Contador's status takes hammering in tame finish
alberto contador's status as cycling's No 1 took its biggest step backwards in four years yesterday on the slopes of Luz Ardiden.
As Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso and the Schleck brothers, Frank and Andy, piled on the pressure, Contador all but crumbled on the final kilometre of the summit finish, complaining of a knee injury.
In time terms, the damage was minimal, just 13 seconds on Andy Schleck, the rider who has run him the closest for the last two years, and 33 seconds on Frank. Contador is now seventh overall, four minutes behind leader Thomas Voeckler. Psychologically, though, the rare sight of Contador struggling on a crucial mountain stage will be be a huge boost to the triple Tour winner's rivals.
Beleaguered even before the Tour started by the ongoing saga of his positive test for clenbuterol in last year's race, and with a 100-second deficit after a crash on stage one, Contador was able to respond to most of the attacks made by Andy Schleck and Evans' driving accelerations when the race emerged above the treeline on Luz Ardiden.
However, when Frank Schleck made a third major dig on the never-ending series of hairpins close to the summit, the Spaniard was in trouble.
Worse was to come, as double Tour of Italy winner Basso edged up the pressure even higher in the final kilometre, and as the leading contenders dived round the last corner, Contador was nowhere to be seen. He finally trailed across the finish line in eighth place. The Spanish still had something to celebrate thanks to 2008 Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez (pictured left) taking the stage win after he blasted off at the foot of the climb. (© Independent News Service)