“I like the Contador we have right now, for sure, definitely,” Tinkoff team manager, Bjarne Riis said. “It’s a beautiful bike rider we have here in the Dauphiné. I’ve never seen him that good.”
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Contador won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009. He also won the 2010 title, but lost that over a drug test and subsequent suspension. That six-month suspension set him back. When he returned, he was not as sharp and just barely took the 2012 Vuelta a España thanks to an ambush move on a what should have been a routine stage.
Last year, he struggled too. He did not look like his usual ‘El Pistolero’ self when he raced the Tour de France. He faded in the third week and lost his podium place, finishing fourth at 6-27 minutes behind Froome.
However, he reminded everyone that he is sharp and back to his best yesterday with a bold attack on the descent 20 kilometres from the finish. The move was something similar to 2012 when he caught Joaquím Rodríguez sleeping at the Vuelta.
“Alberto is going for it,” Riis added. “That’s racing and nice to see. He’s alert and sharp, even on the descents. That means he’s good.”
Sky nullified the attack on the following climb with legwork from Richie Porte and Mikel Nieve, but the message that Contador is back was sent. Froome said afterwards that either Contador’s bluffing ahead of the weekend’s mountain stages or he is very confident.
This season, Froome has yet to cross swords with a Contador like this and may have never gone head to head with the Spaniard in such form. Riis would say never. They met at the Volta a Catalunya this year, but Froome had yet to reach his top speed and failed to give fans that mano a mano that they saw this week.
Contador trails Froome by only 12 seconds ahead of this weekends summit finish stages. So far, he has been the only one to match Froome, too, as the others trailed behind on the first summit finish Monday.
“Is this how you win the Dauphiné? The Tour de France? Everything counts,” Riis said standing in the hot sun waiting for his star to arrive from the finish. Contador circled up and down the road behind the finishing straight, likely thinking back to his attack and how to overthrow Froome in July.
“Sky’s worked a lot, and that’s what I want to see,” Riis continued. “They have some guys in trouble but they also have some strong guys able to control ether race, the ones that you saw at the finish with Froome. We let them control, but if you want to push them more then you need to a very strong team to do that, and will have that team at the Tour de France.”
Riis, like Sky’s David Brailsford, will select his nine-man Tour de France team at the end of next week at the end of the Tour de Suisse.
Images from the fifth stage of the 2014 Criterium du Dauphine won by Simon Spilak, by Graham Watson
Solo attack by Alberto Contador during stage five of the Dauphine causes Sky to chase hard to protect Chris Froome's