Fresh from his very close overall victory in the Vuelta a Burgos, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) confirmed in his winner's interview that he will now be going for a record-equaling fourth overall triumph in the Vuelta a España.
Winning by just one second in Burgos over Ben Hermans (BMC) and Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural), Contador recognized that he was still some way off his top condition and he had time to continue to hone his form before making his way to the August 20th start to cycling's third Grand Tour in Ourense.
On top of that, the Vuelta a Burgos is Contador's first multi-day event since abandoning July's Tour de France with injuries. As such a victory in Burgos, Spain’s biggest non-WorldTour stage race, a race with winners as prestigious as Marino Lejaretta, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde in its palmares, and often considered to be the key warm-up event for the Vuelta, represented an important boost to his morale.
"It was all very, very close, much more so than I expected," Contador said afterwards about his strategy for the final day's racing, which featured seven classified climbs of increasing difficulty through the sierras of Burgos, culminating in the ultra-steep, narrow Lagunas de Neila ascent.
Contador visibly held his fire when Spanish climber Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural) went up the road, four kilometres from the finish, to claim the stage win and almost the overall classification. Instead Contador opted to follow wheels almost until the last moment possible, almost daring his rivals to attack, until finally on the steepest final segment of climbing, he dropped the only other survivor from the main bunch, BMC's Ben Hermans, to go clear.
"To tell the truth, I had no idea if I could win, I have had a very high pulse rate all this week, particularly in the [stage 2] team time trial, and today I said I wouldn’t look at it anymore on the monitor and just went for it instead," Contador explained.
He agreed that in terms of how he sees the Vuelta, his victory in Burgos, his first outright stage race win since the Vuelta al País Vasco this spring, "is very good. This all helps me a lot for the Vuelta, I've still got 15 days and that's where I want to be at 100 per cent. I have to go on improving, but I’m on my way."
"Now I will be going on to the Vuelta a España, with the idea of going for the win."
The overall victory in Lagos de Neila also enabled Contador finally to gain some closure, he explained, on a minor recollection of his previous appearance in the Vuelta a Burgos, way back in 2006 but which still rankled. Back then Contador had cracked badly, he explained, at the Lagos de Neila - although finishing fourth at 42 seconds behind winner Iban Mayo might not sound like so bad a performance, Contador did not even start the stage the next day - "and it's good to lay that memory to rest."