Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) still has to ride the final time trial stage of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday in Milan but with a lead of over five minutes he has already began celebrating the sixth grand tour victory of his career.
While other riders fought for places in the top ten and the best young rider's white jersey, Contador was able to sit at the back of the lead group on the Colle delle Finestre and then follow the wheels on the final climb to the finish in Sestriere.
He finished eighth on the stage in the same time as his nearest rival Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) who is second overall at 5:18. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) lost 18 seconds and is third at 6:14.
"I'm very happy because unless something crazy happens, I've won the Giro," Contador said before getting a helicopter ride from Sestriere to Milan.
“Today was a very tough and long stage. A big break went very early and so my teammates had to work hard to control it but then in the final part my only aim was to control my closest rivals."
Contador has dominated the Giro and was clearly the strongest in the mountains. He won on Mount Etna in Sicily, dominated the Nevegal mountain time trial and finished second on two other mountain stages after letting other riders take the stages.
"I had good form on the stage to Mount Etna and I've been very consistent since then," he said. “A lot of different riders have been strong at different points in the race, but the key to victory has been riding consistently throughout the Giro.”
"I've got thank all my teammates who worked so hard for me, until their last drop of energy. I also want to thank my family who have always supported me, and all the Italian tifosi who supported me and welcomed me so warmly at the Giro."
Contador revealed he was not interested in winning the final time trial stage to Milan, preferring caution and celebration with his girlfriend Macarena and friends to another stage victory.
"I'll ride the time trial without taking any risks so that I can enjoy my success," he said. “I’m not going to be taking any risks on the corners or go flat out. We're going to start celebrating tonight with my family and friends."
A sixth grand tour victory
Contador is about to add a second Giro d'Italia victory to his first win in 2008, victory in the 2008 Vuelta Espana and his three Tour de France victories in 2007, 2009 and 2010. That final Tour victory is in the balance after the appeal by the UCI and WADA against the Spanish Cycling Federations decision to clear him of doping despite a positive for Clenbuterol. Contador has always claimed he failed the test due to eating contaminated meat.
“It’s hard to make comparisons between my different victories but perhaps physically I’ve never been in such good condition as in this race,” he revealed.
"I've won this Giro in a relaxed manner than say the Tour de France because I won it by just 23 seconds. When I won the Vuelta there was also a difficult mountain time trial near the end. Here I had the strength to win relatively comfortably."