Alberto Contador is not going to win the 2016 Vuelta a España, but he may have decided who will after a daring breakaway over the weekend.
The two-time Tour de France, two-time Giro d’Italia, three-time Vuelta winner is a legend in the world of cycling at this point, but going into stage 15 of the Vuelta this year, with Nairo Quintana in control of the race, it didn’t look like he would be able to manage any better than sixth place.
The 2016 Tour de France will be remembered for the control shown by Team Sky over the race and the seeming ease with which Froome roamed home to glory. The 2016 Vuelta on the other hand, will not.
Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador attacked a mere 6km from the start the start line. Movistar’s Nairo Quintana clocked on and with two teammates each, away the duo went.
Forcing Froome to sprint after them and breaking again just a couple of kilometres later, the powerhouse duo opened up over a minute on Chris Froome early on in the race, and effectively paved the way for Quintana’s first victory on the Tour of Spain.
The attack saw Contador and Quintana team up to drive to the bottom of the 14.5km climb to end stage 15, and put the Spaniard in a much stronger position with regards to a podium finish, while Quintana built a lead of 3 minutes 37 over Froome on the 118.5km stage that will surely now see him win, with thanks to the help of the Spaniard.
Speaking after the race, Contador said: “I wasn’t so optimistic at the start because the climbs didn’t seem that difficult, but I attacked like crazy at the start. I didn’t even know who was on my wheel and I knew that it was a dangerous bet, but look at what happened... We re-wrote the script."
In the end, the final climb came down to just Quintana, Contador and Gianluca Brambilla of Etixx-Quick Step. The latter would win the stage, the former will probably now win the race, and though Contador would finish sixth on the day, the Spanish legend has shown just how big an impact he can have on a race – even when he’s not in the bid for the win.