But as Contador observed afterwards, he is considered too dangerous by his rivals to be allowed any headway, even when he is more than three minutes behind the race leader.
Contador is currently in fifth overall at 3:08 on Nairo Quintana (Movistar). He explained that he had tried to blaze away over the upper part of the four-kilometre climb on the outskirts of Bilbao to try to create a downhill attack. But it was rapidly closed down by the Colombian and his team.
"I went for it to try to set up something for a descent but I don't have any freedom to manouvre," Contador said later.
Contador also explained that although the Tinkoff team had been involved in a minor pile-up some 25 kilometres from the finish and he had to put one foot down, he had not actually fallen.
"It was another really fast day and without a single kilometre of real flat," said Contador, who still sports bandages on his arm and knee from his stage 7 crash. "We've all used up a lot of energy, and there'll be a heavy bill to pay.
"We're going to reach the weekend and the last week of the Vuelta feeling really tired."