Alberto Contador will be given the honour of wearing the number 1 dossard at the Vuelta a Espana, the organisers have confirmed. Haimar Zubeldia was recently bestowed the same honour at the Clasica San Sebastian last month when he retired from racing.
Contador announced yesterday in a social media post that he would call time on his career at the end of the Spanish Grand Tour. Contador returns to the three-week race after a two-year absence and will lead the Trek-Segafredo squad for a final time. It will be his fifth participation in his home Grand Tour.
From Pinto, just south of Madrid, Contador has been one of Spain's most successful Grand Tour riders, next to Miguel Indurain, and a send-off at his home race is big news for the Vuelta's organisers.
"That Alberto chooses Spain and La Vuelta to end his career is a great honour for the whole organisation," said Vuelta a Espana director Javier Guillén. "We are wholeheartedly grateful to the generosity he always demonstrated as a rider and that he shows once again with this decision. Alberto is – and will forever be – part of the history of cycling in our country and elsewhere."
Contador's record at the Vuelta a Espana has been one of success. He came to the Grand Tour for the first time in 2008 after his Astana team was not invited to the Tour de France. His overall win by 46 seconds over Levi Leipheimer would complete the triptych of Grand Tour victories following an overall win at the Tour de France the year before and the Giro d'Italia earlier that season.
He would not come back to his home race for another four years, with circumstance once again dictating his decision to start. This time it was his own ban that had kept him out for much of the season with the Vuelta a Espana marking part of his big comeback.
After testing positive for Clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France and doggedly fighting his case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) finally confirmed a retrospective two-year ban for the Spaniard in February 2012, which kept him out of both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. Once again, Contador would go on to win the Vuelta a Espana, using one of his trademark attacks to unseat Joaquim Rodriguez from the race lead on stage 17.
Contador kept up his 100 per cent record with his third appearance two years later at the 2014 Vuelta a Espana. Coming off the back of the Tour de France, where he was forced to abandon after suffering a hairline fracture in his leg on stage 10, Contador went up against Chris Froome, who had also been forced to leave the Tour injured. The Spaniard bested the Team Sky rider by 1:10 after beating him in the mountains and holding him off in the final, short time trial.
The 2016 Vuelta a Espana was the first time that Contador did not go onto win the race. Again riding after a disappointing Tour de France, he lacked the punch of previous years and spent much of the last few days limiting the damage to some of his rivals. He slipped off the podium on the final day, finishing fourth overall 4:21 behind the winner Nairo Quintana.
The Vuelta a Espana will start with a team time trial in Nimes on August 19 and finish with the traditional sprint stage into Madrid on September 10.
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