Giro d'Italia - Contador wins to take overall lead
Sun, 15 May 16:23:00 2011
Alberto Contador moved into the maglia rosa after winning stage nine of the Giro d'Italia with a trademark attack on the slopes of Mount Etna.
Contador (SaxoBank), Giro champion in 2008, started the stage fifth on general classification - the best-placed of the pre-race favourites after his late charge on stage eight - and 13 seconds behind overall leader Pieter Weening (Rabobank).
And the Spaniard launched a devastating triple attack 7km from the summit of Etna, disposing first of the chasing group, then Lampre rider Michele Scarponi, and finally Androni Giocattoli's Jose Rujano to seize victory and take the leader's jersey into the first rest day.
The three-time Tour de France champion, who remains the subject of a Court of Arbitration for Sport doping appeal, now leads the general classification by 59 seconds ahead of Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad), with Christophe Le Mevel (Grmin-Cervelo) one minute, 19 seconds adrift.
The first major mountain stage of the 2011 Giro, the peloton left Messina with 169km ahead of them, first tackling the northern ascent of Etna, before descending towards the sea, turning back inland and climbing the volcano, Europe's highest, from the south.
The race started with successive attempts to form a break, with Peter Kennaugh (Sky), Danilo Di Luca (Katusha), Luis Pasamontes (Movistar) and Simone Stortoni (Colnago) briefly escaping but without the firepower to stay away.
But Yaroslav Popovych (Radioshack), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini), Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Filippo Savini (Colnago-CSF), Mathias Frank (BMC) and Mikael Cherel (AG2R) soon made the decisive move to form a strong break.
Lastras was the danger man in the group, lying in seventh overall, just 22 seconds behind Weening. With the nine riders away, Maxim Belkov jumped off the front of the peloton in an attempt to bridge the gap, which stood at four minutes by the summit of the first ascent.
But, with Lampre, Liquigas and Astana all working on the front and after 45km riding solo, Vacansoleil rider Belkov was caught.
After a super-quick descent, the race turned back towards Etna and, with 25km remaining, the peloton began to chase the disorganised break, reducing the gap by more than a minute to three minutes, 15 seconds as the escapees rode under the 20km banner.
With the climb, averaging around six per cent, underway Di Luca dropped off the back and was soon joined by Cherel, Vanotti, Savini and Popovych.
Lastras too began to struggle and was left to carve a lone path through the lava fields, with Frank, Bakelants and Visconti pushing on and holding a one minute, 57 gap advantage that was to soon evaporate.
With the temperature sky high on the volcano's barren slopes, Weening was spat out the back of the peloton, opening the door for a new leader.
And Contador seized his chance with both hands, attacking in the big ring with 6.8km to the finish, riding away from the group with Scarponi the only man to make the jump.
But Scarponi, in visible difficulty, was cast aside by the unstoppable Contador, who then towed Rujano, a climbing specialist, until 1.8km to go before dancing on the pedals for a third time and, teeth gritted, riding solo to the 1,892m summit.
Rujano rode valiantly to cross the line just three second behind Contador, while Stefano Garzelli took third, 50 seconds adrift, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Roman Kreuziger (Astana), David Arroyo (Movistar) and Sivtsov recording the same time.
Giro d'Italia stage 9