Although it may yet be cut short by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) got his 2012 season underway at the Tour de San Luis on Monday. Like many European riders, Contador travelled to Argentina in search of some warm weather miles, but was instead greeted by torrential rain and plummeting temperatures on the opening stage.
“We came for heat and sun, and instead we met with rain and cold,” Contador told Marca. “We even had to stop for a moment because of the hailstones. Some of the hailstones that fell were bigger than marbles. It was more complicated than we expected and there was considerable tension.”
Contador admitted that he came close to crashing in the treacherous conditions, and then punctured just as the pace began to ratchet upwards towards the end of the stage. After chasing back on, his Saxo Bank team worked to set up home rider Juan José Haedo for the sprint, but he lost out to Francesco Chicchi (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
“In the finale, I almost had a fall, but I avoided it,” Contador said. “Then I punctured with about 40km to go, when the peloton was going fast. It was hard to get back on, but in the end we did it, and then we decided on the responsibility of the peloton.”
With two summit finishes and a time trial to come later in the week, Contador should come to the fore as the race progresses. “In the end, it went well,” he said. “My sensations were good and overall it’s positive.”
Stage two of the Tour de San Luis brings the peloton from Fraga to Juana Koslay, and should again favour the sprinters.
The CAS verdict on Contador’s positive test for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France is expected at the end of January.