Alto de Txanka. From the summit, they only had to descend again and the finish line awaited them besides the sea.

The vibes were great, the majority of the public was assembled at the start and finish zone and in the rampant streets of the Alto de Aia, where groups of people animated the riders calling each of them by name. In front of the Astana bus, Contador fans began to intone chants to support their idol.

Six riders did not start; amongst them stage three winner David Herrero from Karpin Galicia who crashed yesterday. The first of the remaining 99 riders, Liquigas' Iván Santaromita, started at 14:45, the last one, Alberto Contador, at 17:15.

The race leader did not let any doubt about his class: After four kilometres, he led the stage with 21 seconds ahead of his biggest rival, Cadel Evans, and he defended this advance until reaching the finish line.

Astana did a great work for their leader during the entire Vuelta, and he knew to thank it to them winning the overall classification.

The most regular rider should have been David Herrero, who was three times third in the stages and who also won the one that finished in Viana. His team, Karpin Galicia, has showed a very great performance, with Ezequiel Mosquera finishing ninth in the overall classification, and as the only non-ProTour team, they left a good impression.

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