Alberto Contador to retire after Vuelta a Espana

Alberto Contador has confirmed that he will call time on his career at the end of the season. In an Instagram video, Contador said that he would ride the Vuelta a Espana later this month and confirmed that the Spanish Grand Tour will be the last race of his career.

"Hi all, I would like to inform you about two things. The first one is that I will ride the next Vuelta a Espana from August 19 and the second is that it will be my last race as a professional cyclist," Contador said. "I say this happy, without sadness. It's a decision that I have thought about very well and I don't think that there is a better farewell than in a home race in my own country. I am sure they will be three great weeks, enjoying all your support and I'm looking forward to it."

Contador had been in talks with Trek-Segafredo since the end of the Tour de France about extending his term with the team by a year. He had previously hinted at his intentions to ride on into 2018, focusing on the Giro d'Italia rather than the Tour de France. However, the delay in any announcement regarding his future put that into question. His decision to retire comes after a disappointing Tour de France where he finished ninth overall almost nine minutes behind winner Chris Froome (Team Sky).

The 34-year-old Contador turned professional with the Once-Eroski team in 2003 and spent four seasons with them. In his second year as a professional, after suffering headaches for several days, he crashed during a stage of the Vuelta a Asturias before going into convulsions. He was diagnosed with a cerebral cavernoma, which required surgery. It would be several months before he could ride again, but eight months after the operation he won a stage of the 2005 Tour Down Under.

In 2007, Contador moved to the Discovery Channel squad, where he claimed his first Grand Tour title at the Tour de France. He moved into yellow after race leader Michael Rasmussen was sent home for a whereabouts violation ahead of stage 17, and eventually beat Cadel Evans by 23 seconds to take the overall title. Discovery Channel shut up shop at the end of the season and Contador moved over to Astana.

That move would prevent him from defending his Tour de France title with the race organiser ASO barring the Kazakhstani team from all their races due to past doping violations. Instead, he went to the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana for the first time and won each race.

Contador would return in 2009 to claim his second Tour de France victory, overcoming an internal team rivalry with Lance Armstrong, as well as his long-time GC rival Andy Schleck.

That 2009 title would prove to be the last 'official victory' for the Spaniard at the Tour. He would win again in 2010, beating Schleck by just 39 seconds and a few days later would announce that he was to move to the Saxo-Bank team at the end of the season. Three weeks after that announcement, however, Contador would learn that he had returned a positive test for the Clenbuterol during the second rest day. He claimed that it had come from contaminated meat, but a protracted legal case would end in 2012 with Contador receiving a retrospective two-year ban and his title was given to Schleck.

Contador raced for most of the period covered by his ban and he won another Giro d'Italia in dominant fashion ahead of Michele Scarponi in 2011. That, too, was wiped from the record books in February 2012 when the Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed Contador's punishment.

Contador spent just six months on the sidelines before returning with Saxo Bank in August of that year. He went on to win the Vuelta a Espana in dramatic style after a long-range attack on the road to Fuente Dé turned the race on its head in the final week.

The Pinto native would struggle over the following season, however, winning just one major race in 2013 and finishing a distant fourth in the Tour de France. Contador's fortunes in France did not get any better in 2014. After a string of top results in the early part of the season, Contador was among the outright favourites for Tour victory, only to be forced to abandon on stage 10 after fracturing his leg in a crash. He would bounce back to take his third overall title at the Vuelta a Espana, beating Chris Froome by just over a minute.

Contador's last Grand Tour victory came at the 2015 Giro d'Italia, where a dominant ride saw him better the Astana pairing of Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa. He has had top 10 placings at both the Vuelta and the Tour since then but has not been back on the podium.

This is the third time that Contador has indicated that he might retire at the end of a season, after talking about it in both 2015 and 2016. On each occasion, he had decided to push on for another season, but this time the decision appears to be much more final.

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