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Contador able to follow team in Vuelta a España opener

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Alberto Contador leads the TInkoff-Saxo team in the team time trial

Alberto Contador leads the TInkoff-Saxo team in the team time trial (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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Alberto Contador high-fiving his fans

Alberto Contador high-fiving his fans (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Alberto Contador completed the Vuelta a España's opening team time trial with a seventh place for Tinkoff-Saxo, 19 seconds behind Movistar, but with an eight second advantage over Chris Froome and Team Sky.

Based on time differences alone, that result might have given Contador reasons to feel optimistic, but also some concern given the time lost on Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). However, given his recent knee injury in the Tour, Contador had two completely different points of reference instead for the Vuelta curtain-raiser: his own team's collective performance, and his capacity to handle the pace that the Tinkoff-Saxo's time trial specialists and team powerhouses had laid down on the 12.6 kilometre course in Jerez de la Frontera.

"It was a good result for me, the team was very cohesive," Contador said seconds after crossing the line. "I'm still race rusty though, my heart rate was at almost 200 bpm. I'm lacking training."

"I've got through today well though, and that's my plan, to get through this race day by day, not to look too far ahead. So I can be pleased with that."

Crashing out, given recent history, was perhaps another top worry on Saturday evening and Contador said that "the roads were not dangerous. But the tarmac was shiny after so much dry, hot weather here, and it also meant a lot of oil and petrol hadn't been washed off the roads either. So it could have been risky. Instead, we got through fine and I was pleased about that."

The Tinkoff-Saxo leader said he had not seen the overall classification, but "more than anything, I'm pleased I could follow the pace set down by my teammates. Another good symptom, too, is that I didn't feel any pain in my knee during the stage. The time differences aren't something that worry me too much right now."

The key to tomorrow's flat stage along the Atlantic coast, Contador says, is "whether it's windy or not. I'll have to be very alert, not only to avoid splits in the peloton, but also to avoid crashes: crashes, at this point, are what concern me the most"

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.