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Contador winds down season with big win in Italy

LEON, Spain (VN) — Hot off his victory Wednesday at Milan-Torino, Alberto Contador wraps up an emotional, intense season this weekend with the Giro di Lombardia.

The midweek semi-classic was Contador’s first one-day victory of his career and caps a rollercoaster year marked by the disappointment of his clenbuterol ban in February and the triumph of his victorious return at the Vuelta a España earlier this month.

“I weigh 2.4kg more than I did at the Vuelta,” Contador said. “This win was a full effort. And a special victory as well.”

Contador dedicated the win to Victor Cadebo, the young Euskaltel-Euskadi rider killed last week when he collided with a car and fell into a ravine during a training ride in Spain.

The Italian semi-classic, back after a four-year hiatus, marked a milestone of sorts for Contador. Renowned as a stage racer, other than the Spanish national time trial title, he had never won a one-day race before in his career.

All that changed Wednesday when Contador nailed the victory with a well-timed attack up the Superga, a win that comes on the heels of his equally explosive racing during the elite men’s world championship road race on Sunday in the Netherlands.

Not counting his disqualified results from the 2010 Tour through this summer, Contador is the king of stage races.

Since 2003, he has won 15 stage races and 31 stages. He had five stage races — the 2010 Tour, 2011 Giro and the 2011 Murcia, Castilla y León and Catalunya tours — erased by the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling this year.

With Saturday’s Lombardia classic, the “Pistolero del Pinto” has one more shot before pulling the plug on 2012 for good. And with that, he will close another chaotic chapter in his sometimes-tumultuous career.

Just how rough a ride Contador has had this season is exemplified by the simple decision of when he wanted to end his season.

Contador was planning on racing the Tour of Beijing next month, but the UCI has refused to budge on its tough stance of not allowing points to be awarded to riders coming off a ban for two additional years.

That ruling has put Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank on the ropes, at least until the arrival of new Russian backer Oleg Tinkov, who is giving team boss Bjarne Riis the purse strings to sign riders with top points to assure the team’s presence in the WorldTour in 2013.

Riis is challenging the rule at the CAS and said he would not take Contador to China to support a race owned by the UCI when the cycling federation, at least in Riis’ view, is treating Contador unfairly.

McQuaid defended the rules, saying last week that the points ban is one more deterrent for would-be cheaters.

“We need to put as many regulations into the system to assure that dopers, past dopers, and their entourage are kept out of the sport,” McQuaid said. “It’s another means to insure that riders think twice before they go into a doping program. It’s not against Alberto Contador or Saxo Bank. The rule is there for everybody.”

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