Sunday, June 6, 2010

Contador stays focused in Catalunya

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Saxo Bank cyclist Alberto Contador of Spain rides in the pack during the 166km first stage at the Tour of Catalunya in Lloret de Mar on Monday.

LLORET DE MAR, Spain - Alberto Contador ignored speculation about a possible International Cycling Union (UCI) appeal against the decision to clear him of any doping offense to finish 10th in the Tour of Catalunya's opening stage on Monday.

The Spaniard finished in the main pack, 28 sec behind solo winner Gatis Smukulis of Latvia on the hilly 166.9 stage starting and finishing in the coastal town of Lloret de Mar.

Experienced Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi led in the bunch to come second with Spain's Jose Rojas third.

"I'm just concentrating on racing, and not thinking about anything else," triple Tour de France winner Contador said before the start when asked about the doping controversy.

"Catalunya is a very tough, prestigious race, and a lot of my usual rivals in the Tour de France are here, too," Contador said.

"The Andorra stage on Wednesday is the hardest and will play a large part in deciding the overall winner."

Cleared by the Spanish federation last month of any doping offence, both the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) could yet appeal against the decision.

The UCI's deadline is March 24 and WADA has a further three weeks to decide after that.

Meanwhile, Contador continues to rack up victories, the latest coming in the Tour of Murcia this month.

"Alberto always races to win, but he hasn't raced that much this season," Contador's team manager, Bjarne Riis, said as he waited for the start in warm sunshine on Lloret de Mar's seafront.

"It's hard to say what'll happen here, Catalunya's got a strange route this year, it's a week long and it might end up being won on points."

As for the pending appeal, Riis agreed Contador and his Saxo Bank team had no option but to sit tight.

"We can't do anything," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

While Contador's waiting game continued, Smukulis was celebrating the first victory of his career.

The HTC-Highroad took off with three other riders in the first hour and stayed away alone to scoop the stage win, the overall lead and top spot in the King of the Mountains competition.

"It's the first stage, so it's harder for teams to get organized to start chasing breakaways," the 23-year-old said.

"But I was really surprised that I managed to stay away to the finish and outpace the pack. I was lucky."


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