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Alberto Contador said he was happy after his attack on stage eight of the Tour de France allowed him to gain time on all his yellow jersey rivals.
AFP/Kare Dehlie Thorstad
The Spaniard managed to claw back just three seconds on race leader Vincenzo Nibali but his burst left other overall contenders strung out behind him and allowed the 31-year-old to move up from 16th to sixth in the standings. The Tinkoff-Saxo team leader trails Nibali by 2min 34sec. “It was the first mountain stage and I needed to test the others,” said the two-time former Tour winner. “My team worked exceptionally well, I tried, I felt good, I gave it a go.”
Italian Nibali was the one rider who was able to stick to Contador’s wheel as the Spaniard danced on his peddles up the brutal 10.3 percent gradient final climb. But Contador still managed to drop him in the last 100 meters to take back
three seconds, having lost more than 2:30 on Wednesday’s cobbled stage. And he said he wasn’t disappointed to have not managed to gain more time on the short 1.8km final climb. “There’s not much between us, I didn’t expect to leave him by the side of the road. It wasn’t very long. “Yes, I wanted to see what shape he’s in. It was a surprise to see him so close behind me.”
Contador finished second on the stage behind runaway winner Blel Kadri, the first French stage victor at this year’s Tour, but at one point the Spaniard wondered if he was going to win. “I didn’t know if there was someone in front, whether I was riding for the stage win or not, so I accelerated. “Then I saw there was someone in front but I thought I would take a bit of time back. “I’m happy because the team was excellent, my legs were good. We’ll see day by day, Nibali’s a great rider, as are others. “I need to claw back time and we’ll see what happens.”
Nibali blamed the loss of three seconds on selecting the wrong gear in the steep finish. “It’s looking good, today was a tough finish which didn’t suit my characteristics — I’m not explosive,” said the Astana leader. “I tried to respond to all of Alberto’s attacks and I’m mostly happy but in the last 100 meters he got the right gear and I didn’t and he got three seconds.”
With two more days in the Vosges to come before the race hits the Alps, Nibali expects more to come from Contador. “For sure Alberto will try again, this was only the first uphill finish. It was just a taster. “Tomorrow (Sunday) will be a nervous day, there will likely be a breakaway but Monday is more important. “I’m in great condition, I responded to all Alberto’s attacks and stayed close to him. That’s great, there’s tougher climbs to come.”