Nine Grand Tour stages that defined Alberto Contador’s career
We look back at the most memorable moments of Alberto Contador's controversial career
One of the finest stage racers of his generation, Alberto Contador will retire after the 2017 Vuelta a España to bring the curtain down on an 16 year professional career that saw him win seven Grand Tours.
With a doping ban for clenbuterol wiping out his results from much of 2010 and 2011, Contador was a controversial figure for many, but will also be remembered for the aggressive racing that won him many fans.
2007 Tour de France – stage 14
Alberto Contador‘s first Grand Tour victory was overshadowed by the withdrawal of Michael Rasmussen from the Tour de France as Rabobank sacked him for lying about his whereabouts in the build-up to the race. But before then Contador had shown his exceptional potential with a scintillating climbing performance on Plateau de Beille.
The only rider able to follow an attack by Rasmussen early on the climb, Contador then launched a trademark acceleration of his own, jumping clear before Rasmussen bridged across. The two riders then collaborated to the top where Contador out-sprinted the yellow jersey to win his first Tour stage.
2008 Giro d’Italia – stage 21
Heading to Italy for his first shot at the Giro d’Italia, Contador rode consistently through the first two weeks, eventually taking the pink jersey on stage 15.
Contador then rode strongly in a mountain time trial to extend his lead over Riccardo Ricco to 44 seconds heading into the final week, but found that cut to just four seconds in the penultimate stage after aggressive riding from Ricco and Danilo Di Luca.
Despite the slender lead, Contador was still the favourite heading into the final time trial, but still managed to exceed expectations with an assured ride that saw him an impressive eleventh on the stage and win the race overall by nearly two minutes.
2009 Tour de France – stage 15
Despite the presence of the likes of Andy and Frank Schleck and Bradley Wiggins, Alberto Contador’s biggest threat came at the 2009 Tour de France came from within his own team: Lance Armstrong, back in professional cycling in search of what would be (at that time at least) his eighth Tour victory.
However Contador put an end to that on stage 15’s summit finish to Verbier.
Armstrong initially chased down Contador as the Spaniard followed an early attack by Andy Schleck. The American had no answer when Contador launched a vicious acceleration with 5.5km remaining, arriving solo at the finish to win the stage by 43 seconds, and setting up a second Tour victory that was all but secured with a dominant time trial on the banks of Lake Annecy three days later.
2010 Tour de France – stage 15
One of the most controversial moments of Contador’s career, the Astana rider went into stage with a 31-second deficit to the yellow jersey of Andy Schleck, but was able to open a gap after Schleck suffered a dropped chain on the climb of the Port de Balès.
Despite Schleck’s frantic chase on the descent towards Bagnères-de-Luchon, Contador moved into the yellow jersey by eight seconds, eventually winning the race by 39 seconds – the exact amount of time he gained on stage 15.
However Schleck would still eventually be declared the Tour winner after Contador tested positive for clenbuterol.
2011 Giro d’Italia – stage nine
Another race which would eventually be taken away from him due to the clenbuterol positive, Contador still rode the 2011 Giro d’Italia despite the ongoing legal wrangling over a possible ban, moving into the race lead with a dominant performance on the race’s first major summit finish.
On the road to Mount Etna, Contador’s first attack of the race saw him instantly gap all his rival, winning at the summit by nearly a minute in a performance that set the tone for the rest of the race.
By Milan, Contador was more than six minutes ahead of Michele Scarponi, although Scarponi would later be given the win as part of Contador’s retrospective ban.
2011 Tour de France – stage 19
Two months later and Contador headed to the Tour in search of a historic double, and found himself at the centre of one of the most exciting Tours in years with Thomas Voeckler in the yellow jersey going into the final mountain stage.
Contador went into the 109.5km stage to Alpe d’Huez with a 3-50 deficit to Voeckler and nothing to lose, attacking after just 16km as the race hit the Col du Télégraphe.
He was caught on the Galibier, but went on the attack once again on the lower slopes of Alpe d’Huez eventually finishing third on the stage as tiredness caught up with him in the final three kilometres of the summit finish.
2012 Vuelta a España – stage 17
Of all Alberto Contador’s 825 race days in his professional career, stage 17 of the 2012 Vuelta a España was perhaps the best, with a vintage long-range attack propelling him into the race lead and setting up his second Vuelta victory.
Going into the stage in second place, 28 seconds behind Joaquim Rodriguez, Contador launched his attack 50km out from the summit finish at Fuente Dé, bridging across various groups and eventually crossing the line to win the stage alone.
Alejandro Valverde was six seconds behind on the day, but Contador had put nearly three minutes into Rodriguez, setting up his second Vuelta victory.
2015 Giro d’Italia – stage 16
Contador’s victory in the 2015 Giro d’Italia was probably the most gritty of his seven Grand Tour wins as he came back from dislocating his shoulder on stage six and another pile-up in the closing kilometres of stage 13 that saw him relinquish the pink jersey to Fabio Aru.
The long time trial on stage 14 saw him move back into pink, but stage 16 was ultimately where Contador produced his best performance.
After puncturing at the base of the Passo di Motirolo, Contador found himself nearly a minute behind Fabio Aru, but was able to catch back on, before attacking with Steven Kruiswijk and Mikel Landa to put nearly three minutes into Aru by the end of the day.
2016 Vuelta a España – stage 15
While most expected the 118.5km stage 15 to come down the summit finish to Formigal, Alberto Contador had other ideas as he attacked from the gun, going away with Nairo Quintana and a number of other riders, while Chris Froome was caught on the wrong side of the split.
Ultimately the attack mainly helped Quintana extend his lead over Froome and provided enough of an advantage for the Colombian to win the race overall, but it also gave one of the last glimpses of a vintage Contador performance, even if it wasn’t enough for the Spaniard to finish on the podium in Madrid.