PARIS (VN) ― Alberto Contador's rough and tumble Tour de France nearly ended early.

PARIS (VN) ― Alberto Contador’s rough and tumble Tour de France nearly ended early.

2011 Tour de France stage 19
Contador nearly went home early, but later put down a big challenge on the way to l'Alpe d'Huez. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com

Contador finished fifth overall, but revealed to Spanish journalists that he nearly pulled out of the Tour de France after he was knocked off his bike by Russian rider Vladimir Karpets (Katusha) in the Tour’s ninth stage.

Karpets flicked Contador off the road in a bizarre incident early in that crash-marred stage when Contador’s handlebars got tangled up with Karpets’ seat-post. The big Russian shoulder-butted Contador and the three-time Tour champion went slamming to the ground.

Contador recounted Sunday that he injured his already sore right knee so badly that he nearly packed up his bags and went home.

“When I crashed, my bike fell on my knee and caused some serious pain,” Contador said. “Luckily, the next day was a rest day and I could recover.”

Contador treated the knee with ice, massage and even acupuncture and was able to continue the Tour, but Contador complained of knee pain for the remainder of the Tour. He was also worried if he pushed too hard he could cause more serious injury.

Contador did his best to shield the seriousness of the injury from his rivals for fear that they would attack him if they realized he was not at full strength.

When the first mountain stages arrived in the Pyrénées, Contador said he still was not able to respond to the attacks, but somehow managed to hang on and keep his podium hopes alive going into the Alps.

“I fought as best I could throughout the Tour,” Contador said. “It was an accumulation of circumstances, from crashes to tired legs from the Giro to not quite finding my rhythm in this Tour. But I am satisfied, if it wasn’t for my setback on the first day (when Contador lost 1:20), I wouldn’t have been too far from the podium.”

Contador said he will race again this season, but not the Vuelta a España. SaxoBank-Sungard is among the starting teams for Colorado’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge in August, so an appearance there could be possible.

His immediate future will be determined by his pending appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, set to be held in early August over three days of proceedings.

If Contador is not vindicated, he could face a two-year ban and disqualification of his 2010 Tour victory.