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31 August 2017 - 20:08

La Vuelta: Teamwork pays dividends as Contador moves closer to final podium

"The scenario was better than we could have hoped for. I knew I had a team mate up ahead, and we gave it everything."

After two days of teeming rain, normal service was resumed in Andalucia with cloudless skies and 33-degree heat. However, the pattern of the early racing remained the same: 50 kilometres completed in the first hour, with numerous breakaway attempts coming to nothing. 

After something over 55 kilometers, fourteen riders finally prised themselves away from the jaws of the peloton, and Edward Theuns was among them. “I was happy I got in the break,” he reflected.  “I tried already a couple of days. Today I waited long enough and went one time.”

By kilometer 80, at the foot of the Category 1 Puerto De León, the breakaway had a lead of 7 minutes 30 seconds. They defended, indeed, extended, their advantage 17.4 kilometer climb. On the following descent, two breakaway riders attacked, gaining a little over 20 seconds, but the group came together again before the final climb, a vicious, 3km ramp that started with 26.1 km to go. The climb saw Marczyncki attack and Theuns lose contact.

Behind, as the peloton started the second climb with 26km to go, Alberto Contador darted abruptly out of the group, Nicolas Roche on tow. 

Contador said, “The scenario was better than we could have hoped for. I attacked. I spoke to Nicolas Roche. I went with him, but he couldn't follow my pace. He said, 'You go on alone' – we have a good relationship – so I carried on. I knew I had a team mate up ahead, and we gave it everything.”

Pressing on alone, Contador opened a 35 second lead , which contracted to just 17 seconds at the KoM, with 17.5 km to go. It was at that point that he reached his team-mate Edward Theuns. 

Theuns said, “Three kilometers before the top of last climb they said Alberto attacked so I knew I had to make it to the top. I was standing still there for two or three minutes to wait for him, and then we just went full in the downhill with him. It was not easy because there were still some nasty small uphills. I tried to follow him there but that really hurt my legs, but I could survive some of the bumps and then do some work in the downhills so I hope I helped him a little bit.”

Contador added, “The descents were very difficult because with the reflection of the sun, you couldn't see very well and we had to give them a lot of respect and we didn't want to take too many risks.”

Theuns continued, “On the last time I quickly felt the guys at the front went too fast so I just tried to make it to the top and wait for Alberto. I tried to go in the down hill with him. They said in the car try to go to the finish with him but my legs never hurt so much in my life. I gave everything.”

Behind them, race leader Christopher Froome suffered two crashes. With Theuns protecting him from the wind, Contador's lead touched 1 minute 5 seconds. Riding on alone, Contador's advantage was inevitably pegged back as the chase became organized. He finished the stage thirteenth, 7 minutes 25 seconds after the winner Marczynski, and 22 seconds before the group containing his team-mate Peter Stetina, and seven of the eight men who lead him in the General Classification. The eighth man, Froome, finished 42 seconds after Contador.

The time gains made yesterday and today leave Contador exactly 1 minute away from the podium.

After the stage, he said, “Bearing in mind the final part of today's stage, which didn't promise anything. I think this is something to be very pleased with. As for Froome, yes, he fell, but he got up again and he didn't lose much time. I think we have an easier day tomorrow, so I'm sure he's going to continue to be very strong.”

Behind his leader, Eddy Theuns finished 34th in the stage, 7 seconds behind Froome. Asked on the finish line for his opinion of Contador's form, he said, “I mean if you attack all the GC favorites…? Since Andorra he had one bad day there, and he's taking time back every day almost , so I think he's going really good.  And it's really an honor to be here for his last race.”


Vuelta a España

Chris Froome
Team Sky
Vincenzo Nibali
Bahrain Merida
Ilnur Zakarin