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With about 100km and three major climbs remaining on Stage 9, Spaniard Alberto Contador pulled over, dismounted his bike, waved to TV cameras, and stepped into a Tinkoff team vehicle, his 2016 Tour de France over.
Contador abandoned the race in his favored terrain; Stage 9, starting in Spain and finishing in Andorra, featured five categorized climbs and would ordinarily have been his springboard up the general classification. Contador attempted to get into an early breakaway on the stage, but then spent much of the race at the back of the peloton chatting with his team car.
It was a sad exit for Contador, the winner of all three of cycling’s Grand Tours, a rider who is listed as a two-time Tour champion though he’s stood on the podium three times; his 2010 victory was stripped due to an anti-doping violation.
Contador had last stood on the Tour podium in 2010; he’s since finished fourth (in 2013) and fifth (In 2015). Images of him climbing into the Tinkoff team car were reminiscent of his abandon in 2014, when he left the race on Stage 10 after a heavy crash left him with a broken leg.
Now 33, previously believed to be appearing in his final Tour de France — he’s since said he hopes to continue racing in 2017 — Contador had come to the race hoping for one final victory at the sport’s biggest race.
Truly, however, Contador’s Tour was over before it even started. A heavy cash on Stage 1, which Contador admitted was his own fault, was followed by another crash on Stage 2. He lost time on the uphill finish on Stage 2, on the uphill finish on Stage 5, and again on Saturday in the Pyrenees, losing two minutes over the top of the Peyresourde, and with it, any chance of an overall victory.
Injuries may have led to infection, as Tinkoff team director Sean Yates said Contador had developed a fever.
“Alberto had a bit of fever this morning,” Yates told France TV from his team car. “He told us at the beginning of the race that he wasn’t feeling super and it’s obvious.”
It’s likely that Contador will now turn his focus toward the Rio Olympics — the hilly road race suits his characteristics — and then the Vuelta a España, a race he’s won three times.
Contador is rumored to be signing with Trek-Segafredo for 2017, for either one or two years.