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Contador proud to be in Vuelta lead

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Race leader Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank)

Race leader Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank) (Image credit: Sirotti)
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After a solo victory on stage 17, Alberto Contador is the Vuelta's new leader with four days of racing remaining.

After a solo victory on stage 17, Alberto Contador is the Vuelta's new leader with four days of racing remaining. (Image credit: Sirotti)

The Vuelta a Espana's longest stage of 2012 was over in four and a quarter hours, but as the peloton pounded its way south for 204.5 kilometres during stage 18, new leader Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) said he spent a fair part of the time "thinking about yesterday's race" - when he took over la roja from Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

"I'm pleased and proud to be wearing this jersey," the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff rider said, "and I thought a lot about how I got it.

"Frankly our tactics yesterday on the stage were perfect, it couldn't have worked out better. I'm very satisfied.

"I talked it over a bit with [former leader] Joaquim [Rodriguez] and it's nice to think that even if we hammer each other on the stages, there's enough sportsmanship in cycling to be able to discuss it afterwards in a friendly way - unlike other sports."

As for the stage itself, Contador said it was "fast, I'm sure we averaged 48 kilometres today" - the day's average speed was a little lower, 47.691kmh, but only a little.

"Everybody was looking out for me, and keeping me up there because it was windy and you had to be in a good position" - and Katusha did attempt to split the pack at one point, with 15 kilometres to go.

"It was a complicated finish, a puncture or something could have caused a lot of problems, but I got through fine. One day less to worry about."

Looking ahead, Contador said he was thinking less about Friday's stage, which is basically flat but has a technical, slightly uphill finish in La Lastrilla and "more about Saturday and La Bola del Mundo" - likely to be packed out with Contador fans, given he lives just an hour's drive away.

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.