Already one minute 20 seconds behind chief rival Chris Froome (Sky) in the Vuelta a España, Alberto Contador avoided a further setback in the race on Wednesday when he avoided falling in a big pileup in the finale.
“Fortunately, I was able to jump over the leg of a rider that had crashed in front of me,” he said after the stage. “I had enough time to react and jump, so I was able to make it to the finish. Unfortunately, [teammate Roberto] Kiserlovski crashed and I hope it isn’t anything serious. This kind of finish is very dangerous.
“It was an easier day for me because it was a bit uphill, but for the ones that had to sprint it was complicated and in the end there was a crash. Today, even if it seemed it wouldn’t be very hard, it was raining in the first 120 km so the legs got harder. In the end it was an additional effort and I hope this plays into my favour.”
Contador lost time in the opening day team time trial and then when he was unable to follow key rivals on stage three. Concluding at the Mirador de Ízaro, he finished ninth, 54 seconds behind winner Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) and, crucially, 28 seconds adrift of Froome, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange).
He also conceded 22 seconds to Valverde’s teammate Nairo Quintana.
Avoiding injury and not losing any more time are crucial to his aim to fight back into overall contention.
“The key today was to stay safe in the final kilometres,” he made clear. “We are here to give our best and fight for the GC. It was risky and I have to praise the extraordinary job of the squad. [Daniele] Bennati was incredible.
“I ticked off another day and it is now important to recover. Let’s cross our fingers and hope Kiserlovski didn’t suffer anything serious. In a transition day one would expect a calmer stage but this isn’t the case. We now battle for a second as if it were one minute.”
Contador was injured during the Tour de France and had to withdraw due to a fever. He battled to reach peak form for the Vuelta and is still short of where he needs to be.
He’s keeping an open mind as to his chances.
“I still can’t draw any conclusion on my form and we have to think ahead,” he said. “The Vuelta is long and far from over.”