There have been glimmers of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) and his best form during this year’s Tour de France but throughout the race he has been fighting the fatigue accumulated from the Giro d’Italia as well as his main Tour rivals. With one mountain stage remaining he sits in fifth overall but well shy of a podium place. It’s a similar tale to 2011 in which he claimed the Giro - before later having it stripped from his palmares - and then suffering in the Tour.
Stage 19 of the race offered the perfect snapshot of Contador's 2015 Tour. He was among the riders to hit Team Sky and Froome early on with attacks but he wilted on the final climbs, riding a defensive pattern in order to sustain his overall position.
“The truth is it was a day that I had to survive. I started having bad sensations from the Croix de Fer, with threats of cramps throughout the whole day,” he said after the stage.
“What I had to do was to economise to the maximum. I put my teammate at the front to maintain the tempo and the others were pretty calm.”
The stage was won by Vincenzo Nibali after a long solo attack with over 50 kilometres remaining, while Chris Froome retained his yellow jersey despite losing thirty seconds to Nairo Quintana. Contador is fifth overall, 7:56 down on Froome.
“I started quite well. Nibali beat us, so congratulations because the truth is he did really well. In my case to do it the way I did takes a lot of credit compared to the other times I tried to win because I had threats of cramps all day. On a muscular level, I suffered a lot perhaps because of the heat I became dehydrated. We saved the day and Saturday is another day. We have to see how the day goes and how our legs are. Now what is important is to recover."
Contador, of course, almost turned the Tour de France on it’s head in 2011 on a similar stage that ended on Alpe d’Heuz. That day he started the race well down in GC but attacked early and put the GC riders under tremendous pressure.
When asked if a similar day could be in store, Contador replied: “It will depend on the tactics that Movistar use, if it goes from the start, Sky are debilitated. I think that there are options but it will be a tough fight from the start. You never know. It depends on the legs of everyone.”