It is called the "race of truth" for a reason. The Individual Time Trial is cycling's equivalent of confession; a bearing of the soul, displaying all a rider's strengths and unveiling all his weaknesses.
In today's 40.5 kilometer effort, Alberto Contador (Astana) showed more strength than weakness in winning the Stage 18 Individual Time Trial around Lake Annecy.
The 26-year-old Spainard whose trademark single shot salute has become an all too familiar sight at the end of mountain stages looked to have brought out the machine gun as he unloaded on the rest of the peloton besting everyone's time at each interval. Contador would finish ahead of Olympic and former World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) by three seconds, and Mikhail Ignatiev (Team Katusha), who set the early best time on the road by fifteen seconds.
Stage 18 Results
1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana - 0:48:31
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank - 0:00:03
3. Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Team Katusha - 0:00:15
5. David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream
6. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream
9. Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
10. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin - Slipstream
11. Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - HTC
12. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto
16. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
19. Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - HTC
20. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia - HTC
21. Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
24. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream
34. George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia - HTC
35. Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
39. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Astana
43. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Slipstream
54. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank
70. Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
119. Danny Pate (USA) Garmin - Slipstream
151. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Slipstream
Lost In Translation
Two years ago, Alberto Contador was the darling of the professional cycling world. Handpicked by Johan Bruyneel to succeed Lance Armstrong as Discovery Channel's Tour leader, the then 24-year-old was seen as a veritable Spanish carbon copy of the retiring "patron of the peloton," replete with his own life threatening back story. He would even deliver at the 2007 Tour de France in Armstrong-esque fashion; dancing on the pedals and time trialing with turbine like cadence.
A political power play would exclude Contador and his Astana teammates from the 2008 edition of the Tour, but he, and they, would win seemingly every race of their choosing, including the 2008 Giro d'Italia and the 2008 Vuelta a Espana.
After today's Individual Time Trial in Annecy, the Spaniard with the infectious smile is on the verge of winning his second consecutive Tour de France and his fourth consecutive grand tour.
But, instead of being lauded and held up by the the world of cycling as the great champion that his immense talents and skills bear him out to be, he has all but been vilified and even dogged by a litany of performance enhancing allegations. Some may point to the fact that he brought these issues upon himself; unable to deal with the return of Armstrong in a mature and diplomatic way, Contador has allowed the seeds of doubt to fully take root and let his ego get the better of him. He has been a quiet, but divisive force, attacking his teammates on the road outside of the team construct, and therefore never ingratiating himself to them.
To read the Spanish papers, this is all the American's fault. But until Contador is able to embrace the sentiments of the French philosopher, Charles de Montesquieu, who once stated that “to become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them,” then he will never be considered the great champion that he deems himself to be, in any language.
General Classification After Stage 18
1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana - 73:15:39
2. Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank - 0:04:11
3. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana - 0:05:25
4. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream - 0:05:36
5. Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana - 0:05:38
6. Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank - 0:05:59
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas - 0:07:15
8. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream - 0:10:08
9. Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi - 0:12:38
10. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux - 0:12:41
Next: Stage 19 - Bourgoin-Jallieu to Aubenas (178 km)
A classic transition stage. Will the contenders for podium spots come out to play before the dreaded Mont Ventoux?
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