Alberto Contador (Astana) appeared satisfied rather than overjoyed with events on the first Pyrenean stage of the race. The defending Tour de France champion admitted that he and Andy Schleck had focused on marking each other, but was not concerned about the time they both yielded to other key contenders by tracking each other so tightly. Denis Menchov and Samuel Sánchez both gained 14 seconds on the two Tour favourites.
“We went head-to-head and didn’t really watch the other riders too closely,” said Contador. “We controlled each other and I think that the fact that we came in together suits me more than him,” he added, alluding to the fact that the Spaniard will be heavily favoured if his deficit on Schleck remains at 31 seconds going into the Pauillac time trial on the penultimate day of the race.
“The final climb wasn’t hard enough to distance Andy and that enabled him to stay on my wheel,” said the Astana leader, who at one point almost came to a complete halt on the final climb in a failed attempt to drop behind his Saxo Bank rival. “Once we both realised it was going to be complicated to distance each other, we agreed to work together to recover as much time as we could on the group ahead.”
Contador described the stage as “hard and quick” and admitted that Schleck’s form had been “very good”. “But this is just the first of four Pyrenean stages so I’m not worried about how things went.
“The team worked very well again today. They did a lot of work and set a very good pace. I’m not concerned about the time I lost to those behind because it was just a matter of seconds and the gap to them is quite substantial.”