BERGERAC, France (VN) — Ever proud, always defiant, Alberto Contador refuses to throw in the towel.
Following his “Black Sunday” on the road to Chambéry, when he crashed twice and sunk out of the GC frame, Contador vows to go down swinging.
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Perhaps it’s just what this Tour de France needs.
“My GC chances are completely shot,” Contador admitted. “On the other hand, maybe it opens me up to do some beautiful things. Maybe in the last week.”
Could Contador be the great disruptor that this Tour needs?
Team Sky has a stranglehold on the GC. It so dominantly controls the race that teams get shredded though the blender every time they to try to take it directly to Sky. Guerrilla tactics might actually prove more effective than a frontal assault against this stronger rival.
Contador, 34, entered this Tour hoping to go toe-to-toe with Chris Froome and the other favorites.
Those hopes unraveled Sunday, so now he is going to re-write the script. What might be bad for Contador, could be good for the Tour.
Contador crashed twice Sunday. The first time was down the Col de la Biche when Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) wiped out on a straightaway, taking down Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Contador with him. Then he tangled with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) while climbing the Col de Colombier. Contador toppled over. Even though he wasn’t going that fast, it was salt on the wound.
The mishaps sucked the wind out of his sails. Battered and bruised, Contador lost the wheel on the Mont du Chat, and he sunk on GC. He lost 4:19 on the stage, and slipped from eighth to 12th, starting Tuesday’s stage 10 at 5:15 back.
Too far back to have a realistic chance to win? Yes. Too far back to give up? No way.
“Everyone knows I am always optimistic,” Contador said. “My priority is to recover. If can get back to my best, my strategy to the race will be totally different.”
Contador knows he has nothing to lose. Riding into the top-10, or even within podium range won’t mean much when people consider his legacy in the Tour. A stage win would count for more.
Contador always races to impress. During last year’s Vuelta a España, when he knew he wasn’t going to win, Contador started playing the disruptor role. He threw the script out the window. He started attacking in unexpected places. It drove his rivals crazy. His tactical daring finally cracked the Sky train.
On the road to Formigal, Chris Froome was isolated after a completely unorthodox attack in the opening kilometers of the stage. It upended the race, and Contador’s ploy all but handed overall victory to Nairo Quintana, who was smart enough to follow Contador’s aggression.
“Froomigal” was one of the highlights of the 2016 season.
Can Contador do it again during this Tour? He’s going to try.
“It doesn’t depend on my head. It’s my body,” Contador said. “Luckily, my injuries are not as bad as in 2014, when I had to abandon.”
However, Contador’s reputation could spoil a coup attempt. No one is just going to let Contador ride away, especially if he’s still relatively close on GC. Sky won’t sit back idly this year, and get caught in a trap again.
If Contador can ride into the Pyrénées and rediscover his attacking form, he might have one last surprise up his sleeve.
Will there be an opportunity in this Tour? Perhaps stage 13 on a similarly short stage (101km) over two first-category climbs. It has ambush written all over it.