Giro d'Italia 2011 stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson>>
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sunguard) has won the ninth stage and taken the race lead of the Giro d'Italia after a commanding ride on Mount Etna today.
Having fired a warning shot with second in yesterday's stage, the controversial Spaniard hit out good and proper this afternoon with a sortie 6.8km from the finish line on the Sicilian volcano.
Although initially joined by key Italian contender Michele Scarponi (Lampre), climber Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) was the only rider who could stick with Contador's blistering pace for any length of time.
But even the Venezuelan was eventually dropped after a series of digs from the Tour de France winner on the barren top slopes of the climb.
With Rujano taking second place, Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) was the best of the other favourites, leading in Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Roman Kreuziger (Astana), David Arroyo (Movistar) and HTC's Kanstantsin Sivtsov 50 seconds back.
Scarponi paid for initially trying to follow Contador, coming in a further 17 seconds down. Earlier in the stage, the Italian's team had driven hard on the front of the bunch in hope of setting him up for an assault on his rivals.
Lampre had pulled the bunch onto the slopes of the climb over four minutes down on a nine man group that had led the race over an earlier passage of Etna.
Although the group disintegrated on the ascent, it was only Contador's attack that swept up the last survivors of the break: Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) and Mathias Frank (BMC).
With previous race leader Peter Weening (Rabobank) losing over six and a half minutes on Etna, he made way for Contador -who had also gained a 20 second time bonus for the stage win- to take over the pink jersey. John Gadret (AG2R), Kreuziger and Nibali all tried attacks behind, but each was a case of too little too late.
With Contador's performance head and shoulders above his rivals, it makes an uncomfortable situation for the race ahead. Although cleared of doping by the Spanish Cycling Federation earlier this year, the decision could be reversed next month by Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Tomorrow the Giro has a rest day.
Giro d'Italia 2011, stage nine, Messina - Etna, 169km
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Sunguard in 4-54-09
2. Jose Rujano (Ven) Androni Giocattoli at 3 secs
3. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone at 50 secs
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
5. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana
6. David Arroyo (Spa) Movistar
7. Kanstantin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad all same time
8. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel at 59 secs
9. John Gadret (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 1-07
10. Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at same time
Overall classification after stage nine
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Sunguard in 33-03-51
2. Kanstantin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad at 59 secs
3. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Garmin-Cervelo at 1-19
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 1-21
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 1-28
6. David Arroyo (Spa) Movistar at 1-37
7. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana at 1-41
8. Jose Serpa (Col) Androni Giocattoli at 1-47
9. Dario Caldato (Ita) Quickstep at 2-21
10. Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM at 2-21
David Millar gets some technical assistance
Pieter Weening's spell in the maglia rosa ended today
Escape group on Mount Etna
The moment Alberto Contador launched his stage-winning move
Alberto Contador puts on the leader's jersey
Giro d'Italia 2011: Latest news
Giro d'Italia News Shorts (May 15)
Giro's Sicilian cyclists proud to face Mount Etna
Contador surprises at Giro with attack ahead of mountains
Contador minds food at Giro as CAS decision nears
Weening supported by Rabobank and model Kroes
Local lad Appollonio bears fruit in Fiuggi
Giro d'Italia News Shorts (May 12 edition)
Blythe finding way in second Grand Tour
Leopard-Trek withdraws from Giro d'Italia
Leopard-Trek uncertain to continue in Giro
Tuesday's Giro stage in memory of Weylandt
Giro doctor describes actions to save Weylandt
Wouter Weylandt killed in Giro crash
Giro news shorts (May 8)
Cavendish likely to take Giro lead tomorrow
Giro 2011: Who will win?
Kennaugh to lead Team Sky in Giro's opening stage
Nibali's Giro fight with Contador may reach the courtroom
Riis defends Contador's participation in Giro
Cavendish set to start winning again at the Giro
Doping investigations force cyclists out of Giro d'Italia
Kennaugh replaces Pauwels in Sky's Giro line-up
Contador scouts out the Giro mountains
Cavendish and Millar top list of Giro-bound Brits
Lampre likely for Giro despite doping investigation
Giro announces record 23 teams to race
2011 Giro to start in Turin with team time trial
Giro goes one up on the Tour with spectacular route
Nygaard, Sciandri and Lloyd comment on 2011 Giro route
Nibali's Giro d'Italia?
Giro d'Italia 2011: Stage reports
Stage eight: Gatto springs late attack to take win
Stage seven: Neo-pro De Clercq wins by a whisker
Stage six: Ventoso steals Giro stage six win
Stage five: Weening holds on to take stage and maglia rosa
Stage four: Tearful Farrar and Leopard-Trek lead riders across stage four finish line
Stage three: Vicioso victory overshadowed by Weylandt crash
Stage two: Petacchi wins as Cavendish takes lead
Stage one: HTC-Highroad wins Giro's opening team time trial
Giro d'Italia 2011: Photo galleries
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Giro d'Italia 2011: Live text coverage
Giro d'Italia 2011 stage seven live text updates
Giro d'Italia 2011 stage five live text updates
Follow the 2011 Giro d'Italia live with Cycling Weekly
Giro d'Italia 2011: Start list
Giro d'Italia 2011: Start list
Giro d'Italia 2011: TV schedule
Giro d'Italia 2011: British Eurosport TV schedule
Giro d'Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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