Roche falls to 12th in Vuelta

Disappointed Irishman out of contention

Disappointed Irishman out of contention after falling out of Top 10.

ALBERTO CONTADOR took the stage from Santander to Fuente and the overall lead in the Vuelta a Espana yesterday.

Contador roared with delight when he crossed the finish line then made his trademark ‘pistol shot’ salute as he received the leader’s jersey.

Contador’s victory, following a surprise attack 55km from the line, was his first since his doping suspension for the banned substance clenbuterol ended on August 5, and put him on track to claim a second Vuelta on Sunday in Madrid.

”He deserves this win,” Fran, who is also Contador’s agent, said.

“He has really suffered (during the suspension). Thank God, he’s back.

Before Wednesday’s attack, Contador had been lying 28 seconds behind leader Joaquim Rodriguez, but now leads by one minute 52 seconds over Alejandro Valverde.

Angel Contador said of the attack: “I had an angel on one shoulder, saying, ‘Don’t do this, they’re going to roll you over’ and a devil on the other saying, ‘Go for it’. On this occasion, I didn’t listen to the angel.”

“People said to me, ‘Why are you going so far from the line and in fact it felt a bit like a kamikaze attack.”

Contador described his victory as “one of my three most important triumphs of my career, together with the one I took when I came back from my operation (for brain surgery in late 2004), in the Tour Down Under (in January 2005) and my win in Paris-Nice in 2007.”

Contador said he wanted to dedicate the victory to “all the people who have supported me (during the ban), all my friends. “This has been a very Ireland’s Nicolas Roche finished the stage in 26th place, four minutes 48 seconds behind Contador, and dropped to 12th place overall, 16 minutes 22 seconds behind the Spaniard.

He said: “Unless your name is Alberto Contador, today was a bad day on the Vuelta. Finishing 26th on the stage, with our 16-man group coming in four minutes and 48 seconds down on Contador, I lost out to both (Benat) Intxausti and (Gorka) Verdugo and they both leapfrogged me in the overall standings.

“I’m 12th overall now and pretty pissed off. The only chance I have of breaking back into the top 10 is on the second last stage on Saturday, which finishes up the savagely steep climb to Bola de Mundo.

“Anything can happen but I’m two minutes and 11 seconds behind 10th-placed Intxausti now and that’s a lot.”

"This morning in the briefing we knew today’s stage could go either way.

"Either a large break would go clear and the fight for the overall would come down to the final climb, or things would kick off earlier – possibly in the valley before the penultimate climb, and it would be all-out war.