How it Happened:
15 KM to go: Valgren on the front, pulling the Peloton along. The break is caught.
10 KM to go: The riders are descending at breakneck speed, Nieve is at the back from a puncture, SKY are nowhere, Paulinho is on the front driving the tempo.
7.5 KM to go: Ivan Basso sprints and pulls four others clear on the earliest slopes. Intxausti, Mate, Bardet and his teammate Contador. He goes again, bringing only Contador.
7.2 KM to go: Contador, grimacing goes it alone. Basso won't be seen again, he'll be 4 minutes down and 30th at the finish.
7.1 KM to go: Kennaugh has caught the Bardet group, and is pulling it as Basso plummets past.
6.8 KM to go: Contador and Kennagh sprint, but Kennaugh slows and the gap grows. Froome is visible in the third group.
4.7 KM to go: Froome, elbows out, eyes unwaveringly ogling his stem, in a tiny gear, catches the second group.
4.3 KM to go: Froome and Bardet pull clear.
4.2 KM to go: Froome drops Bardet.
3.5 KM to go: The gap yo-yos between 25 seconds and 32 seconds.
0.1 KM to go: The road descends, Contador takes his hands off the bars, the pistol salute, the first win.
0 KM to go: Froome comes in 19 seconds down. Bardet is third, 1:41 behind, a huge gap. Intxausti is fourth, two minutes behind.
A dominating performance by Contador, unusual for him in early-season races. Fitting, as this is an unusual early-season race. Usually we have short, punchy climbs in Andalucia, and puncheurs like Kwiatkowski win, and don't challenge in stage races for the rest of the year. Yesterday, there was a different scenario, known as the Alto de Hazallanas. 8 kilometres at 10 %, with sections at 18 dwarf the usual spring ascents such as the Alto do Malhao (2.8km) or Jabal al Akhdhar (5km, but steep).
But is such early-season form wise? From some hasty research, only two riders have ever won one of the February races and gone on to win a Grand Tour - and none won the Ruta. Froome, of course, beat Contador in Oman in 2012, and Contador won the Volta ao Algarve in 2009. Contador wants to win two.
Froome has been saying all week that he doesn't expect to be anywhere close to Contador, they have different objectives. Form is a hard thing to find, and Contador needs more of it. Isn't it a waste to use it all here? Yes, his race programme is light, with only two more stage races until the Giro, but to set a time faster than an on-form Nibali in 2012 in February is too much. If he continues to ride like that, he will win the Giro, but not the Tour. Remember 2011?
Thirty years ago, as many riders say, they would go to the Tour Mediterranean and race with woolen legwarmers. They wouldn't care about results, they would ride to get miles in the legs. But cycling is a different sport now, more commercial. Victories are needed to satisfy sponsors more than ever. After all, Contador's flamboyant victory was his team's first of the year.
Today we go to the Alto de Allanadas, and we'll see how Contador chooses to ride.
If Contador rides like he did yesterday in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya, he will not win the Tour. It is not possible to win every race you enter beforehand, and do so. That, at least, is my opinion. It would be riding full-bore for 6 months, which is impossible.