Contador’s surprise attack revives Tour hopes

GAP, France, (Reuters) – Just as the Tour de France  seemed to be cruising peacefully towards the Alps, Alberto Contador rocked the peloton yesterday with an unexpected attack that revived his hopes of a fourth victory in the race.

Saxo Bank rider Alberto Contador of Spain (R) cycles ahead of Europcar rider and race leader Thomas Voeckler of France (2nd R) and Leopard rider Andy Schleck of Luxembourg (C), BMC rider Cadel Evans of Australia (2L) and Leopard rider Frank Schleck of Luxembourg (L) during the 16th stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Gap at the Tour de France 2011 cycling race yesterday.REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The Spaniard, unbeaten in all the grand Tours he has entered  since 2007, threw down the gauntlet on the climb to the Col de  Manse in the 16th stage and, although he lost three seconds to  rival Cadel Evans in the descent, he regained lost ground on the  Schleck brothers and Ivan Basso.

While a big move by one of the contenders was not expected  before today’s Alpine stage to Pinerolo, Contador caught  most of his rivals off guard.

“He had an opportunity today and he took it. It’s what  champions do,” his Saxo Bank-Sungard sports director Philippe  Mauduit told reporters.        The move had been planned at the morning team meeting and  Contador stuck to the plan, reviving a race that had been dozing  into a waiting game between the favourites.

“We planned to attack if possible. He wanted to give it a  try,” said team manager Bjarne Riis, who encouraged Contador to  repeat his attacks as Basso and the Schleck brothers were  clearly struggling to sustain the pace.

“I told him ‘they’re all dead, you have to continue’,” he  explained.        Contador, who is now sixth overall 3:42 behind Thomas  Voeckler of France, was satisfied that he managed to finally  attack his rivals.    “I was solid, my legs were good,” he said.

“A day like today, (your rivals) may think you will attack  or that you will not. I was trying to surprise them.     “To me, it was clear from the start that I would try my  luck, even though I did not know what I would gain.”

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