Sun, Apr 13, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Contador maintains Basque lead, Swift takes out fifth stage

AP, MARKINA-XEMEIN, Spain

The peloton climbs Muniketa’s hill between Eibar and Markina Basque Country, Spain, during the 160km-long fifth stage of the 54th Tour of Basque Country cycling race on Friday.

Photo: EPA

Alberto Contador protected his lead of the Tour of Basque Country before the decisive time trial, while Ben Swift of England won Friday’s fifth stage.

Swift edged a small group of riders at the finish line to claim the 160km leg featuring five categorized mountain climbs from Eibar to Markina-Xemein in just under four hours.

“This was one of my best” days, said Swift, who rides for Team Sky. “It was really hard, but the legs felt very good. I liked my chances doing into that sprint.”

Alejandro Valverde, who is second overall, also finished second in the stage, a wheel-length behind Swift. Contador, a five-time Grand Tour winner, finished in the leading group to make sure he did not lose any of his 12-second lead.

Valverde launched an attack with less than 10km to go, but Contador stayed pegged to his nearest challenger as they sailed down a long downhill stretch before being caught by the pack.

“I had to try it, even though we knew it was going to be tough,” Valverde said. “It will be a hard time trial, especially if there is more wind against us like today.”

Contador described his two-man battles with Valverde throughout the race as the two Spaniards “playing cat and mouse.”

“I will treat [the final-day time trial] as if we had the same time,” Contador said. “It is true I have a 12-second advantage, but I still think it is a very open race.”

Contador was in line for his third Tour of Basque Country title with the 54th edition of the six-day race in northern Spain set to conclude yesterday with a 25.9km time trial to and from Beasain.

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