Contador challenged by steep climbs in Tirreno-Adriatico

Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) finished the penultimate stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in fourth place overall after a tough day on Monday. Stage 6 turned out to be a day when Chris Froome (Sky) lost his overall lead to Vicenzo Nibali (Astana), and Contador dropped out his podium position. However, Contador kept the overall lead in the points classification.

Even the usually superb Spanish climber struggled with the day's triple ascent of the Sant'Elpidio a Mare, especially the final trip up when rain made the extreme grades - up to 30 per cent - difficult to ride. He described the day as "one stage in which climbing the hills was difficult as a result of the technique used". Normally riders would be out of the saddle, using their arms to help power up such a steep gradient, but any attempt to do so in the rain on today's ascent caused the unweighted rear tire to slip on the wet pavement.

"In the decisive moment, Joaquim [Rodriguez] attacked, and I came off the back. I stood up over the pedals, and I almost fell off my bike. I lost a few meters there, and then it was impossible to recover," Contador said.

"It was something amazing that we were not able to climb the hills because the wheels were slipping. Without the water on them, they would have been a little easier, but with the water, the objective was not to climb in front, but simply to climb."

Many racers had more trouble than Contador and were spotted having to walk their bikes uphill.

He still has a chance to step onto the final podium, but Contador said it will take "stunning leg pain" in tomorrow's 9.2km time trial.

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