Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) took what he could out of the Vuelta a Castilla y León despite missing a chance to win for the fourth time in five years.
Contador punctured five times during the race, including a late-hour flat within two kilometers of the mountain-top summit in Friday’s decisive climbing stage. That cost him nearly three minutes and all hopes of defending his title.
Contador bounced back to win the individual time trial on Saturday to claim his sixth victory since being cleared on clenbuterol charges in mid-February in a decision by the Spanish cycling federation that’s being challenged in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“The Castilla y León tour was good, but I had some bad luck on the mountain stage with punctures,” said Contador, who was 24th overall at 2:52 back. “Despite of that, I leave with a good taste in my mouth because the next day I was able to win the time trial, which was a good test ahead of my next big objectives of the season.”
Up next for Contador ─ who has been cleared to race after the Spanish cycling federation declared him innocent on clenbuterol charges in February ─ are Flèche Wallonne and then the Giro d’Italia.
“I am going to try to recovery as fast as possible from my cold, even though I doubt there will be time before Flèche,” he said. “I will still go, at least I will be able to help my teammates.”
Last year, Contador was third at Flèche and ninth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He’ll be skipping Liège this year to take the opportunity to scout some of the important Giro stages before the start of the corsa rosa on May 7 in Torino.