A day before the set-piece Vuelta stage to La Zubia’s summit finish acts as a first real test of the overall contenders’ strength, Tinkoff-Saxo and Alberto Contador attempted to catch out their rivals by forming an echelon in the closing kilometres of the stage.
The move worked, in that some 70 riders made it into the front group, but only one overall favourite - Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Sharp - was caught out, losing over three minutes.
Contador has tried this tactic before, most notably in the 2013 Tour de France when he managed to catch out overall leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) on stage 13. Froome lost over a minute, whilst Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), attempting to change a back wheel wrecked when another rival collided with him, lost over 13 minutes.
“It was good to try something, but the information we had was really bad, we had no idea who was caught behind and who wasn’t,” Contador said at the finish.
“I thought some other riders were caught behind, there was a lot of confusion. We tried it anyway.”
Asked about Froome, who moved ahead on an intermediate sprint to claim a two second time bonus, Contador said, “he tried it twice, the first time he ended up in no-man’s land, and the second time he got a placing after working with a team-mate. I don’t think it was that important.”
As for his knee injury, Contador said “well, every day that goes past is a plus, it’s neither better or worse. We’ll see what happens.”