Warming up for the opening TTT (@tinkoffsaxo)
Stage 1, August 24: Jerez de la Frontera Ė Jerez de la Frontera, 12.6 km (TTT)
Alberto Contador gave a thumbs up to his performance and that of his team, Tinkoff-Saxo, today in the Stage 1 team time trial of the Vuelta a EspaŮa. ďI havenít been able to see the classification exactly yet, but I think that itís been a good result. The time difference to first place is 19 seconds, but more that that, Iím happy because I was able to follow the pace of my teammates, I was able to collaborate in the time trial and itís a good sign that in this short stage Iíve had no knee pain. I was looking forward to starting the race, and the time differences are not something that Iím overly concerned about, and even less today. Iím going to take it one day at a time and weíll see what happens,Ē said Contador after finishing the stage.
Alberto said that probably not many people wanted to risk too much in todayís stage. ďIt was a complicated time trial. If it had rained, it wouldíve been practically impossible. It was a route that demanded a lot of respect, with roundabouts that had shiny surfaces even without rain, from oil and diesel from cars, so Iím glad. We got through it without any problems and I think itís a good result. Iím also happy because I saw the whole team looking good, very focused, and that motivates me.Ē
For tomorrow, Alberto hopes, for starters, ďto see if thereís going to be any wind, because weíll have to be very careful, not only to keep to the front and not lose time, but rather, mainly, to avoid crashing Ė which is what worries me most in this first week Ė and be able to try to recover and see if I can do the end of the Vuelta the way I want,Ē concluded the Tinkoff-Saxo leader.
Official press release, Alberto Contador press room
Tinkoff-Saxo were the penultimate team to leave the gate for the 12.6-km team time trial, a snaking course that took in at least 19 slippery roundabouts. They were followed only by the eventual stage winners, the Movistar team of main rivals Valverde and Quintana. Contador's team functioned well and crossed the line with its best face first (Daniele Bennati), arriving 7th of 22 teams.
Among the other favorites, Uran fared 11 seconds better than Contador, but all others lost a few seconds in relation to the Tinkoff-Saxo leader.
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: "Iím completely satisfied with this result. The boys rode really well together through the technically demanding course and even though itís only 12 kilometers, itís such a demanding discipline but we completed the stage with six riders. Itís a good way to start the Vuelta. Tomorrowís stage is a flat one but we have to pay attention to the wind as the crosswind sections could create chaos in the peloton."
More from Alberto: ďThis changes nothing, whatís important is to loosen up the legs. My heart was beating 200 beats per minute almost the entire crono because I lack a little training. Now itís time to recover as well as possible and improve day by day. I didnít think about the leg at all.Ē
ďWeíre close and we always like to be professional. It was more dangerous than normal due to the asphalt, but not a big deal.Ē
ďIím happy, the team was very strong and I was well protected during the whole route, but we have to take it one day at a time.Ē
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 45th (0:19 Castroviejo - 14:13). Contador in GC, 45th (0:19 Castroviejo - 14:13)
TOP 5: 1 Castroviejo, 2 Valverde, 3 Amador, 4 Erviti, 5 J. Moreno
AUDIO COMMENTS - COMPLETE CLASSIFICATIONS - RACE ATLAS
Contador and the Tinkoff-Saxo boys do one last training session before the Vuelta starts on Saturday (AC press room)
Alberto Contador appeared today in a press conference prior to the start of the Vuelta a EspaŮa, during which he said that heís keeping his expectations sensible ďafter what Iíve been through and the little that Iíve trained before coming here. Of course Iím going to look not to lose time in the opening days, only if I lose time on some day will it be the moment to change strategies. This year the Vuelta is very high-level and many riders have come to fight for the victory, but Iím at a very different level than at the Tour,Ē said the Tinkoff-Saxo leader.
Are you afraid that other riders could ambush you to take advantage of your lack of preparation?
More than any ambush, it will be the race itself that could produce complicated situations. In the Vuelta the uphill finishes start very soon. There are already difficult finales in the third and fifth stages that could go very well for explosive riders like Valverde or Purito. Itís likely that I wonít be able to stay with them there.
If you get through the first ten days without losing time, should your rivals start to worry?
No, itís not a question of getting through the first ten days, but rather more like seeing how I recover, because the level here is very high and even though Iíve done only a few days of training, Iíve tried to take maximum advantage of them, so maybe Iím a little more tired than at other times. You never know what your bodyís answer will be, but if, after ten days, Iím still among the best, itíll be good news for me, more than anything, because I think that there are people who will be stronger.
What have the doctors said? Is it advisable to ride the Vuelta a EspaŮa?
Itís a risk. Whatís most recommended would be to stay at home and think about next year, but it was difficult for me to watch the Tour on television when I had prepared so well for it, and I was feeling especially excited about riding the Vuelta. So here I am. Dr. Manuel Leyes, who has treated my injury, recommended that I do one last MRI before coming here, but I told him that I didnít have much time available, and besides, I wasnít going to change my mind, no matter what the result. Anyway, I hope that riding the Vuelta doesnít have consequences and, in any case, there are fewer worries each day.Ē
Is the Vuelta a revalidation for you?
No, itís not a revalidation. Iím very happy with the season that Iíve had up till the Tour. Iíve done a flawless season and I arrived at the Tour in optimal condition. Now what I want is to enjoy the race and see what I can achieve, but nothing more.
Who do you see as the favorite and which stage could be the most important?
There are lots of riders with options on the victory, but I think that if he arrives at 100%, the favorite is Froome, because he has a very strong team and because heís very strong in the mountains and the time trial. As for the stages, with this format for the Vuelta, all the stages are important. There are some with several consecutive climbs, but in 2012, an apparent transitional stage changed the whole race. I canít point to any particular stage.
In the Tour, you had a great preparation and a really strong team. Howís the team for the Vuelta?
Itís true that in the Tour we looked for the strongest team possible in order to control the race in case we had the leader, but in the Vuelta, even though we donít have riders like Roche, Rogers or Majka, we also have a very strong team for the flat stages and a group of climbers who can do very well. This time around, the team is the least of my worries, because I donít feel the pressure of having to control the race. I think that Iím not prepared to fight for the overall win and instead, there are others who are.
What have these six weeks been like, from the crash in the Tour to the start of the Vuelta? When did you think that youíd be able to ride?
Iíve gone through different moments. Until the tenth day, when they first took out the stitches, in a rather hasty decision, and the wound opened up, things didnít look so good, because I had to go back and start all over again. Thanks to the team at ClŪnica Cemtro, who took care of me, they stitched the wound up again and cleaned out the dirt that had remained after the first surgery, everything evolved rapidly. The work of the teamís physios, the use of the Indiba and Compex systems, and having tried to do the maximum since the moment I had a little mobility in the knee, in order to get back to the bike, all that has made it so that I could be here, although maybe a little more behind than Iíd hoped, which is why thereís a question mark beside my performance in the upcoming days.
Official press release, Alberto Contador press room
Many thanks to Roz Jones for sharing these fantastic photos of the historic moment that clinched Contador's Vuelta 2012 victory. More at PHOTO DAYBOOK
GO TO ROZ JONES PHOTO STREAM and ON THE ROAD CYCLING TOURS