By Gregor Brown in Albi
The weather in Southern France tends to shift about and Alberto Contador knows this more than anyone else does. The Spaniard went out Saturday morning with teammate Levi Leipheimer in the Discovery Channel team car to preview the 54 kilometres that make up the 94th Tour de France's first time trial in Albi, the city famous for its red bricks. By 17:30 in the afternoon the sun was breaking through on Avenue Albert Thomas where he finished his day after one hour, eight minutes and 52 seconds, enough to move into third overall.
The duo returned from its early morning sortie as rain started to pound down on the first riders starting their time trial run. "The course is for time trial specialists," the 24 year-old Spaniard noted in studious tone to Cyclingnews. "I think the last riders [will have] a lot of rain, the time trial will be very dangerous and it will be very important not to have a crash.
"It is better to go slower today to be cautious, and then tomorrow I will be back," Kid Contador continued before the stage.
He maintains the maillot blanc of best young rider with 4'28" over Gerdemann. Moreover, if it was "cautious" today then he has a good chance of changing his blanc for jaune after of Sunday's 197-kilometre romp over the hors catégorie climbs of Port de Pailhères and Plateau de Beille.
After the time trial stage east of Albi, in the Tarn department, Contador moved himself 2'31" back on race leader Rasmussen and 1'31" back on Evans. "Today is an important step up," he confirmed of his time trial ride. "I have done a good time trial. The gaps are more important than I expected but I am not happy with the third spot on GC, I want more.
"The mountain is my ally, but I am afraid of the last week. I don't know what I can do in the third of a Grand Tour." Contador, who returned to racing after successful sugary on a blood clot in his brain, has only once before finished a Grand Tour when he road the 2005 Tour with Liberty Seguros to finish 31st.
"I like the stage to stage to Plateau de Belle." The riders depart tomorrow along Rue Edmond Barbet at 11:40 for Plateau de Beille.