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Contador takes stage, lead in Romandie

Alberto Contador Velasco, the 23-year-old Spaniard on the Liberty Seguros squad, won the third stage of the Tour de Romandie on Friday, attacking midway up the 9km climb to the finish at Leysin, Switzerland. Contador took the yellow jersey away from Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto), who had won the previous day’s stage. The American now sits in ninth, 57 seconds off the pace, with two more days of racing to come: a mountain stage on Saturday and a time trial on Sunday. The Spanish climber now has a fragile lead on a pair of dangerous men who finished second and third in Friday’s race:

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By Nathaniel Vinton, Special to VeloNews

Contador takes the stage and the lead

Contador takes the stage and the lead

Photo: Graham Watson

Alberto Contador Velasco, the 23-year-old Spaniard on the Liberty Seguros squad, won the third stage of the Tour de Romandie on Friday, attacking midway up the 9km climb to the finish at Leysin, Switzerland.

Contador took the yellow jersey away from Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto), who had won the previous day’s stage. The American now sits in ninth, 57 seconds off the pace, with two more days of racing to come: a mountain stage on Saturday and a time trial on Sunday.

The Spanish climber now has a fragile lead on a pair of dangerous men who finished second and third in Friday’s race: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears) and Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto).

Horner's stay in the yellow jersey was a short one

Horner’s stay in the yellow jersey was a short one

Photo: Graham Watson

Last season Contador won the fifth stage of the Tour de Romandie, the annual tune-up for the Giro d’Italia, but he said that this victory “tastes different” from the one last year.

“This time it is my first big victory, whereas last year I already had some results,” said Contador. “I’ve been racing fewer races than last year because this year the objective is to be fit to help [Alexandre] Vinokourov at the Tour de France.”

Crossing the line about 24 seconds after Contador was his countryman Valverde, the UCI ProTour leader after winning both the Flèche Wallonne on April 19 and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 23.

“Tomorrow is a very hard day, and I’m going to respond with force,” said Valverde.

Evans said Davitamon-Lotto, with two stage wins in the previous two days, won’t need to control the race on Saturday, but that it was going to be difficult nonetheless.

“All the best riders are in the top of the classification now,” said Evans. “It’s not easy to make a shakeup of the top five right now.”

The Evans group

The Evans group

Photo: Graham Watson

Liberty Seguros ruled the day, with the early breakaway that lasted most of the day, the stage winner Contador, and Jörg Jaksche moving into third in the general classification.

“Yesterday I saw that Liberty looked the best on the climb,” said Evans. “Especially with three. We were good with two, and we played our cards and managed to win and take the jersey, which on our part was tactically very good. But today, an uphill finish, when they’re three and I’m one, what can you do? I can follow one, I can follow two, but when the third goes full gas…”

The stage covered 165km, featuring a few smaller climbs leading up to the highlight of the day, the 9km hike to Leysin that burst the peloton open.

For most of the day, two riders led the field. They were Wouter Weylandt of Quick Step-Innergetic and Contador’s teammate on Liberty Seguros, Jose Antonio Redondo Ramos. With 40km to go, they led the peloton by more than eight minutes, with Horner pushing to catch up.

By the 10km mark, just the peloton hit the climb, that lead was half as big. Weylandt soon dropped back as T-Mobile’s Oscar Sevilla raised the tempo with some attacks. Redondo was finally caught near the 4km mark, and that’s when Contador made his move.

Contador attacks

Contador attacks

Photo: Graham Watson

Had he faltered, or felt unable to attack, Contador said that his teammate Jaskshe might have been able to. The plan, said Contador, was to have one of them ready to go when Redondo finally got swallowed up.

The stage was the third of five. The winners of the previous two, respectively, were Robbie McEwen and Horner, both of Davitamon-Lotto. Paolo Savoldelli of Discovery Channel won the prologue.

On Saturday the riders will tackle the toughest stage of the week: a tour of the high peaks around Sion. Following that there will be just one stage left: Sunday’s 20km individual time trial around Lausanne, where, according to tradition, the race winds up and the riders depart for Italy or home.

Top 10
1. Alberto Contador (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 164.60km in 4:03:41 (40.528 km/h)
2. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears, at 0:24
3. Cadel Evans (Aus), Daviramon-Lotto, same time
4. Jorg Jaksche (G), liberty Seguros, at 0:26
5. Sergio Ghisalberti (I) , Milram, at 0:30
6. Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Phonak, 0:32
7. Andrea Noe (I), Liquigas, s.t.
8. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), T-Mobile, s.t.
9. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
10. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol), Lampre, 0:42

Overall
1. Alberto Contador (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 12:35:01
2. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears, 0:16
3. Jorg Jaksche (G), Liberty Seguros, at 0:28
4. Cadel Evans (Aus), Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.
5. Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Phonak, at 0:49
6. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz), Lliberty Seguros, at 0:53
7. Sergio Ghisalberti (I), Milram, at 0:54
8. Andrea Noe (I), Liquigas, at 0:57
9. Christopher Horner (USA), Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.
10. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol), Lampre, at 1:07

Complete results

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