Alberto Contador continued his excellent early-season form by winning the 2014 Tour of the Basque Country and now hopes to challenge Chris Froome at the Tour de France later this year.
The Spanish rider held on to his opening-day lead during the event's sixth and final stage, a individual time-trial in which he finished second behind only Tony Martin.
After a dismal 2013 without any multistage race victories, the Tinkoff-Saxo rider has now added his Tour of the Basque Country to his victory at the Tirreno-Adriatico and his second places at the Tour of Algarve and the Volta a Catalunya.
This is the third win at the Basque Country for Contador after his victories in 2008 and 2009. The multiple Grand Tour winner laid the foundations in the first stage where he attacked Alejandro Valverde on a climb and finished alone, 14 seconds before his compatriot.
“Of course when you win, it boosts your confidence but you still have to keep working,” Contador told reporters. “It couldn’t have gone better for me at the start of this season. I hope to be 100 percent for the Tour.”
The Tour Contador is talking about is of course the Tour de France where the Spaniard now looks set to challenge Team Sky and favourite Chris Froome, after a largely forgettable Tour last summer when Contador could not keep up.
Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Philippe Mauduit praised his rider: “Alberto is simply super strong at the moment. He rode elegantly, regularly and with enormous power in the pedals.
“We knew that he was the best climber here and today he demonstrated that he’s one of the very best time trialists as well finishing only 7 seconds behind the world champion. For Alberto this is another boost of confidence which he needed before going home training to prepare for the Tour de France.”
Omega Pharma – QuickStep's Martin took his second stage of the race after completing the 26-kilometre stage in 38 minutes, 33 seconds. The three-time world time-trial champion was pleased to get the win after previous set-backs.
“It feels good,” Martin said. “I lost some (time trials) before this and my morale was down. So to come in here and win a stage and the (time trial) is really good.”
Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma – QuickStep) finished second in the general classicication, 49 seconds down on Contador, while Jean Christophe Peroud (Ag2r) also made the podium 1 minute 4 seconds down.
Simon Yates, Orica – GreenEdge's first-year pro came 17 in the individual time-trial and headed the best young rider classification with his 12th overall finish.
Stage 6 Brief Results:
Tony Martin (Germany / Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) 38:33″
Alberto Contador (Spain / Tinkoff – Saxo) +7″
Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland / Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) +15″
Simon Spilak (Slovenia / Katusha) +16″
Jean-Christophe Peraud (France / AG2R) +35″
Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands / Giant) +38″
Jon Izagirre (Spain / Movistar) +41″
Alejandro Valverde (Spain / Movistar) +1:02″
Tejay van Garderen (U.S. / BMC Racing) +1:05″
Final General Classification:
Alberto Contador (Spain / Tinkoff – Saxo) 21:09:11″
Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland / Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) +49″
Jean-Christophe Peraud (France / AG2R) +1:04″
Simon Spilak (Slovenia / Katusha) +1:07″
Alejandro Valverde (Spain / Movistar)
Tejay van Garderen (U.S. / BMC Racing) +1:56″
Cadel Evans (Australia / BMC Racing)
Yury Trofimov (Russia / Katusha) +2:13″
Thibaut Pinot (France / FDJ.fr) +2:14″
Wout Poels (Netherlands / Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) +2:26″
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