Alberto Contador moved into a nine-second lead in the País Vasco stage race after winning Wednesday's stage to Eibar, Spain. The Spanish Astana rider went solo in the final five kilometres to win the stage ahead Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto).
Contador put time into a group containing Evans, Olympic Champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Antonio Colom (Katusha). Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC) finished in fifth at 28 seconds. Contador leads danger men Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Luis León Sánchez by just over 30 seconds, who sit in sixth and seventh.
"I have had better days this year, for example in Paris-Nice and also in Castilla y León, though it is not always possible to win. Today I wasn't bad but not super, though I am satisfied with the result."
Contador took over the general classification lead from Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne), who had led the race since he won stage one. He used his Astana team to control the race prior to his move on the Arrate climb.
"It's a tough climb for making a lot of time gaps. It is short and has a good asphalt surface so a one man move is at a disadvantage to a group who can take turns pulling," he said of the final climb of Arrate (7.6km long and 3km from the finish).
"It was a very demanding stage and we went very fast during the entire day. I asked them to work during the last part to make the race hard, because if not it would be very difficult to make differences on the last climb. The whole team did great work, especially [Chris] Horner, who put on quite a show."
"The differences were very small and the overall remains totally open. They all look very strong."
It was the fourth race win of the season for the winner of all three Grand Tours – Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
Contador will take a break after this race and then re-focus for his season's objective, the Tour de France. He said he will take a vacation and turn off his mobile phone.
The Tour de France, July 4 to 26, starts in Monaco and Contador will co-captain the team with seven-time winner Lance Armstrong.