Alberto Contador (Astana) is racing the Vuelta al País Vasco as one of his few preparation races for the Tour de France, his main goal for the 2009 season. Some of his potential rivals in July also race in the Basque Country and are showing good form.
The first stage of País Vasco was hilly, with eight classified mountains offering a god test on who is going well. "It was a tough beginning to the race. The whole stage was fast, but in the end not too decisive," Contador said.
The first group contained only about two dozen riders, with the second group 40 seconds back. "Some of the favourites were very motivated, especially [Antonio] Colom, Samuel Sánchez and [Damiano] Cunego, but others are going well, too, like Fränk Schleck, [Cadel] Evans, Luis León [Sánchez] and Joaquím Rodríguez." Contador took note how his rivals are shaping up in Spain.
The Spaniard himself feels well, "just not super," he admitted. "It was sufficient to be with the lead group. Purito [Joaquín Rodríguez] and Cunego were going really strong, but I wasn't too shabby and I am content with my race."
Contador expects an easier stage two (on Tuesday), "with a big group arriving and a bunch sprint in the end."