Castellon, Spain: Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador finished runner-up in the Spanish nationals in stifling heat on Sunday, beaten by one second in his final tuneup for next month's showcase race.
Jose Joaquin Rojas bolted past Contador with 200 yards left and held on to win. He completed the 123-mile road race in 5 hours, 1 minute, 25 seconds.
"I ran my race," said Contador, who begins riding in the Tour on July 2. "He ran a strong race, and it was going to be practically impossible for me to reach the finish line by myself. It was a tough race, especially because of the intense heat."
The Spaniard was competing for the first time since last month's Giro d'Italia victory. He finished third in Friday's time trial.
"It wasn't a race that really suited my characteristics so I can still leave here happy," Contador said. "The objective for the five days leading up to the Tour are to rest."
Contador was cleared by his country's federation of a failed drug test at last year's Tour. He blamed his positive test on contaminated meat, but the International Cycling Union and World Anti-Doping Agency appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Contador's hearing is set for August.
First Published: Sunday, June 26, 2011, 23:33