Five talking points from stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia

Portegate, Wheelgate, Two-minutegate. The most recent semi-scandal to hit the Giro d’Italia has many names, and now there’s another ‘gate to add to the list.

Alberto Contador incurred the wrath of Twitter users for removing his helmet mid-ride, but that wasn’t the only thing we were talking about on stage 11.

1. Helmetgate


What was Alberto Contador thinking? At one point on stage 11, in full view of the television cameras, the Spaniard did something that happens literally only dozens of times each race – took his helmet off momentarily to put on a hat.

After Richie Porte’s Wheelgate on stage 10, the justification for the two-minute penalty was that ‘rules are rules’. If that’s the case, then Contador could be disqualified from the Giro for removing his helmet – as many Twitter users have called for.

It would be a bit ridiculous to kick the race leader out for doing something that all riders do at one stage or another. It’s not like he took his helmet off and threw it to the side of the road.

There are people out there calling for Contador’s blood, but let’s hope common sense prevails in a way that it perhaps didn’t yesterday.

2. Zakarin’s strong win

Ilnur Zakarin wins stage eleven of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

Ilnur Zakarin wins stage eleven of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

He’s not got the most aesthetically pleasing pedal stroke, but Ilnur Zakarin is pretty effective when putting the hammer down.

The Russian, who spent the last two seasons with Pro Continental squad RusVelo, is on a bit of a high recently, having surprisingly taken the title at the Tour of Romandie the week before the Giro.

His stock has risen a little more now with this stage win, as television commentators speculate that he could be Russia’s next big cycling star.

Detractors will point back to his two-year ban for taking anabolic steroids as a 19-year-old, but that shouldn’t detract from his sterling effort on stage 11.

Zakarin deserves a hell of a lot of credit for his ride round Imola – taking risks in the wet while trying to hold off a hungry pack of chasers.

Katusha have had a bit of a nothing race so far, but Zakarin has sparked some life into both the team and Russian cycling.

3. Contador’s speculative attack

Alberto Contdor on stage eleven of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

Alberto Contdor on stage eleven of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

With 6.5km to go it looked reasonably clear that the pack were going to struggle to pull Zakarin and the other breakaway riders back in, but that didn’t stop Alberto Contador trying to attack.

Sitting on the wheel of GC rival Fabio Aru, Contador sprung past the Italian on the uphill section of the course. Dario Cataldo got on Contador’s wheel, but Aru couldn’t.

Even so, Contador couldn’t get any meaningful advantage up the road and it all looked a bit futile, but El Pistolero had made his point. Everyone almost expects him to sit there and just mark any attacks by his rivals, especially with his slightly injured shoulder.

He clearly doesn’t want to be seen as a passive rider with a gammy shoulder, though, and his pseudo-attack here was likely his way of saying that he’s still strong.

Rivals beware.

4. Richie Porte’s time penalty

Richie Porte on stage eleven of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

Richie Porte on stage eleven of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

This one wasn’t going away any time soon. Everyone, it seems, had some thoughts on the matter.

Porte himself, though, was quite philosophical about the hammer blow he’d been dealt, saying that ‘rules are rules’ (that old chestnut again).

Stage 11 was obviously not the stage to try and gain any of this time back – it would be surprising if he tries before Saturday’s time trial – so Porte just got on with business and got very wet in the process.

A number of riders expressed their shock at the UCI jury’s decision on Twitter, but there was no sign of a protest in the peloton as everyone tried to simply carry on as normal.

5. Could the weather be turning on the Giro d’Italia?

Zakarin leads an escape on stage eleven of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

Zakarin leads an escape on stage eleven of the 2015 Tour of Italy (Watson)

The rain set in on stage 11, making the race track and surrounding roads at Imola quite treacherous.

For the most part so far we’ve seen bright sunshine at the Giro, somewhat of a change from the traditional weather this race often enjoys.

We’re heading north to the mountains, so could the weather start to set in? There’s still snow at the top of the Colle delle Finistre – the tough climb on stage 20 – which organisers hope will clear by the time the peloton comes to town.

Rain is forecast again for the finish of stage 12 in Vicenza, with the forecast not looking much better for the start of stage 13 or the long time trial from Treviso on Saturday.

Get ready for wet weather racing, it’s here to stay for a while by the look of it.

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