Alberto Contador continued his personal campaign to return pro cycling back to the days of bold attacks and improvisational aggression. Like Don Quixote, the fictional character in Miguel Cervantes’ famous novel, he tilts not at windmills, but power meters.
He took off again, off the front on stage 19 of this otherwise Sky-numbed Vuelta a Espana. While second placed Vincenzo Nibali sat quietly behind five Sky riders and their captain Chris Froome, Contador danced away. While third place WIlco Kelderman was content to follow wheels instead of expend a single angry watt, the Spaniard flew away.
It was thirty seconds at one point, promising, hopeful, another blow against conformity and the careful conservation of energy. Contador, as the cycling cliché explains, was leaving it all out on the road – his heart and soul, his career, his reputation, his legacy. He went full gas, the Hell with sitting in – there was an entertainment show’ to put on and fireworks to blast off.
At the top of the Alto de San Martín de Huerces, he picked up a waiting Edward Theuns, the Trek Segafredo teammate who had buried himself for Contador a few stages earlier. It was déjà vu all over again. They hit the descent hard with Theuns in full aero-crouch over his top tube; whenever the speed dropped, Contador would jump out of the saddle, teeth bared, to ramp up the velocity.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be, he was caught in the final kilometers, but not for lack for trying. While Nibali seems to have placed his meager hopes on an Angrilu miracle, the kind that magically erases a 1:37 deficit, Contador, in 5th on the general classification, is in no mood for cruise control.
He wants a stage, that last spot on the podium, a final, brilliant and bold curtain call. If the French love the second placed rider with panache more than the formulaic winner, do the Spanish fans feel the same way? Is anyone passionately shouting at the top of their lungs, “Come on, Froomey, hold the nice steady tempo!”, “Go Sky, go, let’s buy this race and be done! Hip hip, hooray for 30 million in operating budget.”
The fearsome Angrilu awaits – most likely the final triumph of Froome — and one last windmill for Contador to attack.