Before Saturday’s stage to Gérardmer La Mauselaine, Contador was in 16th place in the general classification, 2-37 down on race leader Vincenzo Nibali. But on the last climb of the day, Contador distanced everyone, including Nibali, in a move that gained him three-seconds time advantage and moved him to sixth place in the GC.
“What we wanted to do was to remove a few riders because in the end there were too many who could later play an important tactical role in the third week,” Contador said. “Nibali conceded a little in the end, but the real objective was not to drop Nibali or [Alejandro] Valverde, but rather the other well-positioned riders.”
With three categorised climbs within the final 30km on Saturday’s stage, the route provided the perfect opportunity for the GC contenders to see what each other were made of, before the high mountains begin.
Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team-mates upped the pace at the front of the peloton and by the final climb to the finish, just 1.8km long, only a select group of riders including Contador, race leader Nibali and Sky’s Richie Porte, remained. With an average gradient of 10.3 per cent, but reaching 13 per cent at it’s most, the short, steep climb allowed Contador to put some time into his rivals and give him a welcome confidence boost after a tough first week.
“It’s only a couple of seconds so I’m sure it’s not going to make that much difference,” Rogers said after the stage. “I’m sure it’s a very good confidence boost to Alberto, now that we’re coming into territory more suited, certainly towards Alberto.
“The last seven days have been really tough for him and the team, we’ve spent a lot of energy, but I tell you it’s not easy for Alberto staying in the front and staying behind the big guys. We’ll take it one step at a time but in the meantime today we’re very happy.
Rogers continued: “The team rode very well, we came to the front right at the right time and I think the tactics we played were according.”
Alberto Contador takes the fight to overall Tour de France race leader Vincenzo Nibali on final climb
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