Albert Contador (Saxo Bank) claimed a second victory in three days in the the Tour of San Luis on Friday, claiming the toughest mountain stage and the lead in the King of the Mountains competition.
The overall lead, however, remains in the hands of Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), who - just as he had done two days earlier - followed Contador across the finish line, in third place just five seconds back.
Contador's latest triumph came on the demanding seven kilometre Mirador del Sol climb, in the same part of the San Luis province where the late Xavi Tondo, killed in a freak domestic accident last May, had won a stage of the race in 2009.
The Spaniard broke away on the toughest section of the climb, with ramps of around 16percent and four kilometres from the summit. Argentinian Dani Diaz and Leipheimer followed, but despite Diaz's late attacks, Contador blasted past for his second victory of 2012.
"If anybody had told me I would win two stages here, I wouldn't have believed them," Contador claimed.
"it was a very tough climb, l had the right gearing (36x28) but it wasn't easy. I went for it but when I saw I couldn't drop Levi I eased back a bit and just focussed on getting the stage win."
"It's nice to get the King of the Mountains jersey, but what I wanted was the stage win."
With just two stages remaining and an overall advantage of nearly a minute, Leipheimer is close to claiming the overall victory, although Saturday's stage, which features a first cat. climb early on and runs through rolling terrain, is not at all straightforward. The Tour of San Luis finishes on Sunday.
On Contador's return to Europe, some time next week he should - finally - hear the verdict from CAS on WADA's appeal for his clenbuterol positive from the 2010 Tour de France, with a possible ban of up to two years.
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