Contador proud to be in Vuelta lead

Spaniard spends first day in red

The Vuelta a Espana's longest stage of 2012 was over in four and a quarter hours, but as the peloton pounded its way south for 204.5 kilometres during stage 18, new leader Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) said he spent a fair part of the time "thinking about yesterday's race" - when he took over la roja from Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

"I'm pleased and proud to be wearing this jersey," the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff rider said, "and I thought a lot about how I got it.

"Frankly our tactics yesterday on the stage were perfect, it couldn't have worked out better. I'm very satisfied.

"I talked it over a bit with [former leader] Joaquim [Rodriguez] and it's nice to think that even if we hammer each other on the stages, there's enough sportsmanship in cycling to be able to discuss it afterwards in a friendly way - unlike other sports."

As for the stage itself, Contador said it was "fast, I'm sure we averaged 48 kilometres today" - the day's average speed was a little lower, 47.691kmh, but only a little.

"Everybody was looking out for me, and keeping me up there because it was windy and you had to be in a good position" - and Katusha did attempt to split the pack at one point, with 15 kilometres to go.

"It was a complicated finish, a puncture or something could have caused a lot of problems, but I got through fine. One day less to worry about."

Looking ahead, Contador said he was thinking less about Friday's stage, which is basically flat but has a technical, slightly uphill finish in La Lastrilla and "more about Saturday and La Bola del Mundo" - likely to be packed out with Contador fans, given he lives just an hour's drive away.

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