Even as he continues to wait for a final verdict on his clenbuterol case, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) has continued to rack up the victories, with the latest coming in Argentina, in the Tour of San Luis’ first mountain top stage.
Following umpteen delays, Contador is expected to be informed of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) verdict on his positive for clenbuterol in the 2010 Tour de France as early as Monday next week.
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What is – hopefully – the final postponement and a definitive verdict for a case which has dragged on for far too long came earlier this month. CAS said that their three-strong panel of judges needed another fortnight after they were apparently unsettled by claims that some parts of the trial had not proceeded correctly.
The claims were later denied by all parties, but the delay remains. Meanwhile, in the seven-day Tour of San Luis, Contador has now taken his first win – and the leader’s jersey – since claiming the overall of the Giro d’Italia last May, and in his first race since the 2011 Tour de France, too.
A great deal of the credit for it has to go to Contador’s Saxo Bank team, who crushed various early attacks before the final ascent of the day, the Mirador del Potrero mountain. The Spaniard attacked with three kilometres to go, and only his former Astana team-mate Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) could follow him. After catching earlier breakaway Dani Diaz (San Luis), Contador tried and failed to shake off Leipheimer, but nonetheless crossed the finish line in first place.
“We all like to win, but this victory comes in a very special moment,” he said – his only reference, and an indirect one at that, to the CAS case. “I felt a lot better than I expected, because I haven’t raced since the Tour and I only started training on December 14.”
The stage saw some major crashes, too, with Cuban rider Arnold Alcolea rushed to hospital after he collided with a wall and lost consciousness. Latest reports say his condition is stable.
Four seconds ahead on Leipheimer overall, Thursday’s 19.5 kilometre time trial stage through rolling terrain could see Contador gain a much wider margin on general classification. The other big challenge for the Spaniard is the race’s second mountain-top finish, on Friday. The race finishes on Sunday.