www.albertocontadornotebook.info - Alberto Contador Fans Notebook


96th TOUR DE FRANCE, July 4 - 26, 2009

Reports, results, comments and photos

Stage - July 26: Montereau-Fault-Yonne - Paris, 160km

Stage 21

Alberto in Paris, wrapped in his national colors (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Today Alberto Contador was proclaimed winner of the 2009 Tour de France.

Contador achieved his second triumph in Paris after a spectacular race, during which he won two stages, the climb to Verbier and the individual time trial at Annecy. In so doing, Contador has proven himself the strongest and most complete rider in the peloton, finishing on the Champs Élysées on the top step of a distinguished podium, with Andy Schleck, 2nd, and his teammate Lance Armstrong, 3rd.

This great victory confirms Contador as the best grand tour rider of his generation. Beginnng with his triumph in 2007, he has won every grand tour he has disputed, a grand total of four consecutive grand tour wins: Tour de France 2007, Giro d’Italia 2008, Vuelta a España 2008, and now, Tour de France 2009.

With today’s victory, Alberto Contador has fulfilled a faultless trajectory in the 2009 season. An overall victory plus an ITT stage win in the Volta ao Algarve began the year, and was followed by two stage wins and a second place spot on the final podium next to his teammate, winner Levi Leipheimer. An unforgettable performance in Paris-Nice then led to two more stage wins and a fourth place overall.

Contador concluded the first part of his 2009 season with another triumph, this time at the Vuelta al País Vasco, where he captured the title for the second year in a row, also winning two stages. Before taking the start at the Tour de France, he completed his preparation with a third place finish in the Dauphiné Libéré and victory in the Spanish National Time Trial Championship.

“My thanks, after this victory, go to the people who have supported me. And to all those who have encouraged all the riders in the Tour.

"At a personal level, this Tour was difficult, and I relish this victory. I’m very happy. Today was an enormous day, unbelievable. The champaigne was good! In some ways, I feel like I'm a child again.

"Today was like being liberated from tension. Next year will be a different Tour, without the complications of this one.”

Receptions in Madrid and Pinto

Alberto Contador will travel from Paris to Madrid at midday on Monday, July 27 via Air France, leaving at 12:35, and is scheduled to arrive at Barajas Airport at around 2:30 that afternoon.

Contador will be available at 5:00 PM for a press conference to be held at the government headquarters of the Community of Madrid, in the Puerta del Sol. He will then attend an official reception hosted by the president of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre.

Later that evening, Alberto Contador will be welcomed home to Pinto, where a cavalcade of supporters on bicycles will escort him in procession through the main streets of the city to a reception at the City Hall at around 7:30 PM.

RESULTS: Alberto Contador in Stage 21, 97th (s.t.Cavendish). Contador is the GC, 1st (85:48:35)

TOP SIX: Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck (4.11), Lance Armstrong (5:24), Bradley Wiggins (6:01), Frank Schleck (6:04), Andreas Klöden (6:42).

Stage - July 25: Montélimar - Mont Ventoux, 167km

Stage 20

The giant of Tour 2009 is slain (Patrick Herzog/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador withstood every attack by Andy Schleck on the monstrous peak of Mont Ventoux today, holding on to his 4’ 11” lead in the general classification, and will ride to Paris tomorrow in the yellow jersey, the virtual winner of the 2009 Tour de France.

Contador rode in defense of the maillot jaune in Stage 20, pairing off with the younger Schleck brother for much of the ascent. Accompanied by teammates Armstrong and Andreas Klöden, he battled up the slopes with a tenacious group of favorites. In the final kilometers, Contador and Armstrong remained close together, finishing fourth and fifth, allowing Armstrong to retain third position in the general classification.

The race concludes tomorrow with the glorious annual processional on the Champs Élysées in Paris.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 20, 4th (0.38 Juan Manuel Garate). Contador in the GC, 1st (81:46:17)

TOP SIX: Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck (4.11), Lance Armstrong (5:24), Bradley Wiggins (6:01), Frank Schleck (6:04), Andreas Klöden (6:42).

Stage 19 - July 24: Bourgoin-Jallieu - Aubenas, 178km

Stage 17

Alberto and Klödi went through thick and thin together in this Tour
(Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador carried the maillot jaune safely to the finish line today in Stage 19 of the Tour de France.

Dramatic black skies loomed over Aubenas and shed a few drops of rain, but the race was home and dry after a sparkling run for the line beneath the ramparts of the old city.

Mark Cavendish won the day, again - his fifth victory since the race left Monaco - and so becomes the first British rider in history with nine career stage wins in the Tour.

And now, Le Ventoux.

The summit finish on Mont Ventoux tomorrow is looming more dramatically over the Tour than stormy skies. Alberto told reporters this afternoon, “I know that the Schleck brothers are going to attack on the Ventoux.

"It’s a mythic climb, but I don’t know if I'll be able to attack at the end because there’ll be a headwind in the last six kilometers. It’s difficult to be able to go it alone like that.

"I think that Frank will attack, because it’s his last opportunity, if he wants to get onto the podium. I think that it’s going to be like a war.

"I’m convinced that I’m going to suffer, since we’re talking about a long hard stage. It’s going to be complicated. It’s only in Paris, finally, that I’ll have the ability to enjoy this race.”


Alberto Contador is not concerned about a four-second time loss he incurred at today’s finish line. After a complicated finale, the race leader’s main goal was to stay safe.

“Today was a difficult stage, very fast and dangerous at the finish because it was raining. I decided not to take any risks,” he said, summarizing Stage 19, one day prior to the climb of Mont Ventoux, the last big date of Tour 2009.

Contador intends to confront Mont Ventoux by riding in defense of his leader jersey, and will arrive at the start tomorrow without the intention of attacking. “The fundamental objective is to defend the maillot jaune until Paris. The ones that will attack will be the Schleck brothers. For me, defending my situation is enough. I’m going with a conservative mindset,” he assured.

Alberto also showed his readiness to help teammates Armstrong and Klöden as much as possible to qualify for the podium in Paris. “If keeping the jersey is compatible with helping my teammates get onto the podium, I’ll be glad to do it,” he said. “It would be magnificent for both of them to climb onto the podium, but I hope that at least one of them does,” he said in reference to Lance Armstrong.

Contador said that he doesn’t have especially good memories of the Ventoux, since it’s a mountain that is usually climbed “in the Dauphiné, when I’m not in the same state of form and when I’m riding to save my strength for the Tour. If it’s windy, it’s not a mountain where you can get much of a margin,” he concluded.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 19, 24th. (0.04 Cavendish). Contador in the GC, 1st (77:06:18)

TOP SIX: Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck (4.11), Lance Armstrong (5:21), Bradley Wiggins (5:36), Andreas Kloden (5:38), Frank Schleck (5:59).

Stage 18 - July 23: Annecy - Annecy, 40.5km

Stage 17

Contador rode today in the maillot jaune with his Spanish Champion's helmet
(Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador sped to a dominant victory this afternoon in the Stage 18 individual time trial at Annecy.

Contador consolidated his hold on the maillot jaune, solidly defeating a group of the best specialists in the world. He completed the 40.5 kilometer course in 48:30:17, placing him 3” ahead of Olympic gold medalist Fabian Cancellara, 40” ahead of former British national champion David Millar, 43” ahead of Olympic gold medal pursuitist Bradley Wiggins, and one and a half minutes ahead of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Contador’s closest rival in the general classification, Andy Schleck, turned in a strong performance to preserve his second place overall, while Armstrong moved into third. Alberto now carries a lead of over four minutes into tomorrow’s transitional stage, and faces the penultimate stage of the 2009 Tour de France on Saturday, with a climb of the mythic Mont Ventoux.


Alberto Contador delivered another authoritative blow to the opposition in the Tour de France today by winning the time trial at Annecy. In doing so, he has added to his advantage in the general classification, and now awaits the last great appointment of the race, Saturday at Mont Ventoux.

In spite of his sizeable lead he has nevertheless announced that he will ride to defend the yellow jersey. “On Mont Ventoux there are other riders that must attack. I’ll be glad to help Armstrong keep his place on the podium, and if Klöden gets it, too, so much the better.”

Contador began the day responding to comparisons with Miguel Induráin. “It’s a source of pride to be compared to Induráin,” he said, “but he was a great time trialist who got enormous margins, and I’m more of a mix of qualities.”

Alberto said that the margins today “were quite large. Yesterday I could be more relaxed than my rivals in the final kilometers, and that was an important factor in explaining what happened today. I was thinking mainly about the general, but when I saw the advantage that I had at the end of the climb, I also thought about the stage win.”

The victory over Cancellara also left him with a special feeling. “When I saw that I had the best time on the climb, I knew that I might be able to win. Cancellara always takes time out of me on the descents, and I knew that I had to fight to the finish and stay focused on it. That’s where I got those three seconds for the win.”

Contador, furthermore, said firmly that the Tour is still not won. “Today I’ve taken another important step, but I’m going day by day. There are still three important stages before Paris.”

Alberto also replied to a question about the announcement today of a new sponsor for Armstrong, and whether he might be a part of that project. “I’ve heard that he has a project for the future, but I want to keep my mind on the race until we get to Paris. Only then will it be time to think about my future and that of the team.” (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 18, 1st. (48:30.71). Contador in the GC, 1st (73:15:39)

TOP SIX: Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck (4.11), Lance Armstrong (5:25), Bradley Wiggins (5:36), Andreas Kloden (5:38), Frank Schleck (5:59).

Stage 17 - July 22: Bourg-Saint-Maurice - Le Grand-Bornand, 169.5km

Stage 16

Contador and the Schleck brothers choose a winner (Patrick Herzog/AFP/Getty Images)


Alberto Contador increased the margin today between himself and his most dangerous rival in tomorrow’s time trial, British rider Bradley Wiggins. Contador, who is in possession of the maillot jaune, now has a fairly comfortable advantage of 4:53 over Wiggins.

On the whole, Stage 17 was very good for the race leader, except for the misfortune of getting separated from his teammate Andreas Klöden. Klöden bonked on the Colombière, preventing the two from arriving together at the goal. The incident ended the day on a bad note.

“It was a pity. I talked to Johan Bruyneel, who told me to talk to Andreas Klöden and he told me yes, to attack if I wanted. I was thinking about going alone or with Andy, but the only one left behind was Andreas. That’s why I decided to stop, to see if he was coming, but in the end he lost a lot.”

Contador said that the Schleck brothers asked him to work together with them to the end, but he replied that he had “teammates behind. As for the stage, I knew that they were going to attack me. I decided to go with them, Frank sprinted, and I chose to be conservative and think about the time trial tomorrow.” About the advantage he got over Wiggins, Contador said that he was his “main rival in the time trial, and now the time differences are fairly comfortable.”

About the current podium situation, with the Schleck brothers, he said that they are “in great form, but they’re also not as good at time trials. I thought that Frank would not be as good, but the two together were very strong. Tomorrow is a long time trial and both Andreas and Lance are strong, so they’re going to be right there, fighting for the podium.”

To a new question concerning what happened to Klöden, Alberto said that they planned the tactic “on the Col de Romme and on the Colombière. Andreas told me that I could attack, no problem, but the Schleck brothers really surprised me, and when I saw that he was in difficulties, I stopped. I looked back to see if Klöden was coming, so I’m quite upset.”

Alberto says that he wanted to do “the same as at Verbier, but seeing that there wasn’t a gap and that Kloden was left, I decided to stop to wait for him. In the end, I continued on until the line, to finish as well as I could in the general. I’m not happy with what happened to Klöden,” he repeated.

Alberto said that he still doesn’t feel like the winner. “There are still three complicated stages left, including a time trial, and winning will still be complicated.” Overall, he said that he’s “happy with the result, except for what happened to Klöden. It was a very dangerous stage, and today I took an important step, because the riders right behind me in the general don’t do very well in the time trial, although the Tour is not won by any means. Things were going very well, and so I tried, because I had good legs,” he concluded.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 17, 2nd (s.t. Frank Schleck). Contador in the GC, 1st (72:27:09).

TOP FIVE: Contador, Andy Schleck (2.26), Frank Schleck (3:25), Armstrong (3:55), Klöden (4:44)

Stage 16 - July 21: Martigny - Bourg-Saint-Maurice, 159km

Stage 16

Contador's the ham in the Saxo sandwich (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

A remarkably tense day, Stage 16 featured two severe peaks which plunged the peloton from Switzerland to Italy to France, crossing the highest point in this Tour, the hors-categorie Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard (8114 ft).

A break was initiated at 500 meters. It grew to about 18 riders, but the hard riding of KOM Pellizotti and the cruel route splintered it into pieces which remained at the front in tatters all day.

Alberto Contador's team drove the pace with an iron hand, a re-enacting on bikes of the march of Hannibal and his elephants, or of Napoleon? Those two generals commanded these roads long ago, surely after first doing a thorough recon, as Contador did in May.

The real action among the aces happened on the 1st category Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard. At 45 km from the goal, Saxo Bank pushed to the front of the favorites. Fistfuls of riders from Astana and Garmin filled out the group. The aces pegged away at the climb, Andy Schleck raised the pace, then attacked again at about 5 km from the summit.

Contador countered easily, inspiring commentator Phil Liggett to say, "Contador's looking around at the countryside, he's not any in trouble at all." Andreas Klöden, easy, "sitting back with pipe and slippers" (Sherwen) was on hand to help him. Unfortunately, Armstrong was dropped, but he managed to bridge back up later, along with a number of others.

After the crest of Petit-Saint-Bernard, the last 30 km were a screaming descent. Typical for this Tour, the fireworks among the aces were over without significantly affecting the overall.

At 25 km to go, Jens Voigt crashed badly, absorbing the impact wtih his face and head. His brief loss of consciousness caused everyone to fear the worst. Thankfully, Voigt was revived, then retired from the race to hospital.

Shreds of the chase groups arrived first at Bourg-Saint-Maurice, led by a wildly happy veteran Mikel Astarloza, who got the first stage win of his career. Alberto was the first of the favorites' group, in 9th place.



Alberto Contador got through his first day in yellow with no trouble, although he had to respond to attacks from the Schleck brothers on the Petit-Saint-Bernard. The stage was hard, but the Astana team was just as solid as its leader. “There was a moment when we were down to four or five riders. When Saxo went to the front, we knew that the Schleck brothers were attacking, and it looked like Andy was the strongest. It was a hard attack, but in the end it came to nothing, although it was still hard on the legs,” said Contador.

Contador found out at the finish line that Bruyneel had announced that he would leave Astana at the end of the season. His answer was prudent, “It’s the first news I’ve had, but right now I’m totally focused on the rest of the Tour for the next five days, and the time for thinking about my future and that of the team will come later.”

He commended Lance Armstrong for bridging to the lead group after a moment of weakness. “I highly value what he did. We had already spoken during the race, and he made a big effort to get back in the group, even though as it turned out, it wasn’t necessary,” said Contador.

Generally speaking, Alberto Contador described the day as “a good day. We were able to keep the yellow, and the team worked really intelligently. Our rivals took a dig, and it left a lot of riders behind, so tomorrow they’ll do it again. I felt good, we kept hold of the teams’ lead and, even though they attacked us on the last pass, we made it through the day. Tomorrow they’ll attack us again, because they have to try. In the five days that are left, they’re going to attack us constantly,” he said.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 16, 9th (0.59 Astarloza). Contador in the GC, 1st (67:33:15).

TOP TEN: Contador, Armstrong (1:37), Wiggins (1:46), Klöden (2:17), A. Schleck (2:26), Nibali (2:51), Christophe Le Mevel (3:09), Frank Schleck (3:25), Carlos Sastre (3:52), Vande Velde (3:59)

Rest Day 2 - July 20: Verbier


“I’ve got more of a margin than I expected”

In comments to the press today, on the second rest day of the 2009 Tour de France, Alberto Contador stated confidently that his victory at the top of Verbier has earned him the maillot jaune and the indisputable leadership of the Astana team in the Tour. He also said that his margin over his rivals is greater than he expected.

“With the gap that I had yesterday, I’m resting easier, it was a key day. I expected that gaps might open up, but they were big, bigger than I had imagined, so I’m sleeping easier,” he said. Contador, who has an advantage of 1:37 over Lance Armstrong of the USA, said that the time gaps achieved at Verbier allowed him “to be calmer and not as aggressive as I have been up to this point,” also indicating that “with an even bigger gap, I’d sleep easier.”

“If we get an opportunity to get more distance on our rivals, we will take advantage of it,” he said. Although he pointed to Andy Schleck of Luxembourg as the strongest of his rivals, he also said that, taken as a group, his opponents could make trouble if they were to combine forces to attack. “One way or another, more freedom creates more problems for you.”

He cautioned in particular about Bradley Wiggins of Britain, a specialist against the clock who defended well in the mountains and who’s in third, 1:46 behind the leader. “I’ll have to try to get more of a margin coming up to the time trial at Annecy,” he said. Contador said that all of the remaining stages are hard, and that the finish at La Grand-Bornand on Wednesday is the most dangerous.

Contador admits that it’s possible to have a bad day, like the one that happened at Paris-Nice. “If that happens in the Tour, everybody’s going to jump on the chance to attack me. It’s up to me to try to do it all well, overlooking nothing, so that the bad day that all the rivals are waiting for never comes,” he said.

Contador is counting on the support of Lance Armstrong, considered until now his principal rival in the race, and said that he believes in the professionalism of the rest of his teammates at Astana. “After the situation that happened yesterday—the results of the stage—things have all been made pretty clear, and there’s much less controversy,” said the cyclist, who also said that that relationship will have a noticeable impact on the atmosphere within the team, and in the race.

Contador said that he came to the Tour prepared for an internal rivalry with Armstrong, and that helped him mentally prepare to deal with the situation. “I knew that it was going to be a difficult Tour on and off the road. It was clear from before we got here, and that did a lot to make it easier. I expected a lot of tension and a lot of psychological pressure,” he said.

The Madrileño is emotionally on an even keel about having been the first to defeat Armstrong, winner of seven Tours, and assures that, even though the Texan was one of his idols as a boy, he’s not getting carried away with self-congratulations. “I never imagined riding against him. When he retired he wasn’t expected to come back. Now, Armstrong is the way he is, and I’m different. My goal in the coming years will be to win the Tour as many times as I can, but I haven’t fixed on a number. I don’t know if I’ll win as many as he did,” he said.

He sees himself at the forefront of a new generation of cyclists, others of whom occupied the top places in the stage at Verbier. “Now I’m the leader, I’m a little ahead of them, but they will be my rivals, beginning in this Tour and on into the future.”

Stage 15 - July 19: Pontarlier - Verbier, 207km

Victory on Stage 15

Contador on podium at Verbier in Stage 15 (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)


Alberto Contador, winner of Stage 15 of the Tour de France and new leader of the race, stated today that his team, Astana, will be riding in support of him.

“The situation is favorable for me, and now I’m the team’s man to back,” assured the Madrileño.

After learning that Lance Armstrong had designated him as “the strongest in the team and in the Tour” and showed that he’s ready to work for him, Contador stated that “it’s an honor and a pleasure to hear these words from Lance.”

“He’s a very great professional, and now we all have to fight for the situation that I’m in. He can play a very important role in the heart of the team,” he said.

The cyclist from Pinto said that the stage to Verbier freed him from the tension he’s experienced in recent days, saying, “I’ve looked forward to the arrival of this stage. There’ve been days that weren’t easy for me, and I’ve looked forward to the arrival of this stage and hoped that it would develop as it has developed, with big time differences.”

“I’m very happy with the results of the stage. It wasn’t a very long ascent, and because of that I attacked early so I’d be able to get a gap,” he added. Contador indicated that on the climb to Verbier, he gave it everything, trying to get the biggest gap possible. “I tried my best, with all my strength,” he assured.

The rider from the Madrid town of Pinto indicated that putting on the maillot jaune today was more thrilling than it had been in 2007, when he was awarded it in place of Danish rider Michael Rasmussen, who was expelled from the race by his team, due to a breach of the antidoping code. “I’m very happy with how I got the yellow jersey, it’s different from 2007,” he said.

Nevertheless, Contador says that today doesn’t qualify as the happiest day of his life. That was the day he returned to cycling after a cerebral cavernoma which caused a close brush with death in an accident in the Vuelta a Asturias. He related, “The happiest day was in 2005, when I returned to competition after the accident in 2004, which nearly cost me my life. It was in the Tour Down Under, a month after I got back on the bicycle, and I won the queen stage.”

He also said that the fight put up by Lance Armstrong, winner of seven Tours de France, and the rest of his rivals “makes the jersey worth even more” because “it cost me to get the time differences.”

“Armstrong has always been my idol, but when he stayed behind in the attack, I didn’t really think about it. I was thinking about distancing my rivals as much as possible.”

Contador indicated that he thought about attacking at about four or five kilometers from the goal, but decided to pass the others in a burst of speed after the strong pace imposed by Saxo Bank decimated the group of favorites.

The Spaniard denied that today’s stage made winning the Tour de France a fait accompli. “It was an important step to take, but the last week is the hardest. There’s going to be a lot of action from the other riders, who’ve shown today that they’re very strong. There’s a lot of Tour left - you’ve got to hope, and these days will be very hard,” he said.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 15, 1st (5:0:58). Contador in the GC, 1st (63:17:56).

TOP TEN: Contador, Armstrong (1:37), Wiggins (1:46), Klöden (2:17), A. Schleck (2:26), Nocentini (2:30), Nibali (2:51), Martin (3:07), Le Mevel (3:09), F. Schleck (3:25)

July 18 - Stage 14: Colmar - Besançon, 199km

TDF 09 Stage 11

Gotta do something (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador's team Astana seemed dangerously close today to bestowing on a strong rival the pearl of great price, the maillot jaune.

Columbia's George Hincapie, famously a long-time teammate of Armstrong and protegé of Bruyneel, spent the day in a large breakaway that established more than an eight-minute gap to the peloton. Hincapie began the day only 5:25 off the race lead, which made him the virtual yellow jersey during much of his ride.

Hincapie's escapade produced the nail-biting tension that has been so lacking in transitional stages in this Tour. An imposing rider with impressive wins on his palmares - Stage 15 of the 2005 Tour, 2007 Tour of Missouri, US championships - the excitement of seeing him move into yellow today and liven up the general at Verbier tomorrow was palpable.

Astana allowed Hincapie free rein for many kilometers. For a team like Astana, who occupy three of the top five places, to allow a lethal rider into the top five - what can you say to that but YIKES!!

In a close race, what contender in his right mind would want to add Hincapie to his enemy list?

Did Astana allow Hincapie a chance at yellow? Did they reel him back in the end? Both? Why? Not clear.

The salient action points:

Serguei Ivanov of Katusha launched a bloodthirsty attack off the front of the escape group, and rode to victory without a backward glance.

US team Garmin-Slipstream powered to prevent Hincapie's success on behalf of Wiggins and Vande Velde, both in the top 10 and cognizant of the implications of a high-placing by Hincapie.

Meanwhile, Cavendish was relegated and Hushovd captured the green jersey again in the most exciting ongoing fight in the Tour so far.

Psychologically speaking, if this was transistional, then tomorrow when the race hits the slopes at Verbier, we will all need sedatives.


Alberto Contador finished today’s stage one notch lower in the general classification, where he’s now third, behind Nocentini and George Hincapie. Hincapie nearly took over the race leadership after riding all day in the escape group. That was an important tactical move, which caused Alberto Contador to go back to Johan Bruyneel’s car to talk about Astana’s strategy. “We were seeing what was in our best interest, and it was that, that George take the leadership so that he could lend us a hand tomorrow.”

In the end, the Columbia rider missed yellow by 5 seconds, and the race situation is unchanged for the stage at Verbier, the Tour’s second summit finish, after Arcalís, and where Alberto will get back to his own turf. “For better or worse, the mountains are coming,” he said. “We’re going to see what happens. People have to make their moves, because there aren’t many more possibilities. It’ll be a nice stage.”

After the stage through Vosges, today was for “recovery, after an exhausting stage, although nothing major happened,” he said. “Tomorrow I don’t know if something will happen. This Tour is a bit strange, but I think that, yes, tomorrow peole will have to make their moves for the general, because they’re running out of chances.”

Contador has a prudent overview of the Verbier stage. “We’ll have to see how the race goes, we’ll have to wait for the people who are behind to make their moves before we decide what’s going to work.” That being said, Alberto says he has “very good legs” and he’s in a great mood after a visit by his parents in Colmar. “I was glad to see them, because I’ve already been away from home for many days,” he said. (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 14, 37th (5:36 Ivanov). Contador in the GC, 3rd (0.06 Nocentini).

TOP TEN: Nocentini, Hincapie (0:05), Contador (0:06), Armstrong (0:08), LeMevel (0:43), Wiggins (0:46), Klöden (0:54), Martin (1:00), Vande Velde (1:24), Andy Schleck (1:29)

July 17 - Stage 13: Vittel - Colmar, 200km

TDF 09 Stage 11

It never stopped raining during Stage 13 (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

The Australian German Heinrich Haussler conquered the elements today, riding to victory through the rain and cold in Stage 13 of the Tour de France.

The first day of mountains since the race left Andorra was welcomed with relief and enthusiasm after three uneventful transitional stages. However, the rain, which never stopped, annulled chances by the aces to attack and take time. The riding was rather tame, and the excitement came from unexpected places.

Alberto Contador's teammate Levi Leipheimer dropped out of the race with a broken wrist - a hit to Astana's power and strategy, and a bad loss to Contador. After benefitting from Contador's work as a super-gregario at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Leipheimer, who got that overall victory, had pledged to support Alberto as the leader in this Tour. His injury means the loss of both a friend and a collaborator from Castilla y Leon and other memorable past races.

The bizarre turn of the day: Two members of the peloton were shot with an air rifle! According to Garmin's Julian Dean, shots were fired on the descent of the category 3 Col du Bannstein. Dean's index finger was hit, and Oscar Freire of Rabobank received a pellet in his thigh, which was removed by his team doctor later. The French police have arrested some "enfants" in connection with the incident. Both riders will continue in the race.


Stage 13 to Colmar finished with no changes in the general classification, with all the favorites maintaining position and anticipating the arrival of Verbier. The disappointment of Levi Leipheimer’s withdrawal due to injury was the only bad news of the day. “Until you do the stage, you don’t know how it will end,” said Alberto Contador, “but on the Tourmalet I saw that nobody wanted to make a move, and today was complicated due to the rain. In the end, the riders decided not to attack, and for us it was the best thing. It was a much calmer day than you’d think, considering how bad the weather was.”

More could be clarified on Sunday at Verbier, although Contador warns that it’s not a very hard finish. “We can’t wait too long. It’s a climb of 8.5 km, fairly short and with only a bit more slant that Arcalís, but not extraordinary. For now, we’re going to recover today, not catch cold and see what happens Sunday.”

Today’s stage, in his opinion, owed more to this particular parcours than to any lack of strength in his rivals. “Astana is a powerful team, but you’ve got to be aware that, although sometimes we riders are to blame, the route of this Tour isn’t very conducive to attacks. Sometimes we miss attacks, but the stages aren’t very conducive to it.”

After this first half of the race, Alberto thinks that his most solid rivals are “Evans and Andy Schleck, because they’re the strongest ones I see with respect to the rest. We’ll see how they are on Sunday.” Asked about Carlos Sastre, he warned that bib number one “is riding a little farther back than these two, but he’s also a great rider and, as he’s a long-distance cyclist, I think that he’ll be able to do well in the last week.”

Finally, Alberto referred to the loss of Leipheimer, which he described as bad for Astana. “For us, it’s very important because, although the team behaved in an unbelievable way today, the Tour’s very long and we’ll miss him a great deal of the time. I hope that he recovers and that everything goes well for him.”

Contador, furthermore, rejected the idea that Leipheimer could be considered his rival. “He’s a teammate. The Tour’s very long, there are a lot of mountain stages left. You mustn’t look at him as a rival, but as a teammate.” (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 13, 20th (6:43 Haussler). Contador in the GC, 2nd (0.06 Nocentini).

TOP FIVE: Rinaldo Nocentini (34:24:21), Contador (0.6), Armstrong (0.08), Wiggins (0.46), Klöden (0.54)

July 16 - Stage 12: Tonnerre - Vittel, 211.5km

TDF 09 Stage 11

Lunch on the go (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Saxo Bank's Nicki Sorensen jumped ahead of the all-day escape group today, and got a solo stage win in Vittel

Alberto Contador finished in the pack about 6 minutes later, just a few meters behind a minor scrum by Cavendish and Hushovd for sprint points.

The GC is unchanged.


Alberto Contador finished another stage without incident today, Stage 12 of the Tour de France. The day that brought him one step closer to the mountains and a stage—tomorrow’s—that he’s very interested in.

“We’re getting to the really complicated stages. Colmar is a stage that’s been talked about a lot, it has mountains in the middle of the route and it’ll be pretty active, since there are people who’ve lost time in the general. It’ll be a difficult day.”

After the Vosges and the other transitional stage, the race arrives at the Alps, where Alberto doesn’t have his eye on any stage in particular, although, he says, “we’ll have to see how the finish at Verbier develops. It’s the first one in the Alps and it’s the one you’ve got to think about. Later we’ll look at the others. In principle, I should be able to do pretty well, because people have to attack. We’ll see where we can finish.”

Concerning the tactics of how to do it, within the context of the controversy with Armstrong, Alberto doesn’t want to make statements in advance. “We’ve got to see how the race develops, because there are others who must attack, I can allow myself to wait a little.”

He didn’t offer any reaction to the comments of Bernard Hinault, who said he must attack at once. ”For spectacle, that’s the best,” he admits, “but we’ve got to look a bit at how the race is going.” (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 12, 21st (5.58 Sorensen). Contador in the GC, 2nd (0.06 Nocentini).

TOP FIVE: Rinaldo Nocentini (34:24:21), Contador (0.6), Armstrong (0.08), Leipheimer (0.39), Wiggins (0.46)

July 15 - Stage 11: Vatan - Saint-Fargeau, 192km

TDF 09 Stage 11

The race stops to cope with a mass crash (Patrick Herzog/AFP/Getty Images)

Cavendish got a fresh sprint win today on what was a transitional stage for the overall contenders, although there was tension for them, too, due to crashes at the beginning of the stage. “It was a transitional day,” said Alberto Contador, “pretty boring for the ones that saw it on television, but it was also a nervous day from the beginning of the stage. There were some pretty complicated crashes and we barely escaped.”

After a nerve-wracking beginning, things quieted down when the escape was made. “It was calm until the final 20 kilometers, where everybody wants to be in front to avoid losing any seconds, and the truth is, going along close to the barriers at that speed is really scary,” commented Contador, who had close calls with a couple of crashes. “The two that I saw were in front of me, so it gave me time to stop the bike.”

The best thing for him is that he continues to feel well as the race approaches the mountains, his turf. “I’m feeling good physically, in spite of the fact that this was another day of punishment for the legs, but it’s also one less day of suffering,” he said. “Right now I don’t want to think about tomorrow, which is another difficult day and which I’ve got to cover without losing time and without any crashes. Then I’ll think about the mountains, where I can’t wait to arrive.” (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 11, 43th (s.t. Cavendish). Contador in the GC, 2nd (0.06 Nocentini).

TOP FIVE: Rinaldo Nocentini (34:24:21), Contador (0.6), Armstrong (0.08), Leipheimer (0.39), Wiggins (0.46)

July 14 - Stage 10: Limoges - Issoudun, 193km

The Tour de France organization used this undulating transitional stage to experiment with racing without the aid of radio communications between riders and team cars.

There was dissent: 14 of the 20 participating teams signed a petition protesting the decision. The riders also spoke against the move, citing safety as their main concern.

Contador told the press, “I’m against getting rid of it, because without it, a crash or a puncture could make even the strongest team in the peloton lose the race.” Later he added in his personal blog, "The riders disagreed about this decision because much of the time it puts our security in jeopardy, with cars that drive in the middle of the peloton, that cause congestion when passing to go forward."

Teams use the radio to orchestrate strategy, as well as to protect the riders. In post-stage interviews, more than one rider voiced the opinion that bike racing has evolved technically, in terms of equipment, gear, nutrition, and the bicycles themselves, and that to prohibit communication technology makes no sense in that context.

Today's stage didn't present strategic problems. It was a slow Bastille Day promenade, with a flat finish won by Mark Cavendish.

On Stage 13, the radios will be banned again, but this time on a tricky mountain roads--a bit dodgy. Why risk it? Radios are here to stay.

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 10, 40th (s.t. Cavendish). Contador in the GC, 2nd (0.06 Nocentini).

TOP FIVE: Rinaldo Nocentini (34:24:21), Contador (0.6), Armstrong (0.08), Leipheimer (0.39), Wiggins (0.46)

July 13 - Rest day: Limoges

TDF 09 Stage 1

Contador in Spanish Champion kit at Monaco
(Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador held a mass press conference today in which he responded calmly to all questions posed, especially to those in reference to his relationship with Lance Armstrong. The leader of Astana played down the situation at the heart of the team and affirmed that, as far as he was concerned, “no tension exists.” Contador awaits the Alps and says that it’s “others that have to attack.”

Armstrong said that your attack at Arcalís wasn’t part of the team’s plan but that he expected it. What’s your opinion?

That morning we talked at the team meeting on the bus about controlling the race, but waiting for attacks from rivals, which never materialized. The situation was pretty good, I thought I would be able to get benefits for myself and the team, and of course, talking on the bus is one thing, and situations in the race are another. I attacked because I saw clearly that it was beneficial for the team.

Armstrong’s words after the stage took on a critical tone towards you. What’s your opinion?

I’m pretty calm because it was for the good of the team.

Do you think that you’re the leader of the team, or are things a bit different than what’s been said?

If I were the leader of the team, then obviously there wouldn’t be this controversy over what happened at Arcalis. I also know that they’re keeping all their options open, so I don’t attach much significance to it. It’s a topic that’s already been gone over too much.

How’s your relationship after everything that’s been said?

It’s a normal situation and my relationship with Lance is like with any other rider. We eat and have dinner at the same table, and on the bus it’s the same, no problems. Often the tension from the outside seems greater than from within the team.

Is this sitation influencing you?

The situation would be better if there were no room for questions like these, because that would mean that I was in a normal situation. It’s not like that, but in spite of that, I’m pretty calm, concentrated on the race and there isn’t anything that throws me off. The Tour is a really exhausting race and you can’t use up energy on anything else.

Is this controversy debilitating to your fight for victory?

The situation could be simpler, so I could just think about pedalling, but I’m trying not to let it affect my performance and my main goal is to isolate myself from all of it.

Which stage will be good for attacking?

It’s a little like at Arcalís, where other people who’ve lost time will have to attack. I don’t have to do it, other people do.

In the case of you being ahead in the last week, will they respect you?

What do you want me to say to that? We’ll have to wait and see. I think that whatever is most beneficial to the team is what will be done, and it will depend on the race situation.

How will the last week go, and which will be more decisive, the Alps, the time trial or Mont Ventoux?

The general will have to become pretty clear in the Alps. Even by the stage at Colmar, but mainly at Verbier and after the Grand Bornand and the Columbiere. And that still leaves two key stages.

Who is your principal adversary?

The most dangerous ones are the Schleck brothers, and Andy looks pretty good, very focused on the race. Another one that will be there for sure is Evans, because at Ordino (Arcalís) he was the only one to attack and, of course, Sastre, because of his great experience. In the Pyrenees he was at the maximum and, since he’s an endurance rider, he’ll also be there in the Alps.

How many Astana riders are for you and how many are for Armstrong? Which teams can you count on?

The riders on my team are very professional and are working for everybody. There’s no problem of any sort and I completely trust them all. As for the peloton, there are always similar riders that can lend a hand, but the important thing is that the team is fully behind me.

Do you need help to win the Tour?

Of course I need help. You can’t win the Tour alone.

Have you seen a rival who’s stronger than you in this first week?

Considering what’s happened so far in the race, I haven’t been able to evaluate my rivals’ state of form. Although it seems like a lot of the Tour has already happened, the general still bears the stamp of the team time trial, and that’s deceiving. There haven’t been any stages to measure if there’s anybody stronger.

Armstrong said yesterday that there’s a little tension in the team. Do you feel alone?

I’ve seen his statements, but for my part there’s no tension at all. I’m very relaxed.

Do you feel alone? Does your main opposition come from within Astana?

I absolutely do not feel alone, because I’ve got people all around me who fully support me in this Tour and who are very important in their own right. On my team there are riders with a lot of options and who are clearly candidates, but I’m not thinking about that. There’s a lot of Tour left, in any case, it’s better that the victory stay in the team than go anywhere else.

How will things stand if Armstrong attacks in the mountains? Will you go after him or not?

If Armstrong attacks, I’m not going to go after him, that will have to come from others.

With all these questions, do you feel happy at this Tour?

Yes, this is a happy Tour, because physically I feel very good. The Tour is the Tour and the atmosphere isn’t as bad as people think. In other races it’s been better, but all in all I’m very happy at the Tour.

There’s news today about an offer by Fernando Alonso to put together a team. What’s in your future?

In the next two weeks I’m only concentrating on the race. After that, we’ll have to see what’s going to happen in the future. But this is only a rumor, I still have a year left on my contract.

In other grand tours that you’ve won, you were the only leader. How do you deal with this situation?

I’m dealing with it in a pretty normal way, because I knew that this would be the situation, despite what’s been said. In a sporting sense, it doesn’t affect me at all. (AC press room)

July 12 - Stage 9: Saint Gaudens - Tarbe, 160km

Alberto Contador survived the last of the Pyrenees today in Stage 9 of the Tour, a very hot day. The riders climbed the Col d'Agnes and the Tourmalet early in the stage, and finished on a long and uneventful road to Tarbes.

Pierrick Fedrigo and Franco Pellizotti made up the portion of the large escape that survived. They finished in that order, 1 and 2. Oscar Freire came in third at the front of the pack when it arrived shortly after.

Of course Contador survived the Pyrenees, he thrives there on any normal day. Today's threats, however, were boredom, random crashes, and the useless expenditure of energy on a mountain route that offered no prizes for the climbers and no entertainment for the fans.

The scenery was very beautiful.

It's tedious to endure stages where there's nothing more interesting in the main pack than another look at the Boss. Between the marginal sporting interest of the route in Stages 8 and 9, and the obsession of the media with personalities, it's hard to know whether to drop dead or grab Tickler and go on the Rampage.

In a week, the race will be in the Alps, where Contador has the chance to delight us by running away again, like he did at Arcalis. Running away from shackles, from psych-strategy, from clucking tongues. High up into the clear Swiss air at Verbier, where he belongs.


Alberto Contador finished today’s last Pyrenean stage without any change of position in the general classification, since, contrary to expectations, there were no important developments on the Tourmalet. “It was a calmer stage than I expected,” said Contador, “because it was 70 kilometers from the Tourmalet to the finish line, and it would’ve taken a lot of guts to try anything.” Although nobody important made a move, Astana never let down their guard.

“There were teams that sent people ahead, but in the end they decided to wait for another day,” commented Contador. “Everybody knew that the Pyrenees would be the gentlest mountains in this Tour, but there’s still a lot of race left, so now I’m looking at resting tomorrow, and going easy the first five days of next week, thinking about the next summit finish, the one at Verbier.”

Team AG2r rode tempo on the Tourmalet, where according to Alberto, little damage was done. “The leader’s team set the pace, and it was in their interest to keep it piano. Since everybody decided not to try, a pretty big group hit the summit together.”

Alberto is satisfied for now with being second in the general, and is thinking about yellow. “The leadership is secondary for the time being,” he said. “The important thing is to have yellow on the last day in Paris. For now, we’re interested in getting rested, and with AG2r, we can be a little calmer, although since the differences are so small, in the end we’ve still got to work, because our team is the most powerful.”

All told, things are quite good for him after the first nine stages. “My sensations are very good, and today we’re in a perfect situation. We’ve got a super strong team, and if we can do things well, we can keep a pretty good control of the race,” he went on.

Finally, Alberto commented about the controvery concerning radio communication between directors and riders on the road, voting in favor of the earpiece. “I’m against getting rid of it, because without it, a crash or a puncture could make even the strongest team in the peloton lose the race.” (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 9, 24th (0.34). Contador in the GC, 2nd (0.06 Nocentini).

TOP FIVE: Rinaldo Nocentini (34:24:21), Contador (0.6), Armstrong (0.08), Leipheimer (0.39), Wiggins (0.46)

July 11 - Stage 8: Andorra-La-Veille - Saint-Girons, 176km

TDF 09 Stage 8

Contador during a hard day's work (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador was vigilant in the group of aces today at the Tour de France, while his friend Luis Leon Sanchez won after a long breakaway.

Alberto ended 35th with no change to the GC.

Contador and Sanchez go back a long way. In January of 2005, Contador got his first victory in his comeback from illness at the Tour Down Under, with help of Sanchez, who won the overall. Since then, the two have gone mano a mano at Paris-Nice, and most recently, Contador foiled Sanchez's attempt to reclaim his Spanish Championship title.

Today Sanchez survived the long breakaway, all that was left of the machinations of rivals, like Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck. For the spectator, the day in the mountains was a disappointing lack of spectacle on a course crammed with slopes but not designed with any fruit to tempt climbers.

Commentators at Versus in the USA disgusted North American Contador fans with their analysis of the attack at Arcalis.


Alberto Contador finished today’s stage in the group with the leaders, where there were no changes in the general classification. Although he was the virtual maillot jaune on one stretch of road, he said, “Being leader is not something we’re interested in now as a team. We were interested in the lead being captured by Luis León, who was the best-placed rider in the break,” said the leader of Astana.

“It’s been an extremely tough day for the team, which worked in an extraordinary way, although you end up paying for days like this when you spend so much effort, because the Tour is very long,” commented Alberto.

About Andy Schleck’s attack, he said that probably “ he wanted to test everybody’s strength, but maybe he saw that it was too far to the line and that Cancellara left very soon, and so the tactics changed. Of course, he created some excitement.”

Contador wasn’t surprised by the attack. “We knew that it would be a pretty difficult departure, with a climb of 23 kilometers, which was asking for attacks. They started putting GC riders into the breakaway, but thanks to us having a very powerful team, we could neutralize the break. On the descent we went at 70 km/hour and every meter they got at the front cost us a lot to make up, but we salvaged the day with no problems."

Tomorrow is the climb of the Tourmalet, where Alberto expects to see something similar to today. “Something similar to what Andy Schleck tried today could happen, but probably with the help of other riders. We’ll have to pay attention and in be the right place so that we don’t get caught out.”

About Cadel Evans’ attack, he commented that it was “risky, but he’s conscious of his situation in the general,” he said. “It was going well and he decided to try.” On the other hand, Alberto didn’t want to get into controversy with Andy Schleck, who said he didn’t look as good as he seemed at Arcalís. “He’s on great form,” he responded, “He pulled away from the group pretty well and, well, I don’t take that too seriously, either.”

Alberto didn’t forget to congratulate Luis León on his victory. “It’s a victory for a great friend and I’m enormously happy. When I saw that he was in the escape, I thought that he was almost sure to win, and in effect, he did take advantage of the opportunity. “ And, to finish, he voiced an almost impossible desire. “I hope that tomorrow will be a calmer day, even though I know that it'll be difficult." (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 8, 35th (1.54). Contador in the GC, 2nd (0.06 Nocentini).

TOP FIVE: Rinaldo Nocentini, Contador (0.6), Armstrong (0.08), Leipheimer (0.39), Wiggins (0.46)

July 10 - Stage 7: Barcelona - Andorra Arcalis, 224km

TDF 09 Stage 6

A moment in cycling history (Patrick Herzog/AFP/Getty Images)


Alberto Contador finished the first mountain stage today in a good overall situation, having gained a little time on his main rivals while keeping the strategic position in his team, which he maintained as expected, but without having to defend the maillot jaune. “It’s a very good result for the team. We distanced our main rivals and we didn’t take over leadership, which will allow us to be more relaxed, because it’s a difficult Tour to control,” said Contador. “On the other hand, my teammates behind did really well and we got a good result.”

Alberto decided to launch his attack after sizing up his closest rivals. “I saw the looks on the faces of my main rivals in the group, especially Evans and Andy Schleck, and I thought that they weren’t very comfortable, and that’s why they weren't trying anything. I was doing okay and I tested them. When I looked behind, I saw that they weren’t coming, so I tried to take a little time on them.”

Today, the leader jersey wasn’t a goal, in spite of its worth. “Everybody likes to wear the maillot jaune, but this result is the best thing that could happen. The leadership is important for AG2r, so they’ll share the workload,” said Contador. “There are still two stages in the Pyrenees, but for the time being, we’re going to rest well today and analyze everything. I think that there are people who’ve had time losses who can animate the race soon.”

Finally, Alberto said that this stage had surprised him a little surprise. “I hoped that there would be more action, but you can’t forget that there were 225 kilometers and that there was a stiff headwind on the final climb. Besides that, although we’re only on the seventh day of the Tour, there’ve been some very intense stages, and people are starting to wear down.”

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 7, 9th (3.23). Contador in the GC, 2nd (0.06 Nocentini).

TOP FIVE: Rinaldo Nocentini, Contador (0.6), Armstrong (0.08), Leipheimer (0.39), Wiggins (0.46)

July 9 - Stage 6: Girona - Barcelona, 197km

TDF 09 Stage 6

Contador misses right-hand man Benjamin Noval (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador stayed upright today, and that's saying something, as Mother Nature's histrionics put the peloton in its place in Stage 6 of the Tour de France.

The transistional stage into Spain started dry, but every pedal stroke brought Contador closer to the black skies over Barcelona. Rain picked up as the day went on. Riders crashed and skidded, had their limbs lacerated and their clothes nearly torn off. Big stars like Tom Boonen and Michael Rogers, essential gregarios, nobody was safe.

Contador's team drove hard in front, a good idea, given that they have six men in the top twenty.

Tomorrow Contador will climb the Arcalis, one of only three summit finishes in this edition of the Tour.


At the terminus of today’s stage in Barcelona, Alberto Contador was surprised and delighted at the crowds of people that came out to see the race, in spite of the bad weather. The highway was lined with posters of support and paintings on the asphalt that surprised Astana’s leader. Furthermore, since he got through the day without accidents, Alberto only had words of thanks for the reception he was given in Catalunya. “Everybody gets excited about being around your own people, so thanks to all those people who came out to welcome us.”

About tomorrow’s stage in Andorra, Alberto expects “a pretty interesting day, because there’s going to be a great number of riders that will have to take risks from far out, because they’ve lost quite a bit of time.”

Despite Astana’s good placement in the general classification, with many riders in high positions, Contador doesn’t regard that as dominating the race—to the contrary. “No, far from it, the race has gotten off to a very good start and we’re well-placed in the general, but we’ll see if it happens that other guys—who don’t seem to count—are stronger than some of us in the mountains. Other than that, there are a lot of factors that influence the race.”

About strategy and his situation with Armstrong, Contador isn’t worried at all. “Everybody talks about whether one of us will attack, but the truth is that we have to attack other riders and we shall see how the stage develops.”

As for the rest of the stages in the Pyrenees, he thinks that they’re “less dangerous than the one in Andorra, which is a summit finish, but they’re all going to be important because you have to try to take advantage of any stage that has mountains.”

And for the riders who will be most dangerous tomorrow, Alberto emphasizes ”Sastre, who attacks from far out, and Evans. They’ll be the ones that shake up the race the most, even though the Schleck brothers will also be under an obligation to make some moves and play a few tricks.”(AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 6, 23rd (s.t. Thor Hushovd). Contador in the GC, 3rd (0.19 Cancellara).

TOP FIVE: Cancellara, Armstrong (0.0022), Contador (0.18), Klöden (0.23), Leipheimer (0.31)

July 8 - Stage 5: Cap d'Agde - Perpignan, 197km

TDF Stage 5

Next in line (Patrick Herzog/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador and his team struggled against a stiff persistent wind along the Mediterranean coast today. Crashes marked the day, including one incident before the peloton left the neutralized zone, and another that ended in a broken wrist and abandon for talented young rider Robert Gesink.

Contador must have missed the help of his gregario/bodyguard Benjamin Noval, who was left off the Tour roster.

A breakaway of six men left early and stayed away. In the final 2km, French rider Thomas Voeckler escaped from this group and crossed the finish line alone, 7" in front of the agitated main pack.

Just as in Stage 3, the wind made things very difficult and caused splits in the peloton. Race leader Fabian Cancellara made a bold attack in an effort to create another fatal split that would increase his minuscule GC advantage.

Cancellara, who cuts a fine figure in the maillot jaune, scared the bejeepers out of his opponents, but the move didn't stick.

Alberto finished with the pack, seven seconds after Voeckler.


Alberto Contador covered today’s stage of the Tour de France with no problems, although his team had to work to avoid risks caused by the wind, which once again split the peloton and caused very tense moments. After crossing the finish line, Astana’s leader acknowledged his good placement in the general classification. “It’s a very good situation. If they’d told me before the start of the Tour that I was going to arrive in Barcelona with margins like this in the general, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Contador is pleased that the Tour has reached Spanish soil, in Catalunya. “I’m excited about crossing into Spain and meeting my fans, of course. It’s always nice to come back to your own country and to encounter your own people—a lot of people will come to watch me.”

His expectations for the mountain stages are clearly set. “Mainly, I hope things are calm, because the next day we’ve got the first mountain stage. The arrival at Barcelona—despite the kilometers in the city—doesn’t worry me, because it’s on very wide avenues.”

On Friday, the Tour reaches Andorra and, finally, the mountains. “I can’t wait for the mountains to get here, because that’s my turf. I’m feeling good, but you always like to verify it.”

To those who think that his situation in regards to Armstrong is reminiscent of the Hinault - Fignon duel, Contador says that he thinks just the opposite. “It’s not like that at all,” he says. And about the possibility of a victory at Arcalís, he’s admits that it will be “ a good place to get a win, but for the time being I’d rather think about what’s going on before we get there. We’ll see in Andorra.” (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 39th (0.07 Thomas Voeckler). Contador in the GC, 3rd (0.19 Cancellara).

TOP FIVE: Cancellara, Armstrong (0.0022), Contador (0.18), Klöden (0.23), Leipheimer (0.31)

July 7 - Stage 4: Montpellier - Montpellier (TTT), 38km

TDF Stage 4

Contador's team's got the moves (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador and his comrades cut to victory like a hot knife through butter today in Stage 4 of the Tour de France.

The Astana boys took the win 18 seconds ahead of Garmin - Slipstream, a five-man finishing squad with a massive cache of specialist power.

The real thriller was the play for the maillot jaune. Astana only needed 40+ seconds to rip it off Cancellara's shoulders and settle it on Armstrong's. When the dust settled, they had the 40 seconds needed! But not the extra 22 hundredths!!

The stinger is that the fifth man to cross the line lost a little oomph while shifting gears at the goal, and missed the prize by a whisker. And that man was Armstrong himself!


Today’s team time trial at the Tour de France concluded with a spectacular victory by Astana. The team also came within a few hundredths of a second of wresting the leadership from Fabian Cancellara, who remains in yellow although virtually tied with Armstrong.

On the whole, it was a very positive day for Alberto Contador—only 18 seconds off the leader—and for the rest of his team, who put substantial distance between themselves and their chief rivals in the general classification. “I think that, you bet, today I’ve got to be very very happy,” said Contador at the finish line. “I still don’t know precisely how much time we gained, but we got a pretty good margin on riders like Sastre, Evans, Menchov, and even the Schlecks.”

Alberto was delighted about the race situation, but still exercises good judgment, given that the Tour has only just begun. “For the moment, things are going really well in the general, but, you know, you have to keep your concentration, because we’ve only been going four days, even though it seems like we’ve already done a lot of the Tour. There’s a big chunk of it left.”

Concerning today’s time trial, Contador said that he rode well, on a level with the strongest riders on the team, even though the route was not great for him. “I did pretty well,” he said. “It’s too bad that there weren’t more hills and more mountains. That’s where I was really more comfortable.”

Looking ahead to the coming days in the Pyrenees, his rivals will be forced to attack—not a bad thing for Contador, since it will make the race harder. “Of course, in this Tour there’s hardly any wiggle room, and with the differences that have opened up right now, people will have to take big risks,” he said.

The only downside of the day was losing the leader jersey by a mere fraction of a second, even though gaining it wasn’t an absolutely necessary goal. “You always like to have the jersey, and that’s even more true for Lance, with what it means to him,” said Alberto, “but it’s also true that this will allow us to be more relaxed. But in the end, it’s too bad to have missed getting it by so little,” he concluded. (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 1st with the Astana Cycling Team. Contador in the GC, 3rd (0.19 Cancellara).

TOP FIVE: Cancellara, Armstrong (0.0022), Contador (0.18), Klöden (0.23), Leipheimer (0.31)


July 6 - Stage 3: Marseille - La Grand-Motte, 196km

TDF Stage 3

A lot to think about (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Too many flat windy miles drove Team Columbia over the edge today in Stage 3 of the Tour de France. Ready to position boy racer Mark Cavendish for another sprint, all nine Columbia riders got mad at the stick-in-the-mud peloton, and stomped off up the road.

About 30 km from the finish line a split formed in the pack, and soon Columbia and around 10 other guys had absorbed the original four-man escape, and left the main pack 41" in the dust.

Bad news for Sastre, Evans, Menchov, Andy Schleck, and...Alberto Contador!

But not too bad. His team profitted by having three men in the lead group, giving Astana the prospect of reaping extra benefit in the TTT tomorrow.


Alberto Contador faces the second big task of Tour 2009 tomorrow, the team time trial, where he’ll take the start again with the goal of gaining time on his opponents in the general classification. The maillot jaune is still in the distance. “It’s too soon for yellow, but we’re interested in it, in that it would mean that we had gained on everyone, even though we’d have to do more work,” he said.

“More than anything else, the goal is to gain time on the rivals in the general,” he continued, “although we don’t know how much.” What he does know is the names of the favorites’ teams. “They are Saxo, Garmin for it’s experience, and Columbia. These are the three main candidates for the victory,” he stated.

As far as the rivals he would like to distance, Evans is number one. “It’s a time trial for trying to gain time, because he’ll be a very difficult rival to distance in the entire Tour.”

Contador, after passing controls following Stage 3, appeared very calm after what happened in the race. “I don’t want to enter into an evaluation of the team’s tactics, everyone can come to their own conclusions. In any case, the Tour isn’t going to be decided by what happened today. This was just another race situation.”

When the split occurred, Alberto “was trying to bridge with a teammate, and we got caught in no-man’s land,” he said, “so it was better to wait. Ahead of us, Columbia had a very powerful team and was very well organized. It didn’t threaten to damage us because we sent three riders ahead, so it was other people’s responsibility.” Contador considered these differences “insignificant, and they could even leave more room to manoeuvre,” he concluded. (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 49th (0.41). Contador in the GC, 4th (0.59).

TOP FIVE: Cancellara, Martin (0.33), Armstrong (0.40), Contador (0.59), Wiggins (1.00)

July 5 - Stage 2: Monaco - Brignoles, 187 km


Contador at the Stage 2 start line (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador spent the long hot journey to Brignoles today draining bidons in the protective circle of his team.

Eyes were on a four-man escape and leader Cancellara's team working at the front. In spite of the KOM kit, Alberto was difficult to spot. He hung behind Saxo Bank with the help of Paulinho and Zubeldia.

The asphalt was scorching hot, but Manx sprinter Mark Cavendish was much hotter. It was no surprise that Cavendish won, but he won by such a length that it looked as if his rivals had spent the day woolgathering rather than brainstorming a containment stategy.

The unfortunate truth was, however, that a traffic diversion in the last 3 km caused some of the main sprinters to slow to avoid colliding with a crashed rider sprawled in the middle of the pavement.

Freire, Hushovd, Boonen, Bennati, Haussler, and company: Maybe tomorrow.

There was no change to the general classification today.


Alberto Contador completed Stage 2 of the Tour de France today without incident. He yielded the KOM jersey and got through this first of two transitional stages before the team time trial, the next big day in the race. He thought that this is still “not the time to talk about it. For now we’ve got to get through tomorrow’s stage before thinking about the team time trial.”

Alberto spent the day riding in the shelter of his teammates. “I had a lot of teammates at my side, especially Muravyev, Zubeldia and Paulinho, then Popovych at the end of the stage. The team was fantastic and I’m very happy. I’m grateful for the great job that the whole team did.”

The day’s work “was not too complicated,” said Contador, “because the escape went away at the beginning and Saxo is a very experienced team, and controlled things well. All things considered, it was a calm day.”

One factor no one could overlook was the heat, and Alberto suffered like everybody else. “I don’t know how high the temperature was on the road, but I’m sure it was really high. I think that I drank at least five liters during the stage.” (AC press room)

RESULTS: Contador in Stage 2, 58th (s.t. Mark Cavendish). Contador in the GC, 2nd (0.18).

TOP FIVE: Fabian Cancellara, Alberto Contador (0.18), Bradley Wiggins (0.19), Andreas Klöden (0.22), Cadel Evans (0.23)

Stage 1 - July 4: Monaco - Monaco (ITT) 15km


Contador flies in opening TT (Patrick Herzog/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador streaked through the course in today's opening time trial at the Tour de France, clad in the brilliant yellow and red of the Spanish Champion.

Translate his motion into so many impasto paint strokes, and you have a work of art. Yellow, red, a sunburst icon on his chest - this was Van Gogh's sunflowers, wheatfields and haystacks. It might have terrified some, but if you see it as Munch's Scream, you just don't get it.

Again, the supposed pure climber outstripped all the time trial gladiators except Spartacus himself. In the race of truth, Alberto is obviously in full bloom.


Alberto Contador finished in second place today in the opening time trial of the Tour de France. The stage was won by the Swiss rider Cancellara, but Contador reached his main goal of establishing a margin between himself and his rivals in the general classification, especially those who disputed the Giro—Menchov and Sastre, maybe the most dangerous opponents on this first day.

“I’m very happy with the result,” said Contador after leaving the podium where he was awarded the King of the Mountains jersey. “My goal wasn’t to win the stage. I was pushing from the start in order to get the best result, because I know that Fabian Cancellara is a really great specialist, and he was coming from winning the Tour of Switzerland with unbelievable authority.”

Contador acknowledged that the differences weren’t as much as they had hoped. “I took a little time on the favorites in the GC, but it was a boost to morale and I’m absolutely not disappointed. On the contrary, I’m very happy.”

Asked if he hoped to win the race, he responded, “I hope so, that’s what we’ve been working for, but the Tour has just started and there’s a lot left. What’s more important for me is that I feel good, because if the body is already responding like this when you’ve just gotten here, that’s always lucky, definitely.”

“It was a very difficult stage,” said Alberto, “because there were people who came here doing better than me, but I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity.” About the leadership of his team, he was firm. “I don’t want to get into whether I’m leader or not. What’s important is that I got a great boost to morale, and this is a sign that I’m in very good form. These seconds will come in handy in a very tight Tour.”

Cancellara gained all his advantage in the descent, where Contador did not push to the limit. “I absolutely did not want to risk anything on the curves, besides, Cancellara is really, really good.” And, to finish, he commented that the KOM jersey “looks nice, like the Sevillanas, but I’d like to change colors in a week or two.” (AC press room)


RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 2nd (0.18 Cancellara). Contador in GC, 2nd (0.18 Cancellara). Contador is also King of the Mountains.

TOP FIVE: Fabian Cancellara, Alberto Contador (0.18), Bradley Wiggins (0.19), Andreas Klöden (0.22), Cadel Evans (0.23)


June 3 - Contador makes a must appearance

TDF 09 press day

Contador simmers (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador paid his dues to the press corps today prior to the start of the Tour de France, attending the kickoff press conference with team director Johan Bruyneel. Astana’s lead rider responded to questions from journalists, who nevertheless showed more interest in Bruyneel’s opinion on Astana’s hottest topic: who’s the leader and who it will be in the future.

Alberto, for his part, kept his cool amid the controversy and assured that he is not tense due to the double pressure of being top favorite for the victory and of sharing a team with Lance Armstrong.

“It’s a fairly easy situation to manage and I’m taking it pretty well. Since it had been said that Lance was coming to the team and I knew that this was going to happen, I’ve taken it calmly: the pressure motivates me more and is an more of an incentive for racing.”

Alberto admitted that there’s a world of difference between his situation in 2007—when at first he was not a favorite for the victory—and in his situation now. “The situation is completely different. In 2007 I was thinking about winning the white jersey for Best Young Rider, and this year everything has changed.

"I’m seen as the winning ticket, and it’s too centered on Lance and me as the main players. In 2007, I wasn’t as qualified and the surprise factor was in my favor. Now I’m a more solid rider, but I can’t count on surprise.”

Asked whether he agrees with Andy Schleck that the race will be decided in the mountains, Contador pointed out that the Tour “doesn’t have much of either mountains or time-trialing. The mountains will be very important, sure, but about whether you’d call this is a Tour for climbers, I’d say no. It’s balanced, because there are neither tough finishes like there were in 2007, nor too much time-trialing.”

In speaking about what he really thought about Bruyneel and Armstrong and the collapse at Paris-Nice, Alberto was conciliatory. “That’s something that I didn’t give much signifance to. Then and now, I’m centered on the competition and didn’t give much credence to those comments.”

Then, he assured that he still has faith in Bruyneel as director. “Of course I do. This is the third year that we’ve worked on the same team, and if it wasn’t like that, the situation would be pretty complicated.”

And finally, Alberto Contador explained that he doesn’t feel uncomfortable being on a team with a director like Bruyneel and a teammate like Armstrong, who are always in the limelight. On the contrary. “It’s a normal sitaution, owing to the media impact of Armstrong, there’s nothing strange about it. It allows me to have more peace and more time to rest and recuperate. Some people think the race has already started, but I, on the other hand, am not starting until tomorrow.”

He ended his obligatory appearance by talking about the opening time trial. “Tomorrow it might be possible to get some time, and you have to take advantage of the stage, but I need to avoid taking too many risks, because I’ve got nothing to prove,” concluded Alberto Contador confidently. (AC press room)

TDF 09 press day

Contador shines (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)


July 1 - Interview by Sergi Lopez-Egea

06/28/09 - Alberto Contador’s voice is still hoarse, as if exitement over the Tour were bringing on a case of laryngitis before the start in Monaco next Saturday. He doesn’t want to accept the role of main favorite, and hopes that Johan Bruyneel, manager of his team, Astana, knows how to keep order in the troops, because he’s riding on the same team with Lance Armstrong, who in his return to Le Grand Boucle may be a rival under the same flag.

I suppose that, with less than a week before the Tour starts, you really want to get back on the bike.

So true. I’ve got high hopes for the beginning of the tour, because last year I didn’t get to go and that really gave me the itch, more and more, and put me in the right frame of mind to prepare conscientiously. Yes. I would like it if today were the 4th of July and to be able to be on the bicycle in the time trial at Monaco, which, certainly, I like a lot: I studied it about a month ago. Yes. I like it. I think that I’ll be able to start off on the right foot in the Tour.

There’s an impression that the uneven years—at least at the Tour—are yours. 2007, triumph in Paris, and now 2009.

I planned to debut in 2004 but experienced an accident in the Vuelta a Asturias, a seizure, health problems…In 2005, I finally got to know the race, although it was minus the eagerness to fight for the general. It served to expose me to the race. In 2006 they didn’t let my team participate due to Operacion Puerto. The next year I was victorious. Last year they refused to invite Astana. And now, I’m back. That’s why I’ve got such hopes.

What do you like best about this Tour?

Without a doubt, what I like best is seeing myself so motivated now. I’m conscious of being thoroughly well-prepared. I like the time trials, they’re a good fit for a climber like me. Plus they’ve reduced the number of kilometers overall in stages like that. That’s another benefit for a climber like me.

Then, a day before Paris, they’ve programmed a stage that ends at the top of Mont Ventoux.

It’s going to be a super-decisive day’s work and very tough. Besides that, the Ventoux is a summit where you can control your rivals. The climb isn’t kind to a cyclist advancing alone, because in the final part, where the vegetation stops, it’s always really windy. It’ll be far better to tackle the summit with differences already in your favor.

The last three Tours have had victories by Spaniards. Is this Tour de France destined to become a Spanish dogfight?

Spanish cycling is at a great level. It’s something that nobody can question. I already know what it means to win, so does Carlos Sastre. I don’t doubt that the Spanish riders are going to play a central and very important role.

There also might be a lot of surprises, eh?

In the Tour there’s always some rider who blows the lid off everything. The benefit of surprise exists, a breakaway is allowed…That’s why you’ve got to take a very strong team and not get caught daydreaming.

Astana, your team, is without doubt the strongest. Maybe too many leaders on one side? For example, Lance Armstrong?

Taking a powerful team is never bad. We’ll have to wait and see how it the race develops on French soil. But I know that the manager of the team, Johan Bruyneel, will have enough experience to control the team.

Are you the main favorite?

No way. Other people have options, too. It’s a mistake to consider yourself the sole candidate in a race like the Tour. There are 21 days of competition and things always happen.

Certainly, apart from you and the Schleck brothers, the rest of the favorites are over 30. In the Giro it was the same. Is cycling aging?

I don’t think so. It happens that there’s a generation of very good cyclists over 30 who are still active, and still some younger ones who haven’t finished developing, like Andy Schleck or Luis León Sánchez. But in order to win the Tour, age and experience are vital. It’s very difficult for a cyclist under 25 to win in Paris.

You did it.

I know, and that’s why I’m aware of the difficulty that’s involved in winning again. But I believe in it, because I know that, in it, I have an opportunity. It’s a hope, although people have to know that I’ve got my feet firmly planted on the ground. This is the reason that I’ve gotten to be wise and to say that I only want to be in the fight for the victory.

Do you have the feeling that Spanish cycling stars are more valued in foreign countries than here?

I feel recognized in Spain. When I get a big victory, people come up to me, although for the last four months, it’s harder for them. Spanish cyclists now are definitely not superstars. None of us can compare with Miguel Induráin. Now, as opposed to the era when he was an active cyclist, society has more sports to amuse itself with, and all of them with Spaniards at the highest level: Nadal, Lorenzo, the national football team, basketball players…There’s a huge amount of sport available. It’s natural that people’s interests are divided.

Tour de France 2009


June 30 - Contador sets sail for France

Astana is planning one final training mission before the Tour de France, to look over the Stage 4 team time trial course at Montpellier. After that, the riders will transfer to Monaco, where they’ll be looking forward to the departure of the Tour next Saturday, the 4th of July.

Alberto Contador begins the adventure with hope and optimism. Having won the Spanish Time Trial Championship last Friday is a sure sign that Contador is ready and able to tackle Tour de France 2009.

Have you been able to prepare for the Tour just as you wanted?

Yes, the truth is that I did the preparation that I believed was most suitable for the Tour. I haven’t had any bad luck and I hope to stay on target.

What are you looking for in this last reconnaissance?

The team time trial will the on the fourth day of the race, and it’s a key stage for the men in contention for the overall. We’re going to see it before traveling to Monaco.

Has your Spanish Championship victory had an influence on you?

It hasn’t influenced me too much, but it’s been good for morale. It’s something to be proud of, winning the Spanish Championship, because I’ll be wearing the jersey in all the time trials I ride for the next year. Winning or losing was all the same; my idea was to do one last test in advance of the Tour and, if I won, it would be a moral victory.

What do you think about Saturday’s time trial? Do you like the route?

It’s better than the ones in other years, which were completely flat. The route’s not too bad for me, and the goal is to be able to lose the least amount of time possible to the guys going for the general and, if possible, to gain some time. In this Tour, the differences will be small, and any seconds in the bag now will come in handy at the end.

How do you feel as the beginning of the Tour approaches? Is it special to you because you’ve been gone since 2007?

Of course it’s something special, not because of 2007, but because it’s the best race in the world, the one that changed my life, and because I’ve prepared for it all year, apart from the fact that I didn’t do it last year.

What do you like and what do you miss in this route?

I miss a more decisive summit in the first or second week than what we’ve got here, something like the Aubisque or Plateau de Beille when I won in 2007. On the other hand, I like the initial time trial, it’s more kilometers, which is a relatively good distance for me. I also like it that the third week is the hardest, with the recuperation factor influencing each stage—that gives me an edge.

Has the pressure of being considered one of the main favorites affected you?

Everybody expects you to win, but I’m aware that that’s very difficult. I’m going to try everything in my power, but I’m aware that it’s difficult. There’s a group of riders with options over and above the rest and I’m there, no better or worse than the others. But the Tour is 21 days long and there are a number of factors in play: crashes, various situations…I’m one favorite, and so are other guys. (AC press room)


June 29 - Benjamin Noval's comments on not making the Tour squad

Tour of Missouri 2007

Contador and Noval greet fans in Missouri (photo by Rebble Kelsey)

Contador will go to the Tour without bodyguard

06/26/09 - Benjamin Noval became an essential rider to Alberto Contador when he made his first conquest in the Tour in 2007. Since then, the Asturian has assumed the position of right-hand man wherever the climber from Pinto has participated. Last year he helped him win the *Giro and the Vuelta a España, and since the first of this season they’ve told him that they’re counting on him for the Tour.

Powerful rolleur, bodyguard deluxe at crucial moments, Contador’s “shadow” has carried out the same plan as his team leader. That leader has always counted on Noval, until yesterday Johan Bruyneel told him that the Asturian will not be along for the trip to the most important race in the world.

“For the good of the group, I’m not taking you.” This was the only explanation that Bruyneel gave Noval for drawing up a team consisting of Contador, Armstrong, Leipheimer, Popovych, Zubeldia, Sergio Paulinho, Dmitriy Muravyev, and the Swiss rider Gregory Rast, who has displaced the Asturian.

“Now I’m having an anxiety attack, because the only explanation that I’ve received isn’t convincing, nor is it based on sporting reasons,” explained the rider who, after months of preparation has seen his work ruined.

“My morale has hit rock bottom, because I sincerely believe that Alberto needs me. My work is to protect him, to prevent crashes. Now he’s left with only Paulinho, whom he also trusts.”

Noval understands that the team is committed to Kazakhstan and needs to include a rider from that country (Muravyev) in the “eight” bound for the Tour. He’s also aware that Bruyneel had a tiff with Lance Armstrong because the latter wanted to insist on including a third American and special helper of his, Chris Horner. Bruyneel did not consent and, feeling duty-bound to the prinicple of fairness, threw out Noval. “I want a more international team,” he said.

But the Asturian, who has both roomed with Contador on the road and joined him in training camps in the Pyrenees and Alps, knows that a three week race is very long time for a rider who is battling for the overall victory.

“I’m a nervous wreck, because I see that they’re not treating Alberto like the great rider he is. They don’t value him as a Tour winner, because the least they can do is ask him what he needs. I know that he’s very hurt, but what he must do now is forget all about it and concentrate on winning the Tour. It’s the best thing he can do. (Agustí Bernaus, sport.es)

*Due to illness, Noval did not ride the 2008 Giro. -ed.


June 1 - Contador continues Tour preparation

at Petit-Saint-Bernard

Alberto training for the Tour last week at Petit-Saint-Bernard (Dauphiné Libéré race website)

Alberto Contador returned last Friday from a five-day study trip to the Alps, where he dissected four stages of the upcoming Tour de France.

This reconnaissance concludes three weeks of intensive training, beginning with a phase in the Pyrenees, followed by another in Almería, and finishing in the Alps prior to returning to competition in the Dauphiné Libéré, June 7-14. “I’m doing a lot of fundamental work, thinking about the Tour,” said the leader of Astana. “I’ve been giving myself a pretty good beating up, so next week I’ll take the opportunity to recover a little, because Sunday I start into competition again.”

Which stages did you look at this week?

The ones in the Alps. We started with the summit finish in Switzerland, at Verbier, which has never been done before in the Tour. It looks to me like a tough finish, but I don’t know to what extent it will allow differences among the favorites. I don’t know if it’s hard enough, although it’s not bad for me.

Then we looked at the climbs at Grand- and Petit-Saint-Bernard, a stage that comes in the third week, after the second rest day when people will be really tired. It’ll be a debilitating day’s work—even though it depends on how the general is going and whether some brave guys want to shake up the race—because the altitude will also be a factor and we’ll be thinking about the days that come next.

at Petit-Saint-Bernard

Contador, Noval and Paulinho stop to improvise snowshoes from plastic bags. 300 meters of road are still covered with snow. (Dauphiné Libéré race website)

We also went to what I consider the queen stage of this Tour, Le Grand-Bornand. While it’s not very long—only 169 km—it has five pretty tough climbs, starting with the Cormet de Roselend, which is climbed near the start, and ending with the Cols de Romme and the Colombière, which are two climbs in one. After that, it’s only 15 kilometers to the line. It’s also possible to make differences here.

Finally, we took a look at the last time trial, 40 km at Annecy. The route is pretty flat and there aren’t any complicated curves. The only feature that stands out is a three-kilometer hill at 25 km, after that the lay of the land is favorable. In spite of all that, it’ll be a difficult time trial, because the day before will have been the queen stage and our strength could be pretty sapped.

I didn’t go to Mont Ventoux because I’m already familiar with it, plus I’m just about to climb it in competition.

After reconnaissance, have you changed your mind about the 2009 Tour parcours?

No, I like it more or less the same as before I saw the stages. Maybe the summit finishes aren’t as strenuous as in other years, but the route is what it is, and you’ve got to adapt to it. If my legs respond, then it’s a good route.

Next week you’ll return to competition. What hopes do you have for your performance in the Dauphiné?

I hope that all these recon training trips let me feel at ease in the race, without suffering too much. In the Dauphiné, I want to hit competition rhythm, because this race is like a “mini Tour” that demands a concentrated effort, whether you ride to win or not. I’ll use it to check my form, but I will absolutely not dispute the general, because that involves a huge draining effort which I’d regret at Tour time, just as other riders have experienced.

How are you now? Is everything going as planned?

Yes, everything’s going well. It’s clear that I lack a bit of sparkle for not having raced, but mentally I’m very well, very focused and motivated. I think that the way I’m doing things is the best way to get to the Tour in shape.

How’s the current situation with the team and the questions about its future?

Astana’s in a delicate situation, but I have people to look after things for me. Now I want to keep working and to get ready for the Tour the best way possible. We have to wait and see what happens when the Giro’s over, but I’m very calm and I trust that the problem will be solved. (AC press room)

More photos of Contador's Tour training camp with Sergio Paulinho, Benjamin Noval and Tomas Vaitkus

All text © 2007-2008 Rebecca Bell, contadorfans@hotmail.com.
Web design by Nicky Orr and Modem Operandi. Masthead photo credits: (1) bbc.co.uk (2) Liz Kreutz, kreutzphotography.com.