Cyclist Alberto Contador of the SaxoBank team kept the overall leader's red jersey and is closing in on his second Spanish Vuelta title
MADRID — Alberto Contador of the SaxoBank team kept the overall leader’s red jersey and is closing in on his second Spanish Vuelta title after Russian Denis Menchov of the Katusha team won Saturday’s punishing 20th stage.
Menchov covered 106 miles to the weather station atop the Bola del Mundo in 4 hours, 48 minutes, 48 seconds.
Contador was 4:15 behind Menchov and leads second-place Alejandro Valverde of the Movistar team by 1:16 and third-place Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha by 1:37. Valverde and Rodriguez are Spaniards.
Sunday’s final stage is expected to be a largely processional 71-mile ride into Madrid. Thus Contador is on the verge of a fifth major victory; he has won two Tour de France titles, the 2008 Giro d’Italia and the 2008 Vuelta.
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“Yes, now the Vuelta is practically won,” Madrid native Contador said.
“It has been very difficult and we’ve had to hold our head high and our legs strong.”
Rodriguez made a late dash as the riders dug in and the peloton slowed to a crawl at times while navigating the 23 percent angled climb to the finish.
“Again the team was great on the Bola del Mundo,” Contador said.
“I knew Joaquin was going to attack but there wasn’t enough terrain left for him to make up time. It’s a special win.”