The big favourites in the Giro d?Italia were looking for excuses and explanations after the first Giro d?Italia mountain stage to Alpe di Pampeago.

The steep uphill finish had been expected to inspire attacks from the likes of Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) and other climbers but in the end Emanuele Sella (CSF) won alone and surprisingly Denis Menchov (Rabobank) finished a few seconds ahead of all the other big-name contenders.

Only Levi Leipheimer (Astana) lost any hope of overall victory. The American finished 34th at 13-08 and lost 4-20 to Menchov.

Alberto Contador (Astana) lost 45 seconds to Menchov but is still the best placed of the overall contenders, five seconds behind new leader Gabriele Bosisio of LPR. The 2007 Tour winner admitted he struggled with a pollen allergy.

“I didn’t have the day I was hoping for. I’ve been struggling with allergies and it really affected me today,? Contador said.

?My legs couldn’t respond as they normally would have. To be five seconds from the maglia rosa is disappointing. I’m not happy with how things went at all.”

Ricco is now fourth overall at 1-02 but revealed he did not attack because he has come down with a cough and cold.

?The stage didn?t go as I?d hoped but I can?t really complain,? Ricco said.

?Only Menchov finished in front of me and only by ten seconds. Fortunately nobody none of my rivals had a great day.?

?Unfortunately I woke up with a bit of a cold and for most of the night a cough stopped me sleeping. I struggled with my breathing for most of the stage and paid for that on the last climb because I couldn?t give it everything.?

?I don?t think I?m too badly placed overall. We?re all pretty close and it?s as if the Giro has only just started.?

Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) tried to gain time with a late surge before the finish but blamed the other riders for letting the 13-rider break containing Sella stay clear.

?I tried to attack on the climb to the finish but everybody else was scared of doing anything,? he said.

?We tried to chase the break but nobody really helped us. There was a lot of talk before the stage but instead of being a pack of lions, the overall contenders were like a flock of sheep.?

The thousands of tifosi along the roadside must be hoping that Sunday?s 153km stage from Arabba to the top of the Passo Fedaia through the Dolomites will inspire more aggressive racing.

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