Alberto Contador Wins 2008 Vuelta
Gold For Alberto Contador, silver for Levi Leipheimer, Bronze for Carlos Sastre.
Alberto Contador lived up to expectations by winning the 63rd Vuelta a Espana. The 25-year-old Astana rider is the first Spanish rider in history to win all three Grand Tours. Contador previously won the 2007 Tour de France and the 2008 Giro d'Italia and now equals Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault who've all won all three Grand Tours. He even surpasses the achievements of the other four riders as the fourteen months between his Tour 2007 victory and the end of the Vuelta bests the time frame of the Vuelta/Tour (1978) and Giro (1980) triple achieved by Hinault. The fact that teammate Levi Leipheimer placed 2nd overall made the success even greater for Team Astana.
After the last stage to Madrid (won by Matti Breschel of Team CSC-Saxo Bank), Contador was congratulated on the podium by Don Jaime Lissavetzky, Spanish State Secretary of Sports, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Alcalde de Madrid and Pat McQuaid, President of the International Cycling Federation. Before celebrating with family and teammates in the evening, the Vuelta winner and his teammates were welcomed in the Kazakh Embassy in Madrid. Ambassador Yergali Bulegenov honored the team. "It is the mission of this team to foster national pride and I believe that the Vuelta victory and the team's 2008 successes are major milestones for the country. All Kazakhs should be filled with pride knowing they have the best stage racing team in the world."
According to Astana team representatives it was an honor for the riders that they were followed the last week by a Kazakh delegation with Mr. Azat Bekturov, vice-Minister of Transport and Communications and vice-President of the Kazakh Cycling Federation and Mr. Nikolay Proskurin, as well vice-President of the Kazakh Cycling Federation.
At the Embassy Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer received a socalled “shapan”, which is a typical Kazakh dress. "The team was extremely motivated to win and we will continue to represent Kazakhstan with class," commented Alberto Contador while wearing his “shapan”. "We met some adversities in the beginning of the season, but the remaining (part of the) 2008 season was more than positive. However, I would never have accomplished this mission without my teammates. Many thanks to Levi, Andreas, Assan, Dmitriy, Benjamín, Sérgio, Chechu and Tomas. To win the three Grand Tours in such a short period is surely very special, but I don't realize it yet. They were three very different Tours. In France and Italy, I did not start as a favorite, which made it easier. In Italy I had to deal with the cold temperatures and rain. In France there was the stress provoked by the crowds and many media. In Spain I could ride on my own roads and was encouraged by my home fans. All three victories are special."
Team Directors Alain Gallopin and Viatcheslav Ekimov were happy with the victory but most of all with the work of the whole team. "It was ot always easy with many windy stages. The Team had to work long and hard hours at the front of the race," commented Alain