LEON, Spain (VN) — Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) rode to third Sunday in the Clasika Primavera in what was a consolation prize of sorts after a hard week of racing in Spain’s Basque Country.
Rui Costa made it a “doblete” for Movistar, winning the 176km one-day race to close out “Basque week” on the heels of teammate Nairo Quintana’s impressive overall victory at the six-day Vuelta al País Vasco.
Contador and Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) were caught on the line, with Costa out-kicking Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) to take the flowers.
Contador hung on for a podium spot, which helped take the sting out of after falling short of overall victory at the Basque Country tour, where he finished fifth despite starting as the overwhelming favorite to win.
“The legs are really aching. My body feels the fatigue of the past days,” Contador said at the line. “Even though we couldn’t win, we had a good time. [I attacked] on the last climb, and it was just Beñat and me. It was too bad, because they caught us just 25 meters from the line and I could only manage third.”
The 30-year-old Spaniard has yet to win a stage race this year and his lone victory was a stage win at his season debut at the Tour de San Luís in January in Argentina.
Contador has had a solid and consistent season so far, riding to second at the Tour of Oman in February and third at Tirreno-Adriatico in March. But he’s been beaten by new rivals, such as Chris Froome (Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Coming into the Basque Country tour, Contador was viewed as the overwhelming favorite to win against what some observers called a “weak field,” without the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) or Bradley Wiggins (Sky), of all whom raced the Volta a Catalunya in late March.
Richie Porte (Sky), second at the Basque tour, and Quintana proved worthy opponents and knocked Contador off the podium Saturday.
Contador is always up for the fight in any stage race he starts, but he admitted Sunday that he can’t win them all.
“I feel tired after the Basque tour. I’ve been racing hard since the beginning of the season in January in Argentina, and I am a rider who always likes to put myself in the middle of the fight, as I did in Argentina, even when one does not have the sufficient base for the battle,” Contador said. “Despite that, I’ve had good results, even though it might cost me a little more later.”
After a challenging week of racing in the Basque Country, made even harder by punishing rain and cold temperatures, Contador said he’s unsure if he will race the Ardennes classics later this month.
Contador was eyeing starts at Flèche Wallonne (April 17) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 21). With the ultimate goal of the season being the Tour de France, he said he’s going to take a few days to consider his options.
“Now I am going to take a break and see how the body reacts from the hard efforts since the beginning of the season,” Contador said. “Then we’ll decide what we’re going to do.”