As the race went into the rest day after three brutal, cruel days in the mountains, experts said the race was over.Alberto Contador, fresh from a retroactive two year suspension and 6 months without racing, was written off. Terrible idea.
No rider in the professional peloton is ambitious and attacking a rider as Contador, and he proved it once again on Stage 17. With a number of teammates tucked into a large breakaway up the road, Contador went away in the final kilometers of the days second to last climb. Race leader Joaquin Rodriguez and third place Alejandro Valverde formed a chase group briefly before being swept up by a larger chase group just as Contador made his way into a leading group up the road.
Rodriguez was on his last legs and began to cough up huge amounts of time. Valverde and a teammate gave chase, eventually clawing back to just 6 seconds down on the line high atop a CAT 2 mountain. Contador danced his way out of the large chase group, then again from former teammate Paolo Tiralongo as he neared the last 3km. Rodriguez came in slumped over his bars and well-beaten. His heroic 13 days in red end with Contador taking over the lead and Valverde leap-frogging him for second place.
Here’s some video of the closing moments of the race, including Contador’s enthusiastic victory salute as he crossed the line solo.