Alberto Contador was cautious in predicting how he would fare in the stage 20 time trial at the Tour de France Saturday after almost three weeks of up and downs and less than good feelings on the bike, notably in yesterday's stage 19.
But when he posted the 6th fastest time at the 10-kilometer time check, and less than one second off the quickest time at the second, he was on for a great finish.
He crossed the line in 28 minutes and 36 seconds and slotted into 5th place provisionally, 21 seconds behind eventual winner Maciej Bodnar (Bora Hansgrohe) – an incredible performance and a great way to end the 2017 Tour de France, which has been a thorny ride for the former champion.
"I am happy with my performance because it shows the legs are not bad at all, knowing that yesterday I felt really really bad," said Contador. "In general I can say that I felt quite good in this Tour. I could do really hard efforts, but unfortunately, in a few stages I had some setbacks," said Contador. "I gave it my all in this TT, even though, of course, it was not to fight for the podium anymore."
"It was a good TT, well especially in the part that suited me best, which was the climb. The plan was to take as much time as possible on the climb. There I really left it all out on the road because it was only 1km long. Other than that, there was also a quite strong wind. It was a last big effort, and now it's time to get some rest."
When the top of the general classification finished, only one had bested his time: Chris Froome (Sky), who would easily cement his fourth Tour de France yellow jersey with the third fastest time for the 22.5-kilometer race against the clock.
Contador proved, on top of everything that happened during the three weeks, that the heart of a champion never quits. The 2017 race did not go his way, but never once did he wave the white towel. Instead, he fought harder.
"I can only thank the public for the huge support they gave me because obviously, I did not obtain what I hoped for, nor what I worked for so hard for. So I take their support and the affection they showed me as an honor and a privilege," he continued.
"The most important thing for me was to finish, either way. My team has been working for me so hard; I owed them to finish this Tour even though the crashes were tough and it took me some time to recover from them. But here we are now, and I am happy to be able to finish this Tour with them."
He ended a Tour he would probably rather forget with an effort worthy of an icon.