By Monika Prell and Hedwig Kröner
The Spanish media are today full of praise about the young Alberto Contador, who won Paris-Nice yesterday as the only second Spaniard after Miguel Indurain - a fact he did not know. According to Spanish newspaper AS, the Discovery rider said: "I didn't know it, but for me it's a big honour to follow him as Spanish winner."
Contador was grateful for the support and great performance of his team throughout the week. "The team was tremendous. The day before we noticed that Rebellin went a bit slow and that we had to take advantage of this. I could not let my teammates down."
The 24-years old confessed that it was not easy for him. "Two kilometres before the finish line I still had many doubts. I began to enjoy at 500 meters before the finish. I can't express with words the joy I felt in this moment."
Discovery Channel sports director Dirk Demol was of course very happy that his squad finally managed to tire out Gerolsteiner and Davide Rebellin on the 'Promenade des Anglais'. "After four days, we finally had Rebellin on his knees," he told Sportwereld. "Although I didn't understand the objectives of some other teams on Friday and Saturday - it was like at the Tour de France, where some defend already a seventh placing."
The disappointment of not having turned around the situation to his advantage on Saturday had also passed - as well as the anger Contador felt towards his former teammate Luis Leon Sanchez, who counter-attacked him in Cannes to take the stage victory even though the cyclists had an agreement.
"He called me the very same evening," Contador said. "He said he was sorry but that it had been a decision of his team directors, and that he didn't have a choice but to attack. I was angry at the time, but I understood that it wasn't his fault."
"He's a fantastic guy," continued Demol. "We wanted him four years ago but Manolo Saiz was faster. Our plan was clear: to make the race as hard as possible on the climbs to isolate Rebellin. Popovych and Leipheimer put Contador in a perfect position on the Col d'Eze - the plan worked out perfectly."
The young Madrilenean considered the victory as his most important. "Paris-Nice is a very mountainous race, and look at the cyclists who participated this year." Asked about the Tour de France - Indurain won his first one the year after his second Paris-Nice win - Contador answered "you can dream of it, but it's something enormous."