After two crash-marred Tours de France and being entangled in one major pile-up in the Vuelta a España last year, too, after a fast, fraught stage 2 of the 2017 Vuelta on Sunday, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) placed an understandable emphasis on having stayed upright and out of trouble for the whole day.
In the flurry of late attacks and splits, Contador lost a little time - five seconds - to Chris Froome (Team Sky), and rather more,13 seconds, to Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). But overall, he said, he was pleased to have come through what he described as a very tense stage without any major time gaps or incidents, even if Trek's plans to open up an echelon with around 30 kilometres to go had not succeeded.
Although he did not say it, Contador probably had no desire for some long distant personal Grand Tour history to repeat itself. Back in the 2009 Tour de France on a very similar stage across the Mediterranean coastlands from Marseilles to La Grand Motte, just 100 kilometres up the coast towards Nimes and close to Sunday's race route, the Spaniard had lost 41 seconds to a front group after echelons had formed, a significant but far-from-decisive defeat against the rider who was arguably his most serious rival that year - team-mate Lance Armstrong inside his own Astana squad.
This time round, albeit on almost the same kind of long, flat, exposed roads, whilst those 2009 in-team power struggles for Contador are a distant memory, nonetheless a determination to try and wrench the race in his favour was clearly very much uppermost in Contador's mind.
"We tried to break the race apart when we went on the front. It was a good moment, and the bunch stretched out for sure," Contador said afterwards "I don't know if it actually split apart, but it was really fast at that point in the race, anyway.
"The objective was not to lose time and to avoid crashes, and there were quite a few. I heard that through the radio. There was lot of tension. Maybe it looked like a calm stage on the telly, but if nobody broke away it was all down to the huge speed on the whole stage.”
As for the next phase of the race, Contador grinned wryly when it was put to him that the real GC fight, in the mountains, is about to start.
"If my legs were listening to you, they'd probably argue quite a bit about whether tomorrow is when the demanding stages really begin," he retorted.
"Monday is the first big uphill stage. I haven't raced on that kind of terrain for quite a while and you don't know how my legs will respond. We'll see. I just hope it goes well."
In 2009, of course, the mountains of Andorra were where Contador managed to pull the Tour back in his favour again - simultaneously showing that Lance Armstrong, who had been on the point of leading the race, could be vulnerable. This time, against very different rivals, Andorra may be where the first major chapter of Contador's last Grand Tour GC battle now begins.
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.
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