La Vuelta a España 2014 – Stage 16; San Martin del Rey Aurelio – La Farrapona, 158.8 km. Contador From Froome
My son reckons he’s on something and will, ‘get caught; there’s no way he could break his leg in the Tour and then be as strong as he is...
Let’s hope (and pray) not; but my perspective is different – I think Alberto Contador is one of the greatest stage racers the world has ever seen and as such you can’t compare him to lesser mortals.
People forget that Contador has been as close to death as a man can get and still survive, the reference sources remind us;
"During the first stage of the 2004 Vuelta a Asturias he started to feel unwell, and after 40 kilometres he fell and went into convulsions.
"He had been suffering from headaches for several days beforehand and was diagnosed with a cerebral cavernoma, a congenital vascular disorder, for which he underwent risky surgery and a recovery to get back on his bike.
"As a result of the surgery, he has a scar that runs from one ear to the other over the top of his head.
"Contador started to train again at the end of 2004 and eight months after the surgery he won the fifth stage of the 2005 Tour Down Under racing for Liberty Seguros, as the team previously known as ONCE had become."
He’s a fighter and ‘giving up,’ isn’t in his vocabulary.
Day by day he’s become stronger as others have weakened - with Stage 16 his crowning glory.
Valverde looked good on Covadonga and Froome is so erratic you never know what he’ll do – but the way the Englishman deployed his troops into la Farrapona he was either serious or bluffing big.
It was the former and with four K to the summit Froome made one of his whirling Don Quixote accelerations which only Contador could match, Valverde could but spectate as Froome dragged the red jersey up the climb.
Contador sat there, he had no season to go through – Froome was trying to break him, after all.
But with one kilometre to go ‘Bert’ went and Froome couldn’t respond; winning the ‘Queen Stage’ alone, in the leader’s jersey – that says it all, really.
Froome is a quality rider – despite his style – and it would be wrong to say that Contador has the Vuelta won.
Bike racing is an unpredictable sport; ask Joaquin Rodriguez about what Contador did to him two years ago and remember the Lemond/Fignon TT – but the statements Froome has been making would seem to suggest that he knows he’s racing for second spot.
Cyclingnews website reported his words, thus;
"The principal reason that I came to this Vuelta was to have at least one grand tour in my legs so that I would be better prepared for the winter, because if I’d had to miss six months of top racing, it would be hard to get back to that level," Froome told L’Équipe.
"I don’t want to diminish the Vuelta, but I am using it to be ready physically and mentally for next year.
"I’m already looking to 2015.”
No such remarks from Contador, Valverde or Rodriguez; they’re all interested in today and tomorrow, here in Spain – not what might happen a year hence in France.
But as VeloVeritas pundit, Ivan says;
"The problem with non-traditional sponsors, given that only the Tour counts, is that EVERYTHING is subordinated to it, the whole sport, the great races, the other classics and Grand Tours, everything must bend the knee to the Tour, tragic, not all teams do it, but Sky do nothing else..."
A great ride too by that man De Marchi who survived from the early break to take third spot and but for two of the best stage race riders engaging in hand to hand combat may well have taken his second stage of the race for Cannondale.
And of course we have to mention the déclassé of Gianlucca Brambilla (QuickStep & Italy) and Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff & Russia) which gave those 'serious' sports commentators on Radio Two a good chuckle – but of course there was no mention of ‘Queen Stages,’ Contador or even Froome – there are two ways to look at it.
One is, as Giant’s Chad Haga told us;
"I guess you could say it’s kinda amusing; but riders have different temperaments and guys are beginning to get frayed around the edges after so much hard racing."
Perhaps the commissairs could have penalised and fined them both and made sure there was a staged reconciliation for the Media to see?
But the race officials’ actions were swift and balanced, sending out an unequivocal message to anyone else considering resorting to violence – that’s for football players...
The last week and the gaps aren’t huge – it looks like Alberto has done enough, but...
Vaya con Dios.
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