Bjarne Riis was ready to celebrate Alberto Contador's stage win Saturday atop the Collada da la Gallina on stage eight of the Vuelta a España, but the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider was passed in the final meters and wound up in third place. The team and the rider remained optimistic for the rest of the race, however.
Contador attacked in the final 500 meters and looked almost certain to win. But Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) caught and passed him with only meters to go. Sky's Chris Froome, who is still in second place overall, was unable to go with the Spaniards in the finale.
“When he opened the gap, I thought, he will take it home. But Rodriguez and Valverde were strong. Too bad he could not take it in the end,” Riis told TV2 Sport.
Directeur Sportif Bradley McGee was satisfied with his rider's performance. “It was a very positive day for us. I think Alberto demonstrated great power and the distance he created to Froome on the final kilometer today was extremely encouraging,” he said on the team's website.
“Alberto was literally caught in the final meters. Of course, a stage win would have been terrific but this was a demonstration from Alberto saying, 'I'm here to win.'”
Contador said that “Of course, I would have loved to have won but sometimes you can and sometimes you can't. That's cycling.”
Nonetheless, he was pleased with his performance. “We distanced Froome a bit and I was feeling a little stronger just as I had hoped. I wasn't feeling super but it was a good punch. If I can continue to progress like this I'll be happy. I was entirely focusing on Froome. I wanted to distance him.”
Contador is still in third, behind Froome and Rodriguez, but has cut his gap to Froome from 26 to seven seconds. The Vuelta is Contador's first Grand Tour since his return from suspension in early August.