With the start of the Tour de France just two weeks away, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) gave himself a boost of confidence when he won the queen stage 3 at the Route du Sud and moved into the overall race lead. After a head-to-head match over the Port de Balès, the Spaniard eventually rode away from his nearest rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the long descent into Bagnères-de-Luchon.
“I'm very happy with this victory. I strive to win in every race, not just for myself and my team, but also for our sponsors,” Contador said in a team press release.
The third stage of the Route du Sud included the challenging climb over the Port de Balès, where Contador and Quintana were expected to battle it out for the stage win. However, the pair matched one another on the ascent in pursuit of solo rider Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and the three men eventually crested the climb together.
Contador instead gained a gap on the tricky descent that followed, winning the stage by 13 seconds over Quintana.
“All my teammates did a very good job today and for that reason I had to round off the effort,” Contador said. “On Port de Balès I was with Quintana and I asked him whether he wanted to collaborate in order to bring Latour back, who was alone at the front.
“Quintana said he didn't want to because he considered I was very strong. There was still a long way to go but I tried to control the race to the top of the climb. At that point I got a few meters from Quintana and I realized it was a question of gritting my teeth and holding on to the finish line. I staged a few attacks, just enough to be able to control the race,” Contador said.
Winning the queen stage ahead of a rival like Quintana shows that Contador’s top form has carried over from the Giro d’Italia straight into the upcoming Tour de France. However, he noted that while winning the queen stage and potentially the Route du Sud overall title on Sunday is a confidence booster, the real goal is to be wearing the Tour de France's yellow jersey on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 26.
“Every win is always important and boosts your morale but this one doesn't mean much. The main objective remains the Tour de France."
Tinkoff-Saxo's director Patxi Vila was pleased with Contador's stage win, however, he also showed caution when comparing it to the Tour de France, pointing out that Quintana may have fresher legs than Contador come July, and that there will be a series of other overall contenders at the Tour that shouldn't be discounted.
“It goes without saying that every victory in a race is encouraging but we think we cannot draw any conclusion today in regards to the Tour de France. Quintana showed today he was strong. In addition, he's also fresher and without any doubt he will be a strong rival next month. There will be other very strong rivals as well, so it's a long way until the Tour."