Contador wins Vuelta to seal place in history and give his team a potential problem
Contador wins Vuelta
Sunday 21 September. Alberto Contador of the Astana team today won the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) in emphatic fashion to become one of only five riders to have won all of the three week grand tours: The Tour de France, Giro D'Italia, and the Vuelta. Contador adds his name to a quartet of cycling legends, Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, Belgian legend Eddy Merckx and Italy's Felice Gimondi. What makes Contador's achievement even more notable is that his wins all come in a little over a year, starting with his win in the 2007 Tour de France. He followed that up with victory in this year's Giro in May, where he beat Riccardo Ricco (subsequently thrown off this year's Tour de France for doping), before today sealing his triumph in the Vuelta. The win is another emphatic riposte to the Tour de France organisers who controversially “uninvited” Contador and his Astana team from this year's race – despite, the team, name aside, being virtually a completely different outfit from the one thrown of the 2007 Tour when then team leader Alexander Vinokourov failed a blood test for EPO. The banning of Astana was held in many quarters to have less to do with making an example of Astana for past sins, and more do with with a settling of old scores with the new Astana management lead by Johan Bruyneel for their success in winning the Tour seven times in a row – six with Lance Armstrong (US Postal and then Discovery) then followed up with last year's victory for Contador. While not exactly welcoming back Astana with open arms the Tour de France organisers have said the “disinvitation” was not a permanent snub to Astana. Either way, it will be very hard to leave the man who currently dominates three week stage racing out of next year's Tour. Like it or not it seems that ASO, the Tour organisers, will just have to put up with the fact that Contador and Bruyneel are going to be part of the scene for quite some time to come. Finally, assuming Lance resumes his career with his old team this leaves Astana officials with a potentially tricky task – who will be team leader for next year's Tour de France? Is it conceivable that Contador will give up on the chance to win a second Tour after being denied last year too, particularly since he can lay claim to a legendary cycling feat of his own. Vuelta 2008: Final overall standings 1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana, 80hrs 40mins 23secs 2. Levi Leipheimer (US) Astana, +1:01s 3. Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC +4:31" 4. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo, +5:04" 5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne, +5:45"