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Alberto Contador ended his season on Monday after a crash at Giro di Lombardia dinged his right knee. But his wildly successful 2014 campaign saw him win a sixth grand tour, proving he is still among the sport’s elite.
Contador hit the deck after a pileup on the final turn ahead of the line in Bergamo. He finished 34th in what would be his final ride of the season. He will finish 2014 as the world’s second place rider, ranked behind compatriot Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who regained the lead with a second-place finish on Sunday.
Hearing that Contador would not contest the Tour of Beijing, Valverde has also opted not to travel to China for the season’s final WorldTour event.
All told, Contador is happy with his season, and with good reason. His only true setback was abandoning the Tour de France on stage 10.
“The assessment of the season has been really good, except for the Tour de France, which didn’t finish as I would have preferred. The rest of the season has been very satisfying with good results throughout the year, so I’m happy, and I have to say that it has been possible because of a lot of hard work. This has been one of the toughest seasons of my career, but it paid off with some great results,” the Tinkoff-Saxo rider said via a team release.
Indeed, the 2014 season saw the Spaniard return with aplomb. In addition to the Vuelta, he won Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of the Basque Country. He finished second at the Volta ao Algarve, the Volta a Catalunya, and the Critérium du Dauphiné, after a daring attack by Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) earned the American the top step.
Ever the racer, Contador did express some regret over having to alter his calendar though he did take a parting shot at the Tour of Beijing, which is in its final year.
“Ending the year like this is something I don’t like, because I had a schedule and now I have to interrupt it again,” Contador said. “The Tour of Beijing is not among the most important races on the calendar, but I have to focus on my knee. As a result, I want to stop and make sure that it’s in good condition before I begin preparing for 2015.”
According to the team, Contador is slated to undergo tests on his knee. Next season’s Giro d’Italia remains his first target of the season, as he looks to pull off the Giro-Tour de France double.
Looking to next season, it’s a safe assumption the 98th running of the Giro will suit Contador, as well-rounded and crafty a GC rider as there is in the modern peloton. The 2015 route features a long time trial at nearly 60 kilometers and five high mountain stages.
- Anyone got an extra lying around?
Astana took itself out of the Tour of Beijing on Monday, electing to “self-suspend” in light of two recent positive tests for the banned blood-booster EPO that ensnared two brothers on the team.
The decision comes in accordance with the rules of the Movement for Cycling Credible (MPCC), a group to which Astana and some other pro teams — but not all — belong. Astana riders Valentin Iglinskiy and his brother Maxim both tested positive for EPO in a 12-month period; Valentin tested positive at the Eneco Tour this season on August 11 and Maxim on August 1, after he finished the Tour de France, helping Vincenzo Nibali to a yellow jersey.
The suspension kicked in when Maxim elected to not have his B-sample tested (neither brother elected to fight his positive test). While the move benches the team immediately and for Beijing, the final WorldTour event of the season, it allows the Astana squad to race next season’s opener, the Santos Tour Down Under. According to the MPCC’s website the suspension runs from Oct. 10-17. Astana is also out of the Tour of Emilia and GP Bruno Beghelli.
It was initially thought that Astana would miss out on Lombardia and its home race, the Tour of Almaty one-day in Kazakhstan. It participated in both this past weekend, and its rider Alexey Lutsenko won the Almaty race.
“The MPCC has established, on the basis of commitment and volunteerism, a more stringent settlement than international bodies. In this context, Astana team, which have adhered to MPCC since 2013, apply the regulation, which provides self-suspension from the team for a period of eight days, from the first day of the next WorldTour race,” the MPCC statement reads. “The whole team will be off during this period. This temporary suspension of the team’s activities is to implement any corrective action they deem appropriate.”
Astana is the third team to suspend itself under MPCC rules; Ag2r-La Mondiale had to sit out the the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné and RusVelo didn’t start last year’s Giro dell’Appennino.
“The MPCC has implemented on a voluntary basis, a regulation more stringent than international bodies,” said MPCC chair Roger Legeay. Team general manager Alexandre Vinokourov said he is “disappointed and angered” about the incidents.
Maxim Iglinskiy finished 26th at Clasica San Sebastian the day after the sample was taken. The Kazakh is best known for winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2012 ahead of Nibali.
Valentin Iglinskiy admitted to using banned substances “on his own initiative and independently, without any consultation from the Astana Pro Team staff.”
“In its wish for full transparency, Astana Pro Team has refused to defend a rider who failed to respect the rules and ethics as stipulated in his contract and who has failed to behave in a manner consistent with other riders in his team and within professional cycling,” an earlier team statement said. “With the immediate expulsion of Valentin Iglinskiy, the management and staff at Astana Pro Team confirm our commitment to clean cycling without doping.”
American Astana rider Evan Huffman took to Twitter to express his disappointment. “Really disappointed to miss out on Beijing. That brings my 2014 season to an end and also my time with Astana,” he wrote, and followed with, “Already looking forward to 2015. I’ll be moving back to the U.S. and hopefully winning some races again, especially on the TT bike …”