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Contador takes second Würth stage win

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Alberto Contador (Wurth)

Alberto Contador (Wurth) (Image credit: AFP)
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Thumbs up

Thumbs up (Image credit: AFP)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) (Image credit: AFP)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth)

Alberto Contador (Wurth) (Image credit: AFP)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval)

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) (Image credit: AFP)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) sucks down another bidon

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) sucks down another bidon (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) waits for the start of stage 8

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) waits for the start of stage 8 (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Thumbs up but Koldo Gil isn't that confident of holding off the rest tomorrow

Thumbs up but Koldo Gil isn't that confident of holding off the rest tomorrow (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) climbs during stage 8

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) climbs during stage 8 (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) couldn't shake Ullrich today

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) couldn't shake Ullrich today (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) follows the pace in stage 8

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) follows the pace in stage 8 (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) thinking of tomorrow's TT

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) thinking of tomorrow's TT (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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William Bonnet (Credit Agricole) on a climb during stage 8

William Bonnet (Credit Agricole) on a climb during stage 8 (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Sebastien Minard (Cofidis) during the eighth stage

Sebastien Minard (Cofidis) during the eighth stage (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) en route to victory

Alberto Contador (Wurth) en route to victory (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) descending into Ambri

Alberto Contador (Wurth) descending into Ambri (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) wins the eighth stage into Ambri

Alberto Contador (Wurth) wins the eighth stage into Ambri (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) revels in victory

Alberto Contador (Wurth) revels in victory (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) gets a podium cheer

Alberto Contador (Wurth) gets a podium cheer (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) smiles from the podium.

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) smiles from the podium. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Jorg Jaksche (Wurth) waits for the start of stage 8

Jorg Jaksche (Wurth) waits for the start of stage 8 (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jorg Jaksche (Wurth) smiling

Jorg Jaksche (Wurth) smiling (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Erik Zabel (Milram)

Erik Zabel (Milram) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) at the start

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) at the start (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) comes up to the top

Alberto Contador (Wurth) comes up to the top (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) looks for the top

Alberto Contador (Wurth) looks for the top (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) on the front

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) on the front (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) trying to shake the rest

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) trying to shake the rest (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) on the front

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) on the front (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Suffering

Suffering (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas)

Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jorg Jaksche (Wurth) hammers to the top

Jorg Jaksche (Wurth) hammers to the top (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) near the top of the Gotthardpass

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) near the top of the Gotthardpass (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) looking good

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) looking good (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Frank Schleck (CSC) drives his group

Frank Schleck (CSC) drives his group (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) hangs on

Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) hangs on (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Caruso finds it hard

Caruso finds it hard (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) going hard

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) going hard (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) comes up to the top

Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) comes up to the top (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner)

Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile) finding some mountain climbing form

Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile) finding some mountain climbing form (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Noice

Noice (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A group comes up the San Gotthardpass

A group comes up the San Gotthardpass (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Laurent Brochard (Bouygues)

Laurent Brochard (Bouygues) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mirko Celestino (Milram) comes up the San Gotthardpass

Mirko Celestino (Milram) comes up the San Gotthardpass (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mirko Celestino (Milram)

Mirko Celestino (Milram) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Time for a feed

Time for a feed (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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There's the summit

There's the summit (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Climbing the San Gotthardpass

Climbing the San Gotthardpass (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alex Moos (Phonak) leads Christian Vandevelde

Alex Moos (Phonak) leads Christian Vandevelde (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Manuel Beltran (Discovery) over the top of the Gotthardpass

Manuel Beltran (Discovery) over the top of the Gotthardpass (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Nearly there

Nearly there (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riders cross the summit of the Gotthardpass

Riders cross the summit of the Gotthardpass (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The top of the San Gotthardpass

The top of the San Gotthardpass (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) wins in Ambri

Alberto Contador (Wurth) wins in Ambri (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) celebrates his win

Alberto Contador (Wurth) celebrates his win (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Herrero and Evans cross for second and third

Herrero and Evans cross for second and third (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alex Moos (Phonak) wins the sprint for fourth

Alex Moos (Phonak) wins the sprint for fourth (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Moos leads the Gil group to the finish

Moos leads the Gil group to the finish (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) finishes

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) finishes (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) smiles on the podium

Alberto Contador (Wurth) smiles on the podium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) enjoys the moment

Alberto Contador (Wurth) enjoys the moment (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Wurth) on the podium

Alberto Contador (Wurth) on the podium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) puts on the jersey

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) puts on the jersey (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) likes the fit

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) likes the fit (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) enjoys the moment

Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) enjoys the moment (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Gil unable to increase his buffer over Jaksche and Ullrich

For one Spaniard joy, the other disappointment. The beleaguered Würth team got another boost to morale today when 23 year old Alberto Contador won the penultimate stage of the Tour de Suisse into Ambri. The 23 year old jumped across to a splintering breakaway group 115 kilometres from the line and then pressed on alone on the 2106 metre first category climb of Gotthardpass. Although Cadel Evans (Davitamon Lotto) set off in pursuit with 13 kilometres remaining and was then reinforced in his chase some ten kilometres later by David Herrero Llorente (Euskaltel), Contador was strong enough to stay clear of the two and reach the finish 34 seconds clear.

"I came here very motivated," said the Spaniard, when the Tour de Romandie stage winner was asked about the fact that he has again been successful in Switzerland. "The roads are in very good condition, the weather is usually very nice here and also I am here in very good shape."

Contador was listed beforehand as one of the possible winners but lost ten minutes on stage six. He explained how that happened and why it wasn't of huge concern. "More than anything, being here is about preparing for the Tour de France," he stated. "That is the first objective. I had a very difficult stage where I didn't feel well, maybe from something I ate, and I lost ten minutes as a result. That cost me my general classification chances. But that's the way it worked out, I can't change it."

Thirty seven seconds after he raced home for the win, Phonak rider Alexandre Moos led home a large chase group for fourth place. Race leader Koldo Gil Perez was next across the line, taking fifth, but the Saunier Duval rider was clearly disappointed not to have succeeded in his aim of taking time out of closest rivals Jörg Jaksche (Team Würth) and Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile). "It will be difficult now," a sombre Gil admitted at the post-race press conference. "The time gap is obviously not very much, and I am aware that the two others are specialists for time trials. But I think the podium is something I can try to achieve."

"I haven't seen the course yet but I am going to see it tomorrow morning, together with my team.

Although he seemed initially to be conceding defeat, talking about a podium place as being achievable, Gil later seemed to hold out some faint hopes for yellow. "I obviously wanted to get more time on him [Ullrich] today in order to have a more relaxed time trial. But the wind wasn't helpful – the idea was for two or three of my team-mates to get clear on the second climb and then I would try to get across to them. The headwind messed that plan up, so I did all I could do near the end to get a few seconds."

"I know it is going to be extremely difficult tomorrow, but I will give it everything I have. I will not know if I am the winner or the loser until I cross the finish line, but I will do everything I can to fight."

However Jaksche and Ullrich will both fancy their chances. Each of them are strong time trialists, and over 30 kilometres they will be relatively confident of erasing their deficits of 30 and 50 seconds respectively. Unless Gil pulls out a phenomenal ride, it looks like there will be a big German showdown on the undulating road between Kerzers and Bern tomorrow.

How it unfolded

With just the 30 kilometre time trial remaining after today, climbers knew this was their last shot before men like Jan Ullrich asserted their authority tomorrow. And with three super-tough climbs on the menu, it gave them no excuse to say their didn't have their chance.

126 of the original 167 left Ambri for a mountainous 164,1 loop in the Swiss Alps. On the lower slopes the Lukmanierpass (km 135), the first climb of the day, a group of three got away, which grew to two dozen five kilometres later.

However, this was considered far too large and far too dangerous by the groupe maillot jaune, and in the end, it was trimmed down to nine before the peloton let them go. In the break were: Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas), Gregory Rast (Phonak), Alberto Contador (Würth), Sven Montgomery (Gerolsteiner), Iker Flores Galarza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Francesco Bellotti (Credit Agricole), Marco Fertonani (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) and Sylvain Calzati (AG2R Prevoyance). Best-placed was Calzati, 20th on GC at the start of the day and 6'32 behind the maillot jaune of Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval - Prodir).

100 kilometres from the finish, the nine had built a three-minute buffer - not nearly enough on a parcours like this. Down into the valley, the natural momentum of 117 riders saw them chomp another minute off their lead.

On the penultimate climb of the Oberalppass, Rast (Phonak) and Bellotti (Credit Agricole) were dropped, with the remaining seven going over the crest as one, lead by Montgomery (Gerolsteiner). 35 kilometres from home, Fertonani (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) was the first to try his luck on the Gotthardpass, before Contador (Würth) and Calzati (AG2R Prevoyance) countered and passed him a kilometre later. After that same distance again, the Contador was on his own.

Behind him, the groupe maillot jaune had thinned considerably. Race leader Gil (Saunier Duval - Prodir) tried to attack two kilometres from the summit of the Gotthardpass but to no avail, and ten riders went over its crest a minute-and-a-half behind Contador. On the descent, another 17 hooked on to the groupe maillot jaune, blowing it back out to 27.

Just shy of 10 kilometres to go, Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) broke free to go after Contador, who was still a minute ahead of the bunch. Five kilometres from Ambri, Evans was 37 seconds behind the lone leader, with the bunch a further 11 seconds behind.

The Australian was hoping Contador would crack on the fourth category climb at Quinto, its crest just three kilometres from the finish, but the Spaniard smartly spun a small gear, conserving his legs and preserving his lead all the way to the line.

Just before the catégorie 4 GPM, Euskaltel-Euskadi's David Herrero attacked the groupe maillot jaune and joined Evans, with the pair eventually finishing 40 seconds after the stage winner, the peloton another three seconds behind. Consequently, all time gaps at the top of the leaderboard remain unchanged.

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