Alberto Contador can go uphill, sure, but he’s also impressive coming down, too.
The Vuelta al Pais Vasco is underway after a brilliant stage this morning. The loop in the foothills of Elgoibar set alight the stage race that is too often forget between the Ronde van Vlanderaan and Paris-Roubaix.
The lumpy race started off with a rolling route perfectly tailored for the GC favorites looking to test their climbing legs. Along with Contador, Samuel Sanchez, Peter Velits, Jakob Fuglsang, Tony Martin and others took the start line, though many of the riders hold different ambitions for the tour.
Lighting it up in familiar fashion was Contador. After learning that Samuel Sanchez and a host of others had been distanced, Contador and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff teammate and Super Czech Roman Kreuziger went to the fore. The sweeping, snaking descent is a classic for local races and makes occasional appearances in the Pais Vasco. Contador is a lot of things, and rides every race with impossible question marks, but is certainly one of the most exciting characters on a bike.
His drilling on the descent broke up the lead group and pulled away seventeen riders clear for a small but important gap on everyone else. Stage winner Simon Gerrans certainly took advantage, waltzing to a tight win over Peter Velits. Velits, in particular, will be a GC threat and will be satisfied to put some time between himself and Sanchez, Andrew Talansky, Ryder Hesjedal and more than a few big, big names.