Vuelta a Es­paña

Vuelta a Es­paña | Au­gust 29-Septem­ber 3 | Spain

Cycling Weekly - - Contents - Stephen Pud­di­combe

As ev­ery­one who has fol­lowed his ca­reer over the past decade would have ex­pected, Al­berto Con­ta­dor (Trek-se­gafredo) is bow­ing out of the pro pelo­ton in style.

Through­out the sec­ond week of the Vuelta a Es­paña, he pro­duced an ex­hi­bi­tion of at­tack­ing rac­ing — some­times suc­cess­ful, some­times un­suc­cess­ful, but al­ways thrilling to watch.

It is, how­ever, also clear why the 34-year old has cho­sen to make this race his last be­fore re­tir­ing. He re­mains as eager as ever to put on a show, and re­tains the abil­ity to shake up a race — on stage 12, for in­stance, the pres­sure he caused by at­tack­ing on a sec­ond-cat­e­gory climb just over 20km from the fin­ish in­di­rectly contributed to over­all leader Chris Froome (Sky) crash­ing twice on the fol­low­ing de­scent.

But Con­ta­dor th­ese days lacks the con­sis­tency that helped win him seven Grand Tours in the past. He again at­tempted a long-range move three days later on the huge sum­mit fin­ish to Sierra Ne­vada, but ul­ti­mately ended up los­ing time when a steadily paced Sky-led pelo­ton grad­u­ally caught back up to him and spat him out the back.

Nev­er­the­less, de­spite fail­ing to mount a gen­uine chal­lenge to the in­domitable Froome, Con­ta­dor con­tin­ued to be mobbed at the start and fin­ish of week two’s stages through­out An­dalu­sia, and it be­came clear just how much those Span­ish fans will miss him when he’s gone.

Fol­low­ing Joaquim Ro­driguez’s re­tire­ment last year and doubts whether a 37-year old Ale­jan­dro Valverde (Mo­vis­tar) will ever be able to re­turn to his best fol­low­ing a hor­rific crash at the Tour de France, the Vuelta raises ques­tions over who will take Con­ta­dor’s man­tle as Spain’s big­gest stage race hope.

Af­ter two weeks of rac­ing, the home na­tion was still with­out a stage win, while Con­ta­dor was their only rider in the top 10. When com­pared to Italy, Colombia and even Poland — each of which en­joyed an­other two stage wins this week — those re­sults look es­pe­cially dis­ap­point­ing. Mikel Landa, who is not rac­ing the Vuelta, looks most likely to step into Con­ta­dor’s shoes, but is yet to win a Grand Tour.

There’s ev­ery chance still that Con­ta­dor will bow out in glory with a stage win or some other suc­cess, but his re­tire­ment would ap­pear to sig­nal the end of a golden era for Span­ish cy­cling.

Con­ta­dor: still Spain’s favourite son

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