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Saxo Bank rider heading to second Vuelta victory following sensational day's racing...

Alberto Contador, who spent the first two weeks of this year's Vuelta attempting to drop Joaquin Rodriguez whenever the road headed uphill, today put in a stunning ride on the flat to win Stage 17 and take over the lead of the race as it heads into its closing days. The Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider had already distanced Rodriguez when he put in a storming attack from the lead group alongside former team mate Paolo Tiralongo of Astana, then rode the final 13 kilometres alone to finish a few seconds ahead of Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, who moves to second overall.

Rodriguez, who lost the Giro d'Italia in May on the final day after spending ten days of that race in the maglia rosa, has spent even longer in the Vuelta's leader's jersey this year, but will almost certainly miss out once again on a maiden Grand Tour victory, losing more than two and a half minutes to Contador today.

The 2012 Vuelta was already destined to be a memorable race as a result of some thrilling battles over the past fortnight, but today's stage was simply sensational. Should Contador go on to take his second Vuelta, adding to his 2008 victory, this will be remembered as the day he won it. Should Rodriguez end his career without a Grand Tour win, it will be viewed as the day - perhaps alongside the time trial that concluded the Giro in Milan - when he let his best chance slip.

While today's stage featured a summit finish, the Category 2 ascent to Fuente Dé was viewed as much less taxing than those that had featured in the three stages preceding yesterday's rest day, but the damage to Rodriguez's GC hopes had already been done prior to that climb starting.

In last year's Giro d'Italia, Contador gifted Tiralongo his first ever professional victory when the pair found themselves alone on the Stage 19 climb of the Macugnaga.

Tiralongo would subsequently testify on behalf of his friend and former Astana team mate at the Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing that resulted in the Spaniard being banned for six months earlier this year for his positive test for clenbuterol in the 2010 Tour de France.

Tiralongo continued to stand by Contador, dedicating his Giro stage victory at Rocca di Cambio in this year's race to him, but if he still owed him a debt for that 2011 stage win, it was repaid in full this afternoon as the pair set team rivalries aside and went hell for leather, attacking from the leading group with around 20km of today's stage left to ride.

Rodriguez had been distanced by Contador 30km earlier when the latter slipped into that front group, but if it was the Saxo Bank rider's move that had put the race leader into difficulties, it was Valverde who delivered the coup de grace, his attack at around 12 kilometres out leaving the Katusha rider with no way back and what must have been a very lonely ride to the finish with two of Contador's team mates sitting on his wheel.

There is one more summit finish to come in the race, on the Bola del Mundo on Saturday, and it's one Contador knows better than anyone, close enough to his home outside Madrid for him to ride up it in the morning and be home in time for lunch.

Asked afterwards about how he had managed to seize control of the race, Contador confessed, "I’ve attacked instinctively. I believe this day of racing has shocked a few!

"Truly, I’ve ridden a bit like a kamikaze. But I had to try. I felt something like an angel and a devil on my shoulders. One was telling me: 'Attack,' the other one said: 'Don’t attack.' I followed the right advice. I’ve been scared to lose my advantage in the last fifteen kilometers because I hadn’t eaten a lot. I was afraid that other riders could catch me.

He admitted that physically, "I wasn’t on one of my best days. But my will to succeed was enormous. Second place isn’t bad but you always have to try and win, even though many people thought it was out of reach for me.

"My attack with 50 km to go was of an absolute madness. I told my three team-mates via radio to go “full gas”, and nothing more because sometimes the radios are pirated by other teams. And I’ve climbed with the same conviction I had up to l’Alpe d’Huez in the 2011 Tour de France.

He said that today's victory was "one of the three most important of my career. The first one was at the 2005 Tour Down Under when I resumed racing after my big accident. The second one was the 2007 Paris-Nice.

"It’s not finished yet but Joaquim Rodriguez must be congratulated for what he has done during this Vuelta. I wasn’t able to drop him off in the steepest uphill finishes, so every day I had to think of the tactic for the next day. I’ve had to calculate a lot the time not to lose and the right spot for attacking him."

“I didn’t expect that," reflected Rodriguez after losing the race lead. "I’m sad because I’ve lost the Vuelta. That’s what we’re here for: sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t but it’s sport.

"The stage to Fuente Dé will make history and I’m proud to be part of it. Contador has demonstrated to being the strongest and his team as well. When I’ve seen him climbing, the disaster that I was going to encounter didn’t cross my mind. We didn’t imagine what was going to happen, no one did.

"I’ve experienced different states of mind in the last fifty kilometres. From the Collado La Hoz, I just it would come well in the downhill with the help of riders from Movistar but it didn’t. Today, for sure, it’ll be hard for me to sleep!”

Vuelta Stage 17 Result  

1  CONTADOR, Alberto     STB     4h 29' 20''
2  VALVERDE, Alejandro   MOV           + 6''
3  HENAO, Sergio Luis    SKY           + 6''
4  VERDUGO, Gorka        EUS           + 6''
5  NOCENTINI, Rinaldo    ALM          + 19''
6  BAKELANTS, Jan        RNT          + 55''
7  INTXAUSTI, Beñat      MOV       + 1' 13''
8  GENIEZ, Alexandre     ARG       + 1' 40''
9  TIRALONGO, Paolo      AST       + 2' 13''
10 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin    KAT       + 2' 38''
11 HERNÁNDEZ, Jesús      STB       + 2' 38''
12 QUINTANA, Nairo       MOV       + 2' 38''
13 JEANNESSON, Arnold    FDJ       + 3' 03''
14 CUNEGO, Damiano       LAM       + 3' 18''
15 TEN DAM, Laurens      RAB       + 4' 05''
16 LANDA, Mikel          EUS       + 4' 17''
17 NIEMIEC, Przemyslaw   LAM       + 4' 48''
18 TALANSKY, Andrew      GRS       + 4' 48''
19 MEERSMAN, Gianni      LTB       + 4' 48''
20 GESINK, Robert        RAB       + 4' 48''

Last man home on Stage 17  

179 MEYER, Travis        OGE      + 25' 49''
   
General Classification after Stage 17  

1  CONTADOR, Alberto     STB    68h 07' 54''
2  VALVERDE, Alejandro   MOV       + 1' 52''
3  RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin    KAT       + 2' 28''
4  FROOME, Christopher   SKY       + 9' 40''
5  MORENO, Daniel        KAT      + 11' 36''
6  GESINK, Robert        RAB      + 12' 06''
7  TEN DAM, Laurens      RAB      + 12' 55''
8  TALANSKY, Andrew      GRS      + 13' 06''
9  ANTON, Igor           EUS      + 13' 49''
10 INTXAUSTI, Beñat      MOV      + 14' 10''

Points Classification after Stage 17  

1  RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin    KAT          170
2  VALVERDE, Alejandro   MOV          159
3  CONTADOR, Alberto     STB          152
4  DEGENKOLB, John       ARG          112
5  FROOME, Christopher   SKY           93

Mountains Classification after Stage 17  

1  CLARKE, Simon         OGE           38
2  RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin    KAT           36
3  DE GENDT, Thomas      VCD           33
4  VALVERDE, Alejandro   MOV           31
5  CONTADOR, Alberto     STB           28

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

33 comments

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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Cheats never prosper.
Allegedly.
 46

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 3 years ago
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'…except when they've had a bit of a rest' is the long forgotten second part of that saying. Maybe

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antonio [1124 posts] 3 years ago
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As Contador said in the tour he had taken away from him 'the tour will be won in the hotel room', old habits die hard. Not watching the rest of the Vuelta, it stinks.

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Simon_MacMichael [2450 posts] 3 years ago
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Contador said that before last year's Giro, and what he meant by it was that if you're not leading the race, you don't have to spent an hour or more after each stage doing presentations, press and TV when you could be back at the hotel getting massaged, fed and rested.

You can see why it gets quoted out of context mind  3

I think Rodriguez has spent 23 days now leading Grand Tours in 2012 and he's going to end up with nothing.

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notfastenough [3685 posts] 3 years ago
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TBH I've been thinking that J-Rod was the one looking a bit superhuman.

But yeah, they both ought to be battered by this point.

Incidentally, I'm not sure which 'he' you mean in relation to the Bola Del Mundo.

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Simon_MacMichael [2450 posts] 3 years ago
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Should make sense now, notfastenough  1

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notfastenough [3685 posts] 3 years ago
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Cheers. Wonder if purito will have a go? As his time gains were mostly due to bonuses, we haven't seen him(I don't think?) really try to crack Bertie on a climb.

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Chiswick [45 posts] 3 years ago
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What really bugged me was the Saxobank rider, who sat on Rodriguez's wheel the whole time, celebrating his demise as he crossed the line, not so much that C. had won but that Rodriguez had been crushed, even allowing for the fact that Rodriguez had been a bit dozy. Astana, Contador, Valverde, Riis - umm, nice! Incidentally, what on earth is Nicholas Roche doing getting mixed up with that shower next season? Rant over!

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Lungsofa74yearold [282 posts] 3 years ago
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Good to see 2 convicted dopers in the lead - they've clearly learned their lesson. As Antonio says, this stinks - glad I've not wasted any time watching this nonsense.

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WolfieSmith [1323 posts] 3 years ago
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Looking at the last few mountain stages you could be forgiven for looking at the Spanish riders and wondering a little where they get their pep from. I've never seen 3 GC riders of any nationality - let alone the same - tackle 20% hills at that speed before. It defies belief that all 3 are that good all at the same time.  39

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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I know nothing of the intricacies of how doping works but is it too simplistic to suggest that if a doper returns from a doping ban with equal or better form is safe to assume the status quo has been maintained?
Logic would suggest a drop off in form after a doping ban because , of course, one has learnt ones lesson and turned ones back on the evils of performance enhancing drugs and therefore performance will drop.
I am willing to be proved wrong and if i am - Chapeau! to Contador and Valverde for finding such excellent form and wish them all the best on their new, drug free, journey.

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Alan Tullett [1568 posts] 3 years ago
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It's quite possible that all three leaders have or are currently doping. Certainly the Spanish don't have a great reputation, but then the French think the British all cheat, so it just depends on where you're looking from.

Professional sport is basically entertainment and you can't say the Vuelta hasn't been interesting. Plenty of cheating goes on in football at all levels but it doesn't stop me watching it. If anything it makes it more interesting. Did Owen dive in 98? Maybe. Did a few people have a little new blood on the rest day? Maybe. I'd like cycling to be clean and players not dive but it's probably never going to happen. Just enjoy the racing and don't turn athletes into heroes. They're not.

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spokeydokey [10 posts] 3 years ago
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It's difficult to know what to make of it, all my heroes were drug cheats.

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mattsccm [330 posts] 3 years ago
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Who cares? It's good telly.

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Chiswick [45 posts] 3 years ago
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Former cheats will have residual benefit from the years where they were training with drugs. Such is the case in athletics with Chambers, Gatlin et al. So it is the case C 'n' V are not performing 'clean', at least not in the immediate future. No doubt over time this benefit will diminish. However, C 'n' V are too close to the period when they were convicted to be free of any benefit derived, even if not having 'medical support' at the moment.

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Mostyn [396 posts] 3 years ago
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antonio wrote:

As Contador said in the tour he had taken away from him 'the tour will be won in the hotel room', old habits die hard. Not watching the rest of the Vuelta, it stinks.

Toys gone out of pram!

2012 Vuelta has to be the best race I've seen for many years; and Contador has made it a proper race!

Vuelta is certainly far more exciting than the 2012, Tour De France.

Thank goodness for ITV4 I'll not miss an episode.

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Safe and sane c... [12 posts] 3 years ago
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Yes, Contador and Valdeverde ride away from the field having returned from their suspensions for doping/blood doping. Both are unrepentant cheats, so it fills one with enthusiasm for Spanish practices. I also felt that the display by Rodriguez was decidedly odd given that he had had stated before the stage that he must stay with Contador - in fact that is all he needed to do. The sight of the admitted drug cheat team manager Riis feeding bags and sustenance to all and sundry in the group which was supporting Contador turned my stomach.

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Mostyn [396 posts] 3 years ago
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Some Fella wrote:

Cheats never prosper.
Allegedly.
 46

Maybe they're Incorrectly Branded? you throw mud and it sticks! Seems to be a good deal of sour-grape about!

Why not just enjoy the racing; and boy oh boy has the racing been good in this years Vuelta.

French Tour Was Poor in Comparison.

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Johnboy27 [2 posts] 3 years ago
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My thoughts exactly. Not my cycnics here today  3 . Way not jsut see it for what it is, fantastically brutal racing that makes for great viewing!

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Paul J [884 posts] 3 years ago
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Contador must have had a good meal on his rest day, to beef up his performance...

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notfastenough [3685 posts] 3 years ago
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Medium-rare please!

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Pedals [36 posts] 3 years ago
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This years Vuleta has been the best grand tour this year to watch, so regardless of what you think of Bertie and Valverde you cant deny its been exciting! and if your not watching it just because you dont like contador or agree with him racing then your missing out on a truly gripping race!
I've watched all of the Giro, all of the TdF and the Vuleta and this one is by far the most enjoyable! And it is usually my least favorite to watch!

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notfastenough [3685 posts] 3 years ago
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I suppose this is the problem, really. TV audiences and big-money sponsorship deals are driven by big entertaining rides, grand victories akin to battling gladiators slugging it out for the spoils. Yet, in an endurance sport where a single event can last three weeks, how can athletes do anything more than eke out small time bonuses from stage wins, or gaps in time trials? There is a way, but are we turning a blind eye to it by appreciating this race as being more exciting than others?

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SideBurn [890 posts] 3 years ago
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 13 Wow; I have not seen anyone do that since the Hinault days! What a stage! Just like Contador I had an angel and a devil on my shoulders; but my devil was saying, "Drugs". Hopefully we can move on from that shamefull episode in cycling history.

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drheaton [3318 posts] 3 years ago
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Everyone's saying that this years TdF was the cleanest in years, but also the most boring in years.

Now the Vuelta is the most exciting in years mostly thanks to convicted dopers.

What do we want? A clean but boring sport or a dirty but exciting one? Sadly I'm not sure we can have both.

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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There must surely now be enough 'clean' teams to say - "Sod you lot - we will set up our own schedule and race against each other" whilst leaving the 'old skool' lot to skip up and down the mountains of Europe on pixie dust and magic moonbeams.
As has been noted elsewhere, the balance of power is shifting to the English speaking nations and if Sky, BMC, OGE and Garmin put their weight behind it im sure they could get a serious programme together. I dont how the UCI would figure in this 'plan' that i have just thought up but we can leave the details to others!
 26

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 3 years ago
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Drug taking bar stewards they maybe, but as already mentioned, it does make for thrilling viewing ...

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drheaton [3318 posts] 3 years ago
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Some Fella wrote:

There must surely now be enough 'clean' teams to say - "Sod you lot - we will set up our own schedule and race against each other" whilst leaving the 'old skool' lot to skip up and down the mountains of Europe on pixie dust and magic moonbeams.

The problem is, which of those two sets of races would most people rather watch? The slow attritional 'Sky' tours, or the explosive, exciting, drug-fueled riots of the 'Spanish' tours?

Also, who gets the TdF, Giro and Vuelta? Without those races any new body or set of races set up is pointless.

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_SiD_ [162 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree with a previous comment about Nicholas Roche - disappointed he's getting involved with Bjarne Riis - always amazes me how he's so 'respected' and 'central' in world cycling.

I like it when riders have a bad day and blow up like yesterday, that's what should happen on a GC.
I'm always sceptical of 'unbelievable' 'superhuman' performances, especially after 3 brutal, brutal mountain stages. It's all gone a bit Floyd Landis at the Vuelta?

Like a hollywood blockbuster,I'm enjoying it, but not necessarily believing every word.

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Alan Tullett [1568 posts] 3 years ago
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Safe and sane cyclist wrote:

Yes, Contador and Valdeverde ride away from the field having returned from their suspensions for doping/blood doping. Both are unrepentant cheats, so it fills one with enthusiasm for Spanish practices. I also felt that the display by Rodriguez was decidedly odd given that he had had stated before the stage that he must stay with Contador - in fact that is all he needed to do. The sight of the admitted drug cheat team manager Riis feeding bags and sustenance to all and sundry in the group which was supporting Contador turned my stomach.

But Vaughters is also now an admitted drug cheat. Is he that bad?

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