Alberto Contador won stage 1 of the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) Monday in Ordizia, Spain. Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) took command of the general classification in the 153-kilometer opening leg, which started in Ordizia and included eight categorized climbs.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was second. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was third.
With his victory, Contador, the recent winner of Tirreno-Adriatico, earned the six-stage race’s first leader’s jersey. Valverde trails by 13 seconds.
“We must seize every opportunity. This morning I had good legs and had to seize the day,” Contador said in a press release. “What is important now is to recover, because it has only just begun and here you must go day-by-day.”
Contador and Valverde attacked on the Cat. 2 Alto de Gaintza with less than 9km to go, splitting the favorites group. Kwiatkowski, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Yury Trofimov (Katusha), Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale), and Mikel Nieve (Sky) formed a chase group, but could not track down the Spanish duo on the day’s eighth and final climb.
Contador followed his countryman until the steep, final meters of the climb, when he countered to go over the summit alone. Valverde followed over the top 15 seconds later, with the chase group a further 19 seconds back. Contador rode a daring, high-speed descent to the finish for the stage win.
Valverde closed the gap by two seconds before the line, but could not draw Contador back. Kwiatkowski surged out of the chase group to finish 34 seconds adrift of the stage winner and Trofimov led the group through two seconds later.
The Vuelta al País Vasco continues Tuesday with the 155km second stage, from Ordizia to Dantxarinea (Urdazubi).