Basque Country 1: Contador shines in the rain

Tour champ shows his early season form

Spain's Alberto Contador, riding for the Astana team, won the first stage of the Tour of the Basque Country over a 137km course around the northern town of Legazpi on Monday.

Contador finished the stage in 3hr 39min 22sec, three seconds up on compatriot Ezequiel Mosquera of the Karpin-Galicia team, with Mosquera's team-mate David Herrero heading the main chasing group a further five seconds adrift. The opening stage of the six-day long Vuelta a Pais Vasco, with start and finish in Legazpia, featured seven climbs and was marked by pouring rain. It was the reigning Tour de France champion and Astana team leader Contador who took maximum advantage of the adverse weather conditions.

Mosquera broke away to attack the final hill, forcing Contador - whose team have been barred from this year's Tour de France as a result of doping scandals over the past two years - to set off after him with 8km to go. The two rode together until the 2km marker when Contador attacked again and was able to get away from Mosquera and negotiate the dangerous descent into Legazpia.

"My team again worked so hard," said Contador. "My overall victory in the Tour of Castilla y Leon gave the team extra motivation and confidence. We really rode an intelligent race. Rain or sunshine, it doesn't matter for me. When you have the right conditions, you can put up with every type of weather.

"Over the next few days, all the other teams will be looking at us, but we are used to it. I did not gain so many seconds on the other riders, but we showed again that our team is one of the strongest teams in the world."

Mosquera did well to stay ahead of the following peloton that included pre-race favourites Damiano Cunego of the Lampre team and Gerolsteiner rider David Rebellin to finish in second spot. The second stage of the Vuelta is a 153km run from Legazpia to Erandio.

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