Despite his injuries and considerable doubts whether he could continue in the race this morning, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) turned in a solid performance on one of the most difficult summit finishes of this year's Vuelta a España.
With brightly coloured bandages and tape on his leg and down his left side after a crash on stage 7, Contador was well-positioned at the foot of the decisive, steeper second segment of the Alto de La Camperona, moving onto the climb in sixth place in the main pack.
The Spaniard was then able to shadow Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) when the duo went clear, but seemed to sit up with around 1.3 kilometres to go when Froome broke away and Quintana then passed the Briton.
However, as Froome faded slightly, Contador massively regained momentum, and although Quintana was unreachable, the triple Vuelta winner passed Froome almost within sight of the line.
Contador, 13th on the stage, finally ceded 25 seconds to Quintana, but gained eight seconds on the Briton and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), as well as 32 seconds on Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange).
For Contador, having been apparently dropped, the turnaround was a very strong one, but his bounce-back after yesterday's crash was arguably even more remarkable.
"The aim was to get through the stage, yesterday I wasn't even sure I could continue, I thought it could be all over," Contador, who has moved up to seventh overall, told reporters. "When I got to the hotel I could barely walk."
"But when I started today I got a lot of support from a lot of people, sending me messages and cheering me on and that boosted me a bit. I have my saying, too, querer es poder - where there's a will there's a way - and today was definitely the day to apply it."
"So I'm satisfied, it was ok." Only ok, one reporter asked Contador, who replied, "A good result would have been to drop everybody. And when Nairo opened up a gap, I couldn't follow him."
"So now it's back to recovery, the leg injury is better than I expected, but sometimes you pay more on the second day than you do on the first after a big crash. Tomorrow [Sunday], I expect I'll be following wheels."
Overall, Contador is well aware that he has a lot of ground to make up. He remains 1:39 behind new leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who has shown he was strongest on the Vuelta's first major summit finish.
"I had a big setback at the start of the Vuelta, I lost time in the team time trial and again at Ezaro," Contador said. "But I'm always optimistic, I thought on Friday it could have been over, I have to keep going."
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