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Contador to retire after Vuelta a Espana

Spanish superstar Alberto Contador confirmed Monday he will retire after the upcoming Vuelta a España.

The 34-year-old Spaniard posted a video message on his Instagram account to confirm his participation in the Spanish grand tour, saying it will be his final race.

“I say this with happiness, without sadness,” Contador said. “I’ve really thought about it, and I cannot think about a better way to say goodbye than in my home race in my own country. I am sure it will be three incredible weeks, and I am looking forward to feeling all of your affection. I can’t wait for it to start.”

Contador has been mulling his future over the past several weeks.

He joined Trek-Segafredo this season on a one-year deal, with an option for a second season. It appeared he would race for another season, but on Monday, Contador confirmed he will end his 15-year-old career next month rather than continue for another season.

“It’s been an honor to work with such a great champion,” said Trek-Segafredo manager Luca Guercilena. “Even after the crashes that took him out of the fight for the first places on GC, he kept fighting and battling for a stage win, and to move up some places on GC. That showed how strong he is, mentally and physically.”

Contador rode to ninth overall at the 2017 Tour de France, a race marked by crashes and frustration. Contador insisted he had better legs than his result indicated, and tried to win a stage to salvage his race.

Contador will leave the sport as the most successful grand tour rider of his generation. His official palmares includes seven grand tour victories, the most of any active rider in the peloton.

Two victories were disqualified — the 2010 Tour de France and the 2011 Giro d’Italia — as part of his controversial clenbuterol case in 2010. Drug testers found traces of the banned substance in a rest-day control in the 2010 Tour, and despite a long battle, the Court of Arbitration for Sport came down against Contador with a back-dated ban that put an asterisk on his otherwise sterling palmares.

He turned pro in 2003 with ONCE and faced as many hurdles and setbacks throughout his career as he won races. He nearly died from a brain aneurism in 2004 before undergoing emergency surgery. He came back to win a stage at the 2005 Tour Down Under, a victory he said was one of the most important of his 67 career wins.

A pure climber who could time trial, Contador emerged as the top grand tour rider in the post-Lance Armstrong era, winning the 2007 Tour that was shrouded in controversy following the ejection of race-leader Michael Rasmussen.

Tour officials prevented Contador’s then-Astana team from starting the 2008 Tour, so he went to the Giro and Vuelta and won each one for the first time. He would win the Giro again in 2015, and the Vuelta again in 2012 and 2014.

Contador’s biggest success came in 2009, when he won the Tour while riding on the same Astana team as Armstrong. The Texan’s comeback that season opened up a series of events that eventually led to Armstrong’s lifetime ban from cycling, but the gripping battle between Armstrong and Contador during that Tour proved the Spaniard was as mentally tough as he was physically.

After coming back from his ban in 2013, Contador was eclipsed at the Tour by Sky’s Chris Froome. No longer as explosive as he was in the mountains, Contador struggled to counter Sky’s dominance. Despite continued efforts to win another yellow jersey, Contador will leave the sport without winning another Tour crown.

His palmares reveal his quality and depth. He won scores of shorter stage races, including Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of the Basque Country, Volta ao Algarve, Vuelta a Burgos, and the Vuelta a Castilla y León. In 17 grand tour starts, he only finished out of the top 10 once. He did not finish the 2014 and 2016 Tours.

Contador will leave a big hole in the Spanish peloton. No rider equals his charisma and star quality.

The 72nd Vuelta begins August 19 in Nimes, France, and concludes September 10 in Madrid.

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