Alberto Contador took Spain’s tally to 13 wins in 97 editions of the Tour de France when he wrapped up his third victory on Sunday after wins in 2007 and 2009.
Reputed climber Federico Bahamontes, nicknamed the ‘Eagle of Toledo’, broke new ground for his countrymen by winning the race in 1959 after years of domination by the French, the Italians and Belgians.
Following in Bahamontes’ trail, albeit 14 years later was Luis Ocana, who claimed his only win in 1973 in an era dominated by Belgian great Eddy Merckx.
It took another 15 years for Spain to hail a winner, in the shape of Pedro Delgado, in 1988.
Only three years later, in 1991, Miguel Indurain showed a pioneering streak by crushing his rivals in the time trials while proving solid in the mountains stages.
Those skills allowed him to become the first five-time consecutive winner, his reign lasting until halfway through the 1996 race when Denmark’s Bjarne Riis took control on his way to overall victory.
It took another 11 years for Spain to hail a new yellow jersey champion, and it came in controversial fashion.
Spaniard Oscar Pereiro finished second in the 2006 race, but was proclaimed champion a year later when American Floyd Landis, who tested positive for testosterone during the race’s stage 17, was officially disqualified.
Wins by country after 97 editions
- 36: France
- 18: Belgium
- 13: Spain
- 10: United States
- 9: Italy
- 4: Luxembourg
- 2: Netherlands, Switzerland
- 1: Germany, Denmark, Ireland
Similarly, Contador claimed his first Tour victory in 2007 when he inherited the yellow jersey late in the race after Denmark’s race leader Michael Rasmussen was ejected for suspected doping.
Contador virtually secured his first Tour de France triumph in the penultimate stage time trial to beat Australia’s Cadel Evans by 23secs.
In 2008 another Spaniard triumphed, and again Evans was the runner-up when Carlos Sastre, then riding for the CSC team, claimed his first victory in the race.
After missing the race in 2008 because Astana was not invited, Contador started as the pre-race favorite in 2009 and, despite the presence of cycling icon Lance Armstrong in his team the Spaniard was a class above the rest.
Due to his crushing victory in 2009 Contador started the 97th edition as the big favorite, however the Spaniard this time did not have it so easy.
Main rival Andy Schleck, who finished runner-up in 2009, proved a tough customer and went into the penultimate stage time trial with only an eight-second deficit.
Schleck finished only 39 seconds behind in the overall standings, signalling his intention to push Contador even further in next year’s race.