Alberto Contador's bid to join an elite club to have won all three major Tours appears intact after the Spaniard finished second in the final time trial of the Tour of Spain Saturday.
American Levi Leipheimer claimed victory in the race's penultimate stage, a 17.1km uphill time trial, with Astana teammate Contador finishing 31sec adrift to keep the race leader's gold jersey ahead of Sunday's final stage.
Contador won the Tour de France in 2007 with the Discovery team but was controversially uninvited to the race this year after organisers 'sanctioned' Astana - despite a management overhaul - for a number of doping offences during that year's race.
He turned his attention to the Giro d'Italia, which he won, and then the Tour of Spain, which he is poised to add to his impressive list of honours after Sunday's final stage from San Sebastian de los Reyes to Madrid.
Contador said after the stage: "I didn't want to think of any of that (winning a third major tour) so as not to put myself under pressure. I want to savour the victory and then have a rest.
"I will enjoy it particularly knowing that Leipheimer won this time trial and the other (at Ciudad Real)."
Already the winner of the Vuelta's first time trial, Contador built his victory campaign in the mountains where Valverde spectacularly dropped out of contention.
Leipheimer clocked a time of 33min 06sec to win Saturday's stage, but Contador did enough to protect his lead in a time of 33:37. In third place on the day was Alejandro Valverde of the Caisse d'Epargne team, who also clocked 33:37.
He finished ahead of 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre and Frenchman David Moncoutié - underlining that this stage was one for the climbers.
In the overall standings it leaves Contador with a lead of just under a minute on Leipheimer with Sastre in third place ahead of Sunday's finale.
Should Contador win in Madrid on Sunday, he would become the first Spaniard and fifth rider in history to have won all three of the sport's major tours.
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.
© AFP & BikeRadar 2008