Contador pips Leipheimer for stage win in Argentina

Three days after his debut, Contador is in the leader's jersey

Alberto Contador took his first season victory Wednesday in stage 3 of the 2012 Tour de San Luis, from Estancia Grande to Mirador del Potrero de Los Funes. The victory put the Saxo Bank rider in the race leader’s jersey at the Argentinean stage race.

Contador attacked on the final kilometers of the steepest section of the 1270-meter el Mirador de Potrero climb. Both Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) reacted, but only Leipheimer was able to stay with the Spaniard. Colombian Miguel Rubiano (Androni) finished third, with German Stefan Schumacher (Christina Watches-Onfone) finishing fourth, nine seconds back.

“I was better than expected, because I had my doubts, since I took several months without riding after the Tour de France,” Contador said. “I started training after the team training camp in Israel, in the second half of December, but despite everything we’ve done a good job and we got a rather unexpected victory for me.”

Several delays in the long-awaited CAS ruling of Contador’s 2010 clenbuterol case have allowed him to race the Tour de San Luis before a decision is reached.

Leipheimer took second in both the stage and the general classification.

“With two kilometers to go Levi attacked Contador,” said Omega Pharma-Quick Step sports director Davide Bramati. “At 300 meters from the finish Contador took off and Levi, who had worked hard beforehand, couldn’t respond to the acceleration.”

Contador said he believes Leipheimer is the strongest for the overall win. “(Leipheimer) looks very fit and highly trained,” Contador said. “For me this victory was important, but there are others more favored than me, for tomorrow’s time trial and for the overall.”