Alberto Contador (Astana) snapped a spoke on the climb to the finish and had to go deep to chase Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval), but after the two important stages in the Dolomites, the 2007 Tour de France winner pulled on the Giro d’Italia pink leader’s jersey today and made it clear he will not be letting it go without a fight.

Italy’s Emanuele Sella of the CSF Group team won the stage with another lone attack but Contador was sixth and took the leader’s jersey from Italy’s Gabriele Bosisio.

“I came to the Giro thinking about the stages, but little by little, people in my team lifted my morale and convinced me to keep fighting. I started feeling
better and better, now I’ve got the pink jersey,” Contador said at the race leader’s press conference.

“The pink jersey is a special present for me. If someone had told me 20 days ago when I was lying on the beach that I would be in the pink jersey in the Dolomites, I wouldn’t have believed them.”

“Yesterday [Saturday] wasn’t a good day for me. I had lot of allergy problems to begin with and so I was happy with how the stage went. Fortunately today it started to rain and I felt a lot better.”

“At one point I didn’t feel good and that’s when Ricco and Menchov started attacking. I thought my chances of taking the pink jersey had gone but when we started the Marmolada I felt a lot different. I broke a spoke six kilometres from the finish and wasn’t sure what to do because I couldn’t stand on the pedals much. In the end I opened my brake and tried to chase Ricco as much as I could.”

Contador knows the Giro is far from over. Ricco is not far behind at 33 seconds and Danilo Di Luca (LPR) is at 55 seconds. Bruseghin, Menchov and Simoni, are all
still within 1-26 and so the Giro is still a six-rider race.

“I think Ricco is the most dangerous now. He showed that he’s very strong by attacking on the climb to the final,” Contador said.

“Bruseghin, Menchov, Di Luca and Simoni are also dangerous because the time gaps are still very small. I know I will have to watch all of them.”

“I think today is a perfect day to take the pink jersey. It’s the mountain time trial tomorrow (Monday) and so my team mates can rest up a bit. I don’t know
what the climb but I don’t think the time gaps will be too big tomorrow because it’s not a time trial for specialists. I hope to keep the pink jersey.”

“Of course all the other stages will be dangerous, especially next Saturday’s stage that includes the climb of the Mortirolo. Fortunately the final stage time trial on Sunday will help me gain any time I may lose.”

Contador will start last in Monday’s 12.9km mountain time trial to the ski station at Plan de Corones. The dirt climb will be a real test of rider’s strength but
the time differences are expected to small, meaning the Giro will now probably be decided on the final mountain stages next Friday and Saturday and in the final time trial to Milan on Sunday.

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS
Stage 15: Sella strikes again in the mountains
Stage 14: Sella wins first Giro mountains stage
Stage 13: Easy victory for super-fast Cavendish
Stage 12: Bennati gets photo finish verdict over Cavendish
Stage 11: Bertolini wins hilly stage
Stage 10: Bruseghin wins Giro d’Italia time trial
Stage nine: Cavendish misses out in sprint
Stage eight: Ricco wins again
Stage seven: Di Luca, Ricco and Contador gain time on rivals
Stage six: Italians clean up
Stage five: Millar denied by snapped chain
Stage four: Cavendish wins
Stage three: Bennati romps home
Stage two: Ricco wins Giro d’Italia second stage
Stage one TTT: Slipstream wins Giro team time trial

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: NEWS
Cavendish disappointed after missing out in Giro sprint
Can Cavendish win the Giro today? [stage 12]
Aggressive Cummings comes away empty handed [stage six]
Millar speaks out after missing out in Giro [stage five]
Reaction to Cavendish’s Giro stage win
Cav hits back at Pozzato’s snipe
Cavendish: This is my biggest win [stage four]
Millar celebrates Slipstream Giro d’Italia success
Bettini looking for final Giro glory
Astana’s troubled build-up to the Giro
Petacchi banned for Salbutamol positive
Yates and Astana make last minute rush to Giro

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: PHOTOS
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week two – new photos added daily
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week one.

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: FEATURES
Cycling Weekly’s all-time list of British pro winners
Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)
Rest day 1: How the favourites are doing
Giro Britannia part two: From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia
Tuesday Comment (May 13): Why Cavendish is a bona fide world-class star
Giro Britannia: how the Brits are doing in Italy
Giro d’Italia 2008 preview
Giro d’Italia 2008: who will win?
Giro d’Italia 2008: The British are coming
Giro d’Italia on Eurosport: TV schedule