Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank) explained why he made a surprise move in a hot spot sprint bonus 162.5km into stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana to claim a two-second time bonus for a third place behind two breakaways.
"Grand Tours are sometimes won and lost by seconds," he said.
The Spaniard was doubtless referring to last year's Vuelta, which Chris Froome (Sky), a leading rival for this year's title, lost by 13 seconds last year to Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar). And without time bonuses, Froome would actually have finished first overall.
Contador explained that he had been in a good position anyway on the slight rise through Viana, where the time bonus was situated - preceding a loop round the town and final bunch sprint finish - and had seen the opportunity to go for the third place in the time bonus behind two breakaways.
"I was toward the front anyway with [Danish teammate] Niki Sorensen, we were well placed, and we decided to go for it," Contador said, "and if there's another opportunity to take two seconds or six seconds tomorrow, I'd do it again - major Tours are won and lost by seconds sometimes."
Asked if it was a sign of whether he was nervous about his form or ambitious, Contador said, "That depends on how you interpret it. My objective is to do as well as possible overall."
As for the two upcoming summit finishes, Contador said they were "very different. Arrate [on stage 3] is short and punchy, whereas Valdezcaray is much longer and gentler. It'll be difficult to attack on Valdezcaray, though, if it's windy - it's very exposed at the top."
His compatriot Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) was none too optimistic about his chances of staying in the lead tomorrow [Monday], saying, "Although it's not too long, and I know it well, I've got to be realistic, the big names for the overall classification will start to attack, and I just hope it's a teammate who is up there and takes over the lead."
"It's a finish we often use in the Tour of the Basque Country and very typical of the kinds of climb you get in that race. I think we'll start to see there who can win the Vuelta."
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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