SHANGHAI (AFP) — Alberto Contador officially ended his career Sunday at a Tour de France criterium in China, which four-time Tour winner Chris Froome said marks the “end to an era” for the sport of cycling.
Both riders were part of a breakaway group that sprinted to the finish in the inaugural China Criterium in Shanghai.
“It definitely brings an end to an era with Alberto’s retirement,” said Froome, who crossed the line first at the event in China’s largest city.
Regarding Contador, Froome said, he “has been a big rival to me for so many years and in some ways I’m definitely going to miss him, and in some ways I’m not.
“He has animated so many races the last few years and the public is going to miss seeing him race.”
The 34-year-old Contador announced in August that he would retire this year, ending a career in which he became just the sixth rider to win all three grand tours. He closed out his competitive racing career at the Vuelta a Espana on Sept. 10. He attacked during the penultimate stage of the Spanish grand tour on the slopes of the Alto de l’Angliru climb and went on to win the stage in dramatic fashion in front of his home fans.
Sunday’s race in Shanghai was part of a series of post-Tour criteriums that are generally scripted with a predetermined outcome.
Contador enjoyed a hero’s welcome on Sunday each time he passed the crowds lining the circuit for the China Criterium.
“It was my last race and I really enjoyed it. I tried to attack, attack, attack,” Contador said.
But he was unable to keep the pace down the final stretch with Froome, Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran, and Warren Barguil of France, and ended up fourth.
The race was held for the first time as part of a push by the Tour de France to expand its brand in China’s potentially huge cycling market as the sport gains traction in the country.
After his Vuelta performance, Contador blasted the ban he served earlier in his career following a positive test for clenbuterol.
“It’s a huge injustice,” Contador said of the ban that resulted in the erasure of two grand tour victories. “It’s something that’s going to stay with me my whole life.”