Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) capped off a fantastic start to the Spring season with overall victory in the Tour of the Basque Country. Dominated by lumpy terrain, this was an event for the mountain goats, eventuating in Contador winning the GC and firming as favourite for the Tour de France later this year. Locked in several epic battles with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), this gripping stage race took place over seven days through the mountainous regions of northern Spain. Stage one and four in particular contained two epic contests between the Spanish giants, who were both fighting for supremacy and the overall crown.
Contador lead the hilly Basque Country race from day one after going on a blistering attack up the final climb to win the opening stage. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was always a danger and often attacked in the hills but Contador defended his yellow leader’s jersey with confidence and then produced one of his best time trial performances for years to win overall. Until the final TT, it was clear that Valverde and Contador were head and shoulders above their opponents and battled with each other from start to finish.
The Tour’s final stage was a 29.5km time trial on a hilly course. Contador’s crown looked under threat after Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) mastered the terrain and smashed the course, however Contador went even faster on the hilly 25.9km course to show why he is currently the world’s number one ranked rider.
Tony Martin (OPQ), who has been in majestic for all week, won the time trial with a time of 38:33, with Contador seven seconds slower and Kwiatkowski at 15 seconds. The young Polish star moved past Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to take second overall behind Contador. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) finished third overall at 1:04, with Valverde slipping to fifth at 1:07.
Tejay van Garderen (BMC) was only ninth in the time trial, 1:05 slower than Martin and ended the race sixth overall at 1:56. Teammates Cadel Evans was 11th in the time trial and so finished seventh overall, in the same time as Van Garderen. Britain’s Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) was the best young rider, with the neo-pro finishing 12th, 3:17 behind Contador.
[quote_box_center]”I’m very happy. I’ve been very tired in last two days, but things have finally come through,” Contador said.”It’s an honour to win the Vuelta al Pais Vasco for a third time. When I won the time trial in 2005 it was a dream. I could never imagine I would get to win the race three times. I am very happy.” [/quote_box_center]
Contador finished second overall in his season debut at the Volta ao Algarve, dominated Tirreno-Adriatico, was second at the Volta a Catalunya and has now added the Vuelta a Pais Vasco to his season’s haul. He has shown he is back to some of his best form, dancing on the pedals and hammering his opponents in the mountains. His sensational time trial performance adds the icing to the cake and with a strong team to support him, everything appears on track for him to be at his very best at the Tour de France in July.