Second on the tricky ascent to La Molina and now second overall in the Volta a Catalunya, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) said that given he was not feeling at his best during the stage, he is satisfied with Wednesday's first mountain top finish.
Although Dan Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) proved able to gain time on all the favourites, Contador closed down some early attacks and was then able to burst clear on the Irishman's trail in the final metres.
Second on the stage, two seconds down, Contador managed to gap all the other rivals barring Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing). He is six seconds down on Martin overall thanks to the time bonuses, and two ahead of Bardet, with the bulk of the contenders all grouped within 32 seconds of the race leader, making it likely the sparks will fly on Thursday's second Pyrenean stage.
"I couldn't win, but I'm pleased because I wasn't feeling so great in the stage," Contador said afterwards. "I don't know why but I was feeling a bit rough. So it was good that I could be in the attacks, and finally I could get second."
Contador caught a cold in Paris-Nice that lasted most of last week and it dragged into the beginning of the Volta a Catalunya, but he said he is pleased to be shaking it off. "Now I have to try to recover as best I can for tomorrow's stage."
The crunch question is whether Contador can now battle for the stage win and perhaps the overall in tomorrow's much harder Pyrenean stage, which features two special category climbs and culminates with a 18.5 kilometre ascent to Port Ainé. However, Contador was keen to point out that he is not, in any case, the favourite and that it was hard to draw conclusions from a final climb as unusual - with large chunks of downhill mid-ascent - as stage three's finish at La Molina.
"On paper, Thursday is a better finish for me. But Dan Martin knows what it means to win in Port Ainé and right now he's the one with the best options to win overall. You can't read too much, though, into today's stage: it was very windy, the final climb wasn't that hard and we'll have to see. Really, at the moment, Dan Martin is the one best placed to win overall."
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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 Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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