It had been a long time coming, and the news emanating from Oman perhaps made it seem even more imperative, but Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) finally broke his thirteen-month winless streak with victory on stage 4 of the Volta ao Algarve on Saturday.
Hours after Chris Froome’s impressive win atop Green Mountain at the Tour of Oman, Contador was the first to the summit of the Alto do Malhao, his first triumph since he won a stage of the Tour de San Luis in January 2013.
A winner on the Malhao in 2010, when he took the second of his overall victories at the Volta ao Algarve, Contador knew what awaited him on the short but sharp finishing climb. With the yellow jersey of Michal Kwiatkowski all but out of reach, Contador opted to bide his time until the final kilometre before striking.
“It’s true that I already had some references on this climb, which has been good to me before,” Contador said, according to L’Équipe. “Today I was really concentrated on winning this stage more than on the general classification because I knew there wouldn’t be big gaps at the finish.”
Contador reached the summit three seconds up on world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and ten clear of Kwiatkowski, and he now lies second overall and 16 seconds down ahead of Sunday’s final stage to Vilamoura.
“It’s not the most important thing,” Contador said of the overall win. “I’m happy because the team did remarkable work and I was able to finish it off. My physical condition is improving day by day. The work I’ve done this winter is starting to bear fruit.”
The Volta ao Algarve is Contador’s first race of the season and he has enjoyed a very different winter to the one that prefigured his disappointing 2013 campaign. A trip to London in December to announce the purchase of his team by Oleg Tinkov aside, Contador has kept his off-the-bike engagements to a minimum in recent months, something Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit believes has made a significant difference.
“Alberto realised that he was spending more time on planes that he was training,” Mauduit told L’Équipe. “He knows that success is the result of training and rest. We’ve found again the Alberto Contador who knows how to win. You could already see that in his face, his attitude, his voice and his legs. Alberto needs to win.”