Contador keeps Tour of Catalonia lead
Madrid: Spain`s Alberto Contador held on to the leader`s jersey in the Tour of Catalonia, hours after sport`s governing body revived a doping case against the three-time Tour de France champion.
Portugal`s Manuel Cardoso of the Radioshack team claimed Thursday`s fourth stage, a 195-kilometre race from La Seu d`Urgell to El Vendrell in northeastern Spain.
The 27-year-old edged Italy`s Giacomo Nizzolo of the Leopard Trek team and Spain`s Jose Rojas of Movistar in a mass sprint finish in which all but two of the 179 riders had the same time as the winner.
But it was Contador who was the centre of attention after the International Cycling Union (UCI) earlier announced it would appeal the Spanish federation`s decision to acquit him of doing allegations.
The Spaniard had tested positive for a tiny amount of the banned muscle-building substance clenbuterol during last July`s Tour de France, which he went on to win.
But he was cleared to compete when the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) last month rescinded an initial decision to hand down a one-year ban, accepting the rider`s claim that he had unknowingly eaten drug-contaminated meat and was therefore not negligent.
The 28-year-old rider appeared to accept the UCI`s decision.
"I am among those who believe that if things happen it`s because they have to happen and maybe it should go to the CAS who will make my innocence even clearer," he told reporters in Spain.
"It`s not a situation that I like but I have full confidence in the arguments that my lawyers have presented."
The Saxo Bank rider finished in 64th position on Thursday with the same time as Cardoso to retain the leader`s jersey that he claimed during the grueling third stage in the Pyrenees mountains.
He holds a 23-second lead over American Levi Leipheimer of Radioshack and Italy`s Michele Scarponi of the Lampre team.
Fourth is Ireland`s Daniel Martin of Garmin and fifth American Chris Horner of Radioshack, both 35 seconds behind Contador.
Cardoso said he was "delighted" with the stage win.
"The team worked hard for me... The last 15 kilometres they protected me and brought me to the front.... At 300 meters I took the lead, gave everything I had and nobody else was able to pass me, but it was close."
On Friday, the riders take on the longest stage of event, a 205.8-kilometre ride from Vendrell to Tarragona and which includes second category climbs.
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