Contador surprises at Giro with attack ahead of mountains

Tour de France winner Alberto Contador surprised fans with an attack in today’s Giro d’Italia leg to Tropea in southern Italy. He followed eventual stage winner Oscar Gatto, finished second and added 17 seconds on his rivals. The surprise, though, was that the move came ahead of the race’s first big mountain stage.

“I saw a good moment to attack today,” team Saxo Bank’s Spaniard told journalists along the coast. “I did not take a lot of time, but the bonus seconds are important.”

Mark Cavendish’s team, HTC-Highroad worked in the final kilometres, but the stage swung in favour of the attackers. Italian Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini) attacked with 1500 metres to race, on a short rise.

Contador immediately followed, not to win the stage – perhaps he ‘gifted’ it to Gatto – but to deliver the first blow to his rivals. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana) all trailed behind the three-time Tour de France winner.

“It was not planned this morning. I was in a good position, I decided why not, try. When I saw some space, I just decided to go solo to the finish,” added Contador

“My team did a huge amount of work, I put down my head and that’s it.”

“Just to win at the Giro, it’s amazing,” said Gatto on television, “and ahead of Contador is something else.”

Gatto took the 20-second bonus and Contador 12. Five seconds behind them, Alessandro Petacchi led the sprint for third and the eight-second bonus. Scarponi and the rest of Contador’s rivals lost five seconds, which was worsened by the 12-second bonus.

“Scarponi,” added Contador, “He showed well yesterday – fine – but I showed today.”

The favourites (time behind Contador):
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard)
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) 1″
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 11″
Roman Kreuziger (Astana) 31″
Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) 42″
Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) 48″
Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC) 2’16”

The ninth leg tomorrow is the first high-mountain stage of the three-week race. The finish on Mount Etna in Sicily finishes at 1892 metres, 600 more than yesterday’s and similar to what the riders will face in the last week of the race in the Dolomites and Alps. Contador just couldn’t wait.

“There’s going to be big difference tomorrow, but I am under no obligation to attack,” Contador said this morning to reporters. “I see Nibali is looking very good, Scarponi was yesterday. It’s definitely a climb where you can get more time on your rivals, unlike yesterday [to Montevergine].”

Contador does have to wait until June to find the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling. Contador tested positive for clenbuterol at the Tour de France last year. Spain acquitted him, but the UCI appealed its decision to the CAS. If CAS rules against Contador, he may lose his third title and receive a two-year suspension.

He maintains his innocence, saying the clenbuterol came from a contaminated steak.

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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 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

Related links
Giro d’Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index