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Contador Storms to Pais Vasco Victory

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The rain fell once again today in the Basque Country, but it couldn't stop Alberto Contador, who put in an imperious performance to win the GC along with the stage. This is his fourth victory of this race.

Contador in Paris-Nice KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images

After Stefan Denifl, Nicolas Edet and Dario Cataldo had all taken their share of time in the hot seat, Adam Yates was the first to set a truly competitive time, taking only thirty minutes and five seconds to complete the 16.5 kilometre course over the climb of Arrate, beating Cataldo by forty-one seconds. He would stay in the lead for quite a while, until his time was beaten by Nairo Quintana, eventually finishing best of the rest in fourth place.

Contador made his dominance felt early on in the time-trial, taking a huge lead on his rivals at the intermediate split. While Quintana had come in a few minutes earlier with a very fast time, El Pistolero blew it away, going 23 seconds ahead, and 46 seconds ahead of GC leader Sergio Henao on top of the climb to the Sanctuario de Arrate. He didn't let up afterwards either, descending quickly, and riding out of the saddle, sprinting almost all the way to the line.

Nairo Quintana also had an impressive time-trial, the fact that he made a very tactically questionable decision to change bikes to a full time-trial machine with only four minutes of the race to go. This move probably cost him the stage, since he crossed the line with 29:18 on the board...and his time was beaten minutes later by Contador, who came in only five seconds quicker than him in a 29:13. "It’s unbelievable," the Spaniard would say after crossing the line. "I wasn’t really sure where my form was coming into this race but it’s right where it needs to be. It’s only a handful of seconds but it’s still a very special feeling to win here and I’m really happy with my victory"

Joaquím Rodríguez and Thibaut Pinot could have been considered to have disappointed today, with the defending champion finishing in eighth, a minute and sixteen back, and the Frenchman only seven seconds and two places better off. Pinot especially was considered a favourite for this stage, having shown great time-trialling prowess in the Criterium International, coupled with his climbing skills showcased in this very race. Indeed, Rodríguez has had a rather disappointing season so far, considering that he had won a large stage race by this point of the season in each of the past two years, and the fifth in this race has constituted his best race of the season by some distance. Is he on target for the Ardennes?

When it comes to Contador, though, this is something of a breakthrough for this year. Finishing second to Thomas in Paris-Nice, and Quintana in Catalunya, he did not look on his best form, his attacks never seeming to cause unbridgeable gaps, and Quintana managed to drop him, and gain a significant advantage, in the final kilometre of Port Aine. Here, however, he seems to be finally hitting his stride. He succeeded in dropping Quintana on stage 5, and while he wasn't able to shake Henao on the road, the Sky rider is unlikely to be at the same point on his form's trajectory for the year. In the time-trial, he blew everyone away on the climb, and while yes, these climbs are not the ones you'll find in the Tour de France, and no, Froome isn't here, it's beginning to look a little better for Alberto Contador.

Stage Results:
1. ESP Alberto Contador TNK 29:13
2. COL Nairo Quintana MOV 0:05
3. COL Sergio Henao SKY 0:18
4. GBR Adam Yates OGE 0:53
5. ESP Samuel Sanchez BMC 1:04
6. FRA Thibaut Pinot FDJ 1:09
7. POR Ruí Costa LAM 1:16
8. ESP Joaquím Rodríguez KAT "
9. COL Miguel Angel Lopez AST 1:21
10. ESP Pello Bilbao CJR 1:26
General Classification:
1. ESP Alberto Contador TNK 22:44:43
2. COL Sergio Henao SKY 00:00:12
3. COL Nairo Quintana MOV 00:00:37
4. FRA Thibaut Pinot FDJ 00:01:13
5. ESP Joaquím Rodríguez KAT 00:01:22
6. ESP Samuel Sanchez BMC 00:01:29
7. POR Ruí Costa LAM 00:02:19
8. RUS Simon Spilak KAT 00:02:47
9. USA Lawson Craddock CAN 00:02:52
10. NED Wilco Kelderman TLJ 00:03:14