Vuelta a España leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) has said that unlike on stage 18’s summit finish, where he opted to shadow Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), he will instead follow Chris Froome (Team Sky) during stage 20 on the Ancares, along its hardest route over the Pan do Zarco.
“[Chris] Froome will be the one to watch, although we’ll have to see how the race develops,” Contador told reporters at the finish of stage 19.
“I know Ancares from the 2012 Vuelta, although this time the ascent is a little bit longer. It’s 12 kilometers long, averages seven per cent and that’s long enough, and hard enough to make things complicated if you have a bad day and only a minute’s advantage overall.”
Contador has a little more than that on Froome - 1:19 - but the Briton seems certain to be his most dangerous rival.
“If he attacks, I will have to try to follow him. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a tough day. We’re all tired, it’s been a very long race.”
Contador was impressively attentive in the final hour of racing during stage 19 at the Vuelta, rarely out of the front 10 places although he had some dangerous moments, nonetheless. The worst were on the same difficult descent off the last second category climb where Dario Cataldo (Sky) fell heavily.
“He was just ahead of me when he crashed, I have no idea how I managed to stay upright, three or four times it was very close,” Contador said afterwards.
“The last part of the stage was mad, the sprinters’ teams weren’t there in full force and it meant the race was harder to control. But we’ve got through the day, and that’s what matters.”
Asked if he swill sleep well the night before a key stage like Ancares or if he might be nervous, Contador said, “I don’t have any problems sleeping. I’ve got a tv series on my computer and if I’m feeling a bit awake I’ll watch that, but normally it’s not a problem.”
Either way, Contador says that he feels the race has - so far - gone far better than anything he could have expected. “If somebody told me at the start of the Vuelta I’d be in this position now, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
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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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