Alberto Contador was satisfied with his display at the Abu Dhabi Tour and the Spaniard says his appearance in the Emirates had the desired effect as he looks ahead to the rest of the UCI WorldTour season.
The Trek–Segafredo mountain sensation – who along with Bahrain Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali is one of just two current riders to have won each of the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana – caused confusion on Stage 3 of the Tour when he failed to launch a sustained challenge for the win on the crucial Jebel Hafeet ascent.
Saturday’s penultimate leg is renowned for being crucial to the overall General Classification victory, but an attack from favourites such as Contador, Nairo Quintana, Nibali and Fabio Aru never materialized at UAE Team Emirates’ Rui Costa claimed a stage victory that also set up overall triumph.
The 34-year-old Contador finished just over a minute back in 12th place but, having not initially been scheduled to participate in the UAE, claims he is good shape for Paris–Nice which begins on Sunday.
“It’s a race I like a lot. Now I go with a clear head to fight for the victory and we’ll see how I get on,” Contador said of the 75th edition edition of one of cycling’s most iconic races.
“At the end of the day, I decided to come to this race (Abu Dhabi Tour) at the last minute. When we decided to come here it was to gather speed. I had a training camp lined up between Andalucia and Paris-Nice, but we swapped it for this race to get the speed in the legs.
“And that’s what we did. There was a clear leader, Bauke (Mollema), and we had to get behind his chances.”
Portuguese rider Costa, who claimed a maiden race title for his team, having only come into existence in December, won a two man sprint on the Al Ain mountaintop against Katusha-Alpecin opponent Ilnur Zakarin.
The expected showdown between the favourites never unfolded. With teammate Mollema up near the front, Contador was not willing to give too much chase.
He instead stayed as close to Movistar’s Quintana as possible, so that the Colombian would not take the win.
“I’m a rider who likes to attack, but in this case, the better situation was this one,” added Contador, a multiple winner of each of cycling’s three Grand Tours (Tour de France 2007 & 2009; Giro 2008 & 2015; Vuelta 2008, 2012 & 2014).
“We have multiple cards in the team and we played them. For me, (Saturday) a different situation presented itself. At the end of the day, I’m often the most offensive rider, the one who launches a lot of attacks. (Saturday) it was the opposite role for me.
“It’s a role that I like, partly because I’m not so accustomed to doing it. But also I like it because my teammates then have more options.
“The truth is the sensations were good. Coming almost straight from Ruta (Vuelta a Andalucia, where he finished second overall) with the travel and the time changes, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. But the truth is I felt very good.
“(Saturday) we played the card of Bauke, which was good for us, and it was down to me to control the race. I knew that Nairo was the most dangerous rider, I knew that if I managed to control things for Bauke, it would be best way to make an impact.
“In the end, they took a lot of time up front, and Bauke wasn’t able to make it up. But still, it was good, another day of training.”
The third edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour and the first since the event was awarded WorldTour status proved worthy of the sensational field of top riders who assembled at Yas Marina Circuit last week.
As expected, the 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour was the biggest and best since the race’s inception – and one whose scale and impact is demonstrated by the facts and figures below.
The 22-year-old Orica-Scott rider clenched his fists and let out an audible roar as he crossed the finish line under the lights of Yas Marina Circuit safely in first place.
It was a nice way to end the Tour for the young Aussie after he raised his arms in premature celebration on Friday’s Stage 2 thinking he had won the stage, only to admit a rookie error that saw him pipped by half a bike wheel on the line at Al Marina which engulfed him in embarrassment.
Ewan admitted the error had been playing on his mind and he joked with reporters after his victory that he kept cycling well beyond the line just to make sure he had been successful.
“I think I sprinted past the line just to make sure,” he added, after claiming the final stage win of the Tour ahead of Team Dimension Data rider Mark Cavendish and Lotto Soudal’s Andre Greipel.
“It did go through my mind the whole race (not to raise my arms at the line), to make sure I sprint the whole way past the line just to make sure there was no repeat of Stage 2. “
It had been a nightmare start to the Tour for the youngster. A crash on the opening stage saw him finish well down the field, and then came his horrible mistake the following day.
Despite last night’s win, Ewan admitted the thought of coming away with two stage wins will stay with him for a while.
“I’ll forget about the crash obviously. There’s still a bit of disappointment at the fact I could’ve had two stage wins,” he said.
“I think it’s more disappointing that it wasn’t a fault in my form or performance, it was a really silly mistake and I think it will annoy me for a little bit, but it would annoy me more if I didn’t win today.
“But winning today and beating those guys will help me get over that al lot easier.”
Ultimately, Ewan was just pleased he could make up for Friday’s mistake with his hard-working team-mates.
“It feels great to get the win and repay my team for what I did on Friday,” he added.
“To be honest, after the (second) stage I was a bit worried they’d be angry with me but they all laughed it off. I think if I had done it again today then there would’ve been a problem.
“They’re a great bunch of people and they probably knew I was bashing myself up over it. They were joking around a little bit but it was all good.”