No less than five attacks by Saxo Bank-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador failed to distance race leader Purito Rodriguez (Katusha), but the Madrileño said that he had had a rough day on the Vuelta stage to Lagos de Covadonga. The 29-year-old explained that was why Saxo Bank-Tinkoff had taken things more calmly on the stage itself, compared to yesterday, when they were constantly on the front.
“I didn’t feel good this morning so I told the team we’d switch tactics, and rather than try and control the race throughout, we’d play it all on one card at the end,” Contador, who finished alongside Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Rodriguez, said afterwards.
“I didn’t feel as good as I did yesterday, but then I realised that other people were feeling worse than me, and at least I tried it as hard as I could. You never know when they are going to have a bad day.”
Asked if he was ring-rusty following his suspension, Contador said “it could be. Rodriguez is in the form of his life, for sure, and maybe it’s a bit tough for me to find that little extra gear that makes all the difference.”
“But that said, I’ll keep on fighting, I’ll fight until the last moment possible, and I’m just enjoying racing again. If I feel as good tomorrow or better, I’ll keep on attacking. I lost count of how many times I tried today.”
“The attacks didn’t work out, but I hope people have enjoyed the show.”
Chris Froome (Sky) faded again on the final climb, losing time. He finished 35 seconds down on Contador and and is now fourth overall, at 2:16.
“I’m not sure where I’ll finish, but I’ll just keep trying to do my best and I’ll be happy with that,” the Briton said.
As for Valverde, rather than look towards beating Contador or Rodriguez, “my war is with Froome, because I don’t rule him out,” the Spaniard, who has now moved onto the provisional overall podium, said afterwards.
“It was them [Rodriguez and Contador] that attacked, I just wanted to keep on getting time on Froome and so I continued at my pace. Every day I get a little more, but he’s not gone yet. I didn’t expect him to drop back so quickly today.”
Showing that he recognises that the Vuelta’s battle for the top spot has now come down to a battle of Rodriguez and Contador, Valverde said “Purito’s very strong, and Contador can’t drop him, [but] right now I’d sign for third in Madrid.”