Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) won the final stage time trial at the Tour of the Basque Country in dominating fashion, and in so doing took the overall win.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) set a fast time of 29:18:40 in the wet conditions, but an ill-judged bike change earlier in the stage cost the Colombian several seconds and all of his momentum.
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However, his overall deficit to first and second places was such that it may not have affected his result all that much.
Contador’s win barely looked in doubt as he sailed through the intermediate time checks. Breaking into an almost kilometre long sprint, the Tinkoff rider rode hard all the way to the finish line.
Dario Cataldo (Astana) set the early benchmark of 31:03:36, which stood until Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) went seven seconds faster with 30:56. These times were soon blown away when Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) came through 41 seconds down. Such a time looked like it could take the stage win for the young British rider, until Quintana came in 48 seconds faster.
Most riders opted to ride standard road bikes, with some using clip-on tri bars, due to the profile of the stage. The road went upwards almost from the start line and continued to do so until after the 6km mark. The incline included ramps of 20%.
The second half of the stage was mostly downhill back to Eibar. As such there was speculation that teams would swap bikes at the top and use TT machines to race into the finish. However, the wet conditions held back the expected pace and saw riders stick with their easier to handle road bikes.
Such concerns didn’t stop Quintana, who did change to his time trial bike. The bike change was far from smooth and the rider lost several seconds at a point in the course where he had been dancing up the climb.
Contador’s stage win and overall title seemed to be enough for him to decide to postpone his retirement, which he had previously said would come at the end of this season.
Whatever he decides, performances such as today’s point to him arriving at the Tour de France in July at the top of his game, an exciting prospect for fans of the world’s biggest race.
Tour of the Basque Country 2016 result
Stage six: Eibar to Eibar, 16.5km, ITT
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff in 29-13
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 5 secs
3. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky at 18s
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-GreednEdge at 53 secs
5. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC Racing at 1-04
6. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 1-09
7. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 1-16
8. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha st
9. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 1-21
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Caja Rural – Seguros RGA at 1-26
Final general classification after stage six
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff in 22-44-43
2. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky at 12s
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 37 secs
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 1-13
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-22
6. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC Racing at 1-29
7. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 2:19
8. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 2:47
9. Lawson Craddock (USA) Cannondale at 2:52
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 3:14