Having won the Critérium du Dauphiné prologue on Sunday Alberto Contador (Astana) went into today’s 49km as one of the hot favourites. The fact that he was beaten by Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) is not a surprise though, so much as the margin he conceded to the Slovenian champion. The Spanish champion finished in a disappointing sixth place today, 1’46” back.
Contador has won, or come close to winning, every time trial he has started this season, including a 33 second beating of Brajkovic over 15.1km in the Vuelta a Castilla y León in April. To lose such a huge amount to riders that he should expect to at least match, if not beat, is surprising to say the least, but the favourite for next month’s Tour de France had trouble explaining what went wrong.
“[I tried to] find my pace, especially at first,” he said. “I tried to regulate a little, but did not find my rhythm. It was an extremely rough road and although I thought to push a little at the end, it was a not super day.”
A number of riders came down in today’s stage, including Quick Step’s Dario Cataldo, who started the day in fifth place. The Italian finished the stage with the left leg of his skinsuit ripped open and grazing on his left side, a fate that Contador does not want to suffer with the Tour’s start in Rotterdam a little over three weeks away.
“In the curves I didn’t want to risk too much because I knew that was not the best time,” he said. “These days I'm trying little by little to get the pace of the Tour de France.”
Contador emphasised once again that he has come to the Dauphiné to prepare for his main target for the season next month. Losing the leader’s jersey today does not affect his overall plan. “As I’ve said since the first day,” he continued, “the goal here is to get ready for the Tour and, as in previous years, the way I have been preparing is ideal.
The fight for the general [classification] is for other riders,” he added, “in my case I will dedicate myself to watch from a little way behind, as a spectator”
A little later on the Spaniard posted the following on the social networking site Twitter: “Good test today, hard TT with a lot of wind, I missed the rhythm, but I am happy with the feelings. Congratulations to @JaniBrajkovic, very strong.”
From this last comment, Contador appears to be happy with his own condition, if a little dissatisfied with the result. The Spaniard’s form will be tested further in tomorrow’s stage, which finishes at the top of the 1st category climb to Risoul; if he loses 1’46” to Brajkovic there he may have to think again.