Spain’s Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) widened his advantage over his Giro d’Italia rivals today in the mountain-top stage to Grossglockner, Austria. He finished behind stage winner Jose Rujano, but a minute and a half over his classification rivals.
The leader’s pink jersey looks likely to be his in Milan next Sunday if he continues in the same manner. However, a doping case hangs over his head and will be ruled upon next month. His colleagues, including Sky’s Thomas Lofkvist, have questioned if he should really be racing and winning in Italy giving a potential doping suspension.
“I’ve already talked to him [Lofkvist], and he’s explained the situation to me,” Contador responded to Cycling Weekly in a press conference today. “There’s different way to interpert those words.”
Lofkvist told the Swedish news agency TT that Contador “has the right to be here and compete as the rules now stand. But it is so annoying that if, in three weeks, they rule that he must be suspended. It’s wrong.”
He added that the rules should be re-written to avoid such situations.
Contador tested positive for banned drug, clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France. The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) acquitted him on February 15, but the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
He signed a contract to race with Bjarne Riis’ Saxo Bank-SunGard this year and next. He maintains his innocence and claims the positive result came from eating a contaminated steak bought in Irún, Spain.
Athletes use clenbuterol to lose weight and breathe easier. There are also reports that the drug may have entered Contador’s system via a blood transfusion.
Contador faces two more hard mountain stages, Monte Zoncolan tomorrow and Gardeccia on Sunday, and another week’s racing. Today, he attacked his rivals with 8.4 kilometres to race on Austria’s highest mountain, Grossglockner.
Rivals Roman Kreuziger, Michele Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali finished sixth to eighth, but 1’36″ back. With time bonuses, Contador gained 1’48″ and now leads the overall by 3’09″ over Nibali.
“Maybe now it’s only a race for second or third,” Kreuziger’s sports director at Astana told Cycling Weekly. “We need less mountains to beat Contador.”
CAS’s rules are not clear, but if it finds Contador guilty, it may strip him of his potential Giro win in addition to his win last year at the Tour de France.