Alberto Contador is back in winning form…
Only two months after leaving the Tour de France with a leg fracture, the 31-year-old Spanish professional cyclist – one of six riders to have won all three Grand Tours of road cycling – rebounded in style by winning his sixth grand tour title after protecting his lead Sunday on the 21st and final stage of the Vuelta a España.
Contador won his home race for a third time, to go with two Tour de France victories and one Giro d’Italia title.
Contador entered the concluding 9.7-kilometer (6-mile) individual time trial with a strong lead of 1 minute, 37 seconds over fellow former Tour de France winner Chris Froome and focused on avoiding any slips on the rain-slick streets.
Adriano Malori of Italy won the stage, taking advantage of his early start under dry conditions before a shower burst over the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela.
Froome, who also entered the race after injuries forced him to withdraw from the Tour, finished the race second.
Former winner Alejandro Valverde completed the podium.
Contador’s first grand tour win was at the Giro in 2008, the same year he won the Vuelta for the first time. He won the Vuelta a second time in 2012.
Contador won the Tour in 2007 and 2009, but was stripped of a third Tour win 2010 for doping. He has now won two major titles since then, both at the Vuelta.
Contador had concentrated on reclaiming the Tour this year, but his plans were dashed when he fell during its 10th stage and fractured his right shin on July 15. He withdrew and soon after said that he wouldn’t be in shape to ride in the Vuelta either.
But a week before the race started Contador announced he had been training for 10 days without pain and had decided to compete in the final grand tour of the year. Even so, Contador said he had ruled on fighting for the win.
The final stage was held in Santiago instead of the traditional finish in Madrid. The finish line was in the square in front of Santiago’s cathedral, the end point of the Way of St. James, “El Camino de Santiago,” pilgrimage trail.
Contador was given the traditional pilgrims cape, hat and staff on the podium, which he sportingly put on for the crowd.