CYCLING

Bloody-minded Contador takes control of Vuelta

Spaniard launches savage attack on Stage 17 to wrest red jersey from Rodríguez

Team Saxo Bank rider Alberto Contador of Spain crosses the finish line to win the 17th stage of La Vuelta.
Team Saxo Bank rider Alberto Contador of Spain crosses the finish line to win the 17th stage of La Vuelta.MIGUEL VIDAL (REUTERS)

Alberto Contador finally made his move on the leadership of the Vuelta Thursday to snatch the red jersey from compatriot Joaquim “Purito” Rodríguez with four stages to go.

The Saxo Bank team leader had advised people to watch the penultimate mountain stage and he did not disappoint, launching his attack on the Collado de la Hoz, the second major climb of the 177-kilometer Stage 17 between Santander and Fuente Dé. Contador left Rodríguez in his wake as he powered ahead of the peloton 50 kilometers from the line with a small group in attendance. At the summit of the 655-meter ascent Contador had carved out a 16-second advantage over Rodríguez, which he was to extend in a triumph of bloody-minded resolve.

Contador’s early attack took Rodríguez by surprise and the gap widened steadily. Paolo Tiralonga providing a spur for his former teammate on the intermediate sprint before Contador also cut the Italian adrift on the final 17-kilometer climb up the 1,088-meter Fuente Dé. To make matters worse for Rodríguez, Alejandro Valverde took up the gauntlet and chased Contador down, closing to 30 seconds behind with three kilometers to the finish and gaining 10 seconds a kilometer to cross the line just six seconds behind the stage winner. Rodríguez, spent, ended up two minutes and 38 seconds off the pace, and very likely witnessed his hopes of Vuelta glory dashed on the slopes of Fuente Dé.

“People will remember this. It was very risky to attack from such a distance but I took the chance because in cycling those who don’t take chances don’t win,” said Contador. “The attack was instinctive. It could have not worked out like in Barcelona but luckily it turned out okay. I dedicate this victory to all the people who have supported me and to my fans. This is a very important day in my life because very few people bet on me. This Vuelta is a great race and today it has demonstrated it once again.”

Contador now leads Valverde by 1:52 and holds a 02:28 advantage over Rodríguez. Briton Chris Froome slipped further back and is now 9:40 behind Contador in fourth.

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