Double Tour de France champion Alberto Contador endured a painful start to the Criterium International on Saturday when he suffered an allergy attack during the opening stage
The Spaniard, whose potential duel with former teammate Lance Armstrong drew extra media attention to the event, finished the first stage in 22nd place, 1:21 behind France’s BBox rider Pierrick Fedrigo.
“Alberto had no feelings three kilometers from the finish because of his allergy problem. It was nothing to do with his legs, he had difficulty breathing,” explained Yvon Sanquer, the sporting director of Contador’s Astana team.
The Spaniard had been expected to mount a challenge in the dying stages of the opening 175.5km run, but the allergy prevented him from being a contender in the final climb, the Col de l’Ospedale.
“We will see how he recovers (before Sunday’s time trial). He is a little disappointed because it’s never easy when you prepare things correctly and you have ambitions to find yourself in a difficulty like this,” added Sanquer.
“We will have to look at this peacefully.”
Armstrong finished in 50th place after the opening stage, 5:01 behind Fredrigo.
“We knew that Lance was not at his top form,” said RadioShack team director Alain Gallopin.
“It was a technical and tactical climb with the wind,” said Armstrong. “There were a lot of surprises but RadioShack can be very happy with the riders we have up front.”
Fedrigo finished 15sec ahead of Armstrong’s Portuguese team-mate Tiago Machado, while Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez was third.
“I am happy for Tiago and it’s a good result for the team,” added Armstrong. “I have not had a lot of racing behind me. I’m not disappointed, it’s only March. If we had still been talking about my physical condition in July, then I would be disappointed.”