Alberto Contador

Chris Froome completes Tour de France-Vuelta double, Alberto Contador retires

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MADRID (AP) ‚ÄĒ Chris Froome paraded into Madrid to clinch his first Spanish Vuelta title and secure the elusive Tour de France-Vuelta double on Sunday, while Spanish great Alberto Contador celebrated the end of his remarkable career in front of his home crowd.

Froome had virtually secured victory with a solid performance in the difficult climb up the Alto de l’Angliru on Saturday, which marked the last competitive stage of the three-week race.

“It’s just incredible,” Froome said. “I’m still coming to terms with everything. It’s been such an incredible journey.”

Riders cruised to the finish in Sunday’s 21st stage, with the leaders not challenging each other, as per cycling tradition.

Italian Matteo Trentin won the final sprint to clinch his fourth stage victory in this year’s Vuelta.

Froome, who earlier this year clinched his fourth Tour de France title, had finished runner-up in La Vuelta three times, including last year.

The Team Sky rider became the third man to complete the Tour-Vuelta double in the same season, after Jacques Anquetil in 1963 and Bernard Hinault in 1978, when the Vuelta was still held in the spring before the Tour.

“Just the fact that nobody’s ever won the Tour and then La Vuelta afterwards, it’s incredible to be able to do it,” said Froome, the first British rider to win the Vuelta. “It’s just been an amazing few months and I want to thank everyone who has contributed to that. I’ve been fighting for this victory for six years and three years I’ve been standing on the second step so it’s amazing to stand on the first step this time.”

Froome won two Vuelta stages this year, finishing 2 minutes, 15 seconds in front of Italian Vincenzo Nibali of Team Bahrain-Merida, who won the Vuelta in 2010 and was runner-up in 2013.

Russian Ilnur Zakarin of Team Katusha Alpecin, secured the final podium spot, almost three minutes behind Froome.

Froome also won the points competition, while Astana Pro Team won the overall team event.

Contador, the three-time Vuelta winner, ended his career on a high note by winning Saturday’s difficult 20th stage. He was loudly cheered by Spanish fans as he arrived to cross the finish line one last time.

The rest of the riders allowed him to break from the peloton and ride a few moments by himself as the fans applauded. After the race, Contador took a Spanish flag and went for one final parade lap.

“It was very special to get to lead all the riders into Madrid,” Contador said. “It was an incredible finish. I dreamed about ending my career this way.”

The 34-year-old Contador had been out of contention for the Vuelta title after losing several minutes in a poor performance in the second stage. He made up time later in the race, but not enough to make it to the podium and eventually finished fifth, more than three minutes off the lead.

Considered one of Spain’s greatest riders, Contador also won the Tour de France twice and the Giro d’Italia twice. He was stripped of a third Tour victory for doping.

“It’s a dream. I can’t imagine a better goodbye than this,” he said. “Now is the moment to stop. When I started as a professional, I said I wanted to finish at the top level. And I think that now is the perfect moment for this. In the last 15 years, I did everything with my heart.”

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Alberto Contador sets last Grand Tour before retirement

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MADRID (AP) ‚ÄĒ Two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador will retire next month after riding in the Spanish Vuelta.

Contador announced his plan to stop racing on a video posted Monday on Instagram. The Spanish rider said the Vuelta “will be my last race as a professional cyclist.”

“It’s a decision that I have thought (about) very well and I don’t think there is a better farewell than in the home race and in my country,” he said.

The three-week Vuelta starts Aug. 19.

Second only to five-time Tour winner Miguel Indurain in Spanish cycling lore, the 34-year-old Contador has been one of the sport’s top riders for the last decade in a contentious career.

He accumulated seven Grand Tour titles, winning the Spanish Vuelta three times and the Giro d’Italia twice.

Only five other riders have ever won the three Grand Tours.

Contador won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009. But in 2012 he was stripped of a third Tour title from 2010 and banned for two years for doping. The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected Contador’s claim that his positive test for clenbuterol was caused by eating contaminated meat on a 2010 Tour rest day.

Contador is riding for Trek-Segafredo this season.

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Gracias a tod@s! Thanks to all!

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Chris Froome takes yellow jersey at Tour de France

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The new leader of the Tour de France is a familiar one — three-time champion¬†Chris Froome.

Froome finished third on a Stage 5 summit finish Wednesday, 20 seconds behind stage winner Fabio Aru of Italy and four seconds behind runner-up Dan Martin of Ireland.

Froome made up a seven-second deficit on teammate¬†Geraint Thomas, who was the overall leader going into the three-week stage race’s first mountain day. Thomas, a longtime support rider for Froome, finished 40 seconds behind Aru in 10th place at¬†La Planche de Belles Filles.

Froome now leads Thomas by 12 seconds in the overall standings through five of 21 stages. The goal is to keep the yellow jersey through to Paris on July 23.

“This is going to be the hardest-fought battle [for the Tour title] I’ve ever had,” said Froome, Tour winner in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Froome attacked Wednesday with one mile left chasing Aru, the 2015 Vuelta a Espana champion who had opened a 20-second lead with a move a half-mile earlier.

Froome was joined by general-classification rivals Richie Porte and Romain Bardet. Contenders Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana fell off, finishing six and 14 seconds behind Froome, respectively.

TOUR: Results/Standings | Highlights | Broadcast Schedule

The new overall standings:

1. Chris Froome (GBR) — 18:38:59
2. Geraint Thomas (GBR) — +:12
3. Fabio Aru (ITA) — +:14
4. Dan Martin (IRL) — +:25
5. Richie Porte (AUS) — +:39
7. Romain Bardet (FRA) — +:47
8. Alberto Contador (ESP) — +:52
9. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +:54

The peloton caught the last two breakaway riders — Belgians birthday boy¬†Philippe Gilbert¬†and¬†Jan Bakelants¬†— with two and a half miles left.

Wednesday marked the first Tour de France stage in 30 years to start without any rider who had previously won a points classification title.

Peter Sagan, top sprinter at the last five Tours, was disqualified Tuesday after his contact with 2011 green jersey winner Mark Cavendish caused Cavendish to break his shoulder-blade and abandon the Tour.

Thursday’s Stage 6 will be a day for the remaining sprinters. The 134-mile trek from Vesoul to Troyes crosses the River Seine and is straight and flat for the final kilometer. Expect¬†Germans¬†Marcel Kittel¬†and¬†Andre Greipel¬†and Frenchman¬†Arnaud Demare¬†to vie for the stage win.

NBC Sports Gold¬†coverage starts at 6 a.m. ET. NBCSN’s coverage starts at 7:30 a.m.

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