Sixth place on the queen stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco ensured Alberto Contador remains in contention for a record fifth overall title in the Basque Country. The Trek-Segafredo rider finished the stage to Eibar three seconds down on winner and new race leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
"Samuel had a very bad crash right in front of me," said Contador. "Fortunately, I was able to dodge it, but that made me lose some meters and lose three seconds with the others. At the end, these are just race circumstances; the important thing is that the body has responded well and now we must think about the time trial. The race is still wide open because people behind can recover time too. The time trial is very long, and the differences can be very big."
The time loss was Contador's first of the race despite crashes and punctures threatening to derail his GC ambitions. However, as he explained, he was content with the outcome of the day.
"I'm happy. I was always able to be in the front, and in the end, controlling all the movements. Maybe I've been more conservative than other times because of yesterday's crash, but I am satisfied to be in the group of those who played the stage."
When Contador won the Pais Vasco title in 2008, 2009, and 2016, he also won the final time trial. In 2014, Contador was second to Tony Martin in the time trial but still held on to win. With a time trial that is expected to be slightly easier than 2016, Contador is going hunting for his first win of the season to secure the title. The 34-year-old has been consistent thus far in 2017 having finished second overall in three of the four stage races he's started with 12th place at Abu Dhabi Tour an outlier so far. However, he is yet to taste victory in Trek-Segafredo colours.
"Last year was a very hard TT with a hard climb that was very good for me. This year the climb is more bearable, and the rest of the road goes down. Riders of more power will fare better than I do, but in the end, the key is to give the maximum and go to the finish," said Contador.
Contador will start the 27.7km Eibar to Eibar time trial at 4:23 pm with Valverde the last rider to start at 4:33pm.