Recovered from the virus that put an end to his participation at the Critérium International, Alberto Contador ensured his ambitions to win a third title at Tour of the Basque Country have not been stifled. Contador and his Saxo Tinkoff teammate Roman Kreuziger were part of the 18-man group that split from the main field in the technical run-in to the finish line on Stage 1 into Elgoibar, taking a five-second buffer into tomorrow's stage.
Last year's winner Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was caught up behind the crash that occurred at the summit of the final climb in the 156km stage and lost five-seconds to a number of rivals for the overall title including Richie Porte (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) and Contador's Czech teammate Kreuziger.
At the end of the opening stage, won by Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge), Contador said that the small time gap between himself and the likes of Sanchez, Andrew Talansky (Garmin Sharp) and Andreas Klöden (RadioShack Leopard) among others does little to help pick out who the real contenders are.
"It was a tough stage as usual here in the Basque Country Tour, so that was no surprise," said Contador on his team site.
"Our team took responsibility from the beginning, since the very first break started with seven riders from some of the favorite's teams, so we had to shut it down. Finally two riders got away and we worked at the front and controlled the gap.
"The team has worked impressively hard and we were in the front to avoid accidents, which turned out to be a great idea. I only heard something behind, which then turned out to be a crash, but we had no idea what happened. I was focused on following the wheel in front of me. My shape is good, but you cannot really draw any conclusions compared to the overall standings from the day's events."
Sports director Philippe Mauduit was content with the day's outcome, given that a number of teams missed out on featuring a single rider in the front selection. Saxo was one of the few teams that finished with two riders at the front and that will undoubtedly aid Contador in the coming days as he looks to not only pick up a stage win but also the overall - a feat he has not achieved since 2009.
"In the last chaotic kilometers we had both Alberto and Roman in the front group, which we are happy with. The boys are all in very good shape which we demonstrated throughout the stage today. They are motivated to make an impact on the race," said Maudit.
"Tomorrow we can expect another tough day with some hills but I still expect that a group comes together for a sprint."