MURCIA, Spain (VN) – Alberto Contador was back to his old self Sunday, winning the 12.4km individual time trial and wrapping up the overall title at the Vuelta a Murcia.
Contador won two of three stages and claimed an 11-second victory over Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) to secure his first stage-race title since his return to racing after being cleared on charges of testing positive for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France. Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) rounded out the podium with third at 17 seconds adrift.
“After all that I’ve been through the past few months, (this victory) was something I was motivated to achieve for all the warm support I’ve received from the public and from my team,” Contador said after pulling the double Sunday. “I won yesterday, but I was really motivated to win this stage.”
Contador started last with a narrow, three-second lead on Coppel and five seconds on Menchov. Contador ripped the flat, straight course and received a huge cheer from the partisan crowds lining the finishing straight in Murcia.
Menchov couldn’t match Contador’s strength and settled for third as Geox-TMC waits anxiously to see if they receive an invitation to start the Giro d’Italia, expected to be released tomorrow.
“Of course I would have liked to have won, but I have to be content with the ride because I was on a new bike on a new team,” Menchov told VeloNews. “We’re hopeful we’ll get an invitation to the Giro. My big goals this year are the Giro and the Vuelta.”
Coppel’s third overall is confirmation that the 24-year-old Frenchman is someone to watch this season.
“To be close to riders like Contador and Menchov is encouraging,” Coppel told VeloNews. “This was a good test. We have big season ahead of us for the team.”
Alex Dowsett (Sky) set an early fast time that held until the final podium riders came through and the young Brit settled for fourth on the stage at 19 seconds off Contador’s winning time of 14 minutes, 10 seconds (52.518kph).
Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie (both Garmin-Cervélo) finished ninth and 10th, respectively, at 31 and 33 seconds off the winning pace.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) was the top American in GC with 21st at 3:41 back, with Peter Stetina (Garmin-Cervélo) settling into 30th at 4:59 back. Charlie Wegelius led UnitedHealthcare with 27th overall at 4:33 off the pace.
Contador will race next at the Volta a Catalunya later this month and will begin a nervous waiting game to see if WADA or the UCI will appeal the Spanish cycling federation’s ruling to clear Contador.
Spanish fans seemed happy to have him back. One rowdy fan kept cheering: “Free Contador! Contador is innocent!”
Contador dedicated his victory to the support he’s been receiving and seems to have discretely put his trademark “pistol shot” victory salute in the holster for the time being. Instead, he kissed the Saxo Bank logo on the winner’s jersey during the podium presentation.
- 1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Esp), Saxobank-Sungard, 14:10
- 2. Jerome Coppel (Fra), Saur-Sojasun, at 0:08
- 3. Denis Menchov (Rus), Geox-TMC, at 0:12
- 4. Alex Dowsett (Gbr), Team Sky, at 0:19
- 5. Vasili Kiryienka (Blr), Movistar, at 0:26
- 1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Esp), Saxobank-Sungard, 9:27:18
- 2. Jerome Coppel (Fra), Saur-Sojasun, at 0:11
- 3. Denis Menchov (Rus), Geox-TMC, at 0:17
- 4. Wouter Poels (Ned), Vacansoleil-Dcm, at 1:46
- 5. Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col), Geox-TMC, at 1:47