Alberto Contador added a stage victory at L’Alpe d’Huez to his long list of triumphs as he won the queen stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
He was unable to take the overall race lead from a hugely impressive Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack), but it was the Spaniard's first appearance on the legendary climb in the French Alps and he was happy just to win the stage.
"The history of this climb definitely motivated me to win today," Contador said in the post-race press conference.
"My condition is far from excellent yet, but yesterday I watched videos on the internet of (Marco) Pantani, Lance (Armstrong) and others riding for the win up here; that’s why I wanted to win it as well. More than the win itself, I wanted it because it was L’Alpe d’Huez."
"My team worked for that from the start," said Contador. "This was in important test as I work on the condition I want to have at the Tour de France. I’m not at my best yet but I’m very happy with the outcome of today’s stage."
Contador attacked several times but never managed to drop Brajkovic. The wind and the braveness of the young Slovenian blunted Contador's attacks, and so he focused on winning the stage.
Contador accepts defeat
Contador indicated that he knows it will now be almost impossible for him to pull back the 1:41 deficit he has on Brajkovic in the race's general classification.
"I raced for two years on the same team as Brajkovic, I know his qualities," he said. "He’s very professional as a rider and his current state of form is very impressive. I wasn’t surprised by his performance against the clock. I’m also not surprised by the way he defended his yellow jersey today. He’s a very deserved winner of the Dauphiné."
There is one stage remaining at the Critérium du Dauphiné, with five ascents of the Côte de Domancy around Sallanches. Bernard Hinault dropped Giambattista Baronchelli to claimed his only world title there 30 years ago, and Contador believes Brajkovic will be able to keep the race lead. He is happy with second overall.
"For me, it’s mission accomplished at the Dauphiné," Contador insisted. "I came to this race mostly to get good form for the Tour de France. Last year I was third without winning a stage. This time my overall position is about the same, plus I've got two stage wins: the prologue and the most prestigious stage, so I’m very happy with that."
Contador confirmed he will only take part in one more race prior to the start of the Tour de France in Rotterdam on July 3: the Spanish national time trial championships. After that it will all be about a third victory in July.