Spaniard Alberto Contador said today that he feels more assured of his second overall victory in the Tour de France. He won a mountaintop stage in the race yesterday and took the overall lead, one week before the race finishes in Paris.
"We made some important difference in the classification. It was a big step towards final victory, but nothing is decided yet," said Contador in a press conference in Sion, Switzerland.
Near Sion, Contador attacked and distanced his rivals on the 8.8-kilometre climb up to Verbier. Saxo Bank and Garmin set a high tempo, but Contador was able to attack solo at 5.6 kilometres remaining. He distanced Andy Schleck (Saxo) by 43 seconds and his other rivals by a minute.
"I am very happy about how the stage unfolded yesterday. I had a lot of dreams and hopes that I could be in this situation."
Contador jumped from third to first overall with the stage win. He leads ahead of Astana teammate Lance Armstrong by 1:37 and Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) by 1:46. Teammate Andreas Klöden is in fourth and Schleck in fifth.
The team appeared divided between seven-time winner Armstrong and 2007 winner Contador before and during the Tour de France. USA's Armstrong admitted last week that there were tensions in the team. Yesterday, after losing 1:35, he said he would help Contador win the race.
"There were never real problems," said Contador. "We don't notice anything different at the dinner table or on the bus. It is like any other Tour de France."
After today's rest day, the race continues with two days in the Alpine mountains: stages to Bourg-St-Maurice and Le Grand-Bornand. There is a 40.5-kilometre time trial Thursday and a mountain top finish to Mont Ventoux Saturday.
Contador's rivals have promised to continue their fight for the overall win. Schleck should continue strongly in the mountains and Wiggins will have an advantage in the Annecy time trial.
"The rider I am most worried about is Andy Schleck. We know that Wiggins is going to be good at the time trail. We also saw that he was strong in Monaco, we would like to get more time on him if we can.
"I just need to be careful not to have a bad day."
Organiser ASO did not invite his team to the 2008 edition, but Contador raced and won the two other Grand Tours: the 2008 Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España.