- Jan 3, 2005
MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy (VN) — Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) looks at his best when the odds are against him. On Sunday in the Giro d’Italia’s 15th stage, with the snow-covered Dolomites as the backdrop, it was no different.
The Giro’s race leader handled himself against Astana’s full force and several other rivals. One by one, he followed accelerations and attacks, and even threw a punch of his own. This, one should not forget, comes after two weeks of racing that saw him crash twice.
“He just wants to win,” said Tinkoff teammate Michael Rogers at the Madonna di Campiglio ski station.
“He has an innate kind of ability to set high goals and work at them. He is really one of a kind.”
Contador’s plan to win the Giro d’Italia appears to be enhanced by misfortune. He crashed in stage six in the south of Tuscany and dislocated his shoulder. Spanish reporters were worried that they were going to have to pack their laptops and head home early with their injured countryman. Instead, they had more copy to write.
When he fell Friday in Jesolo, losing a handful of seconds and the pink jersey, followers hardly blinked. Contador popped back up, rode to the bus, spoke to the press, and iced his leg for the next day’s time trial. For “El Pistolero” it appears to be all in a day’s work.
Throughout the two weeks, Contador has lost little, but gained a lot. He strengthened his lead to a healthy 2:35 minutes over Italian Fabio Aru (Astana).
Only the Dolomites looked bigger than Contador on Sunday. He gracefully managed Astana’s attempts to break him. The blue train revved up the 15.5km climb and sent its captains Aru and Spaniard Mikel Landa to do the rest. Each played his cards in the final 3km, with Landa eventually going free for the stage win.
Contador gave Landa, who sits fourth overall, his space for the stage. His eyes are on a much bigger prize. Rogers is not surprised at his captain’s capacity.
“He is the toughest fighter you will ever meet,” Rogers said. “You can count the people who have come and gone since he has been at the top. And he will probably be there for another couple more years.”
Since turning professional in 2003, Contador racked up eight grand-tour wins, though a doping suspension in 2012 reduced that tally by two.
For Astana and the rest trying to win the Giro when it ends on May 31 in Milan, Contador’s presence is bad news.
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