Alberto Contador‘s team may have been lacking in the Giro d’Italia‘s summit finish to Campitello Matese today, but the Spaniard was not. Only 48 hours after his crash and dislocated shoulder, the race favourite and current leader appeared to be riding as normal.
Tinkoff-Saxo set him up for an early intermediate sprint 50 kilometres into the stage, where he picked up two seconds, and for the final 13-kilometre climb inland, northeast of Naples. He followed attacks by Fabio Aru and rode alongside Sky’s Richie Porte to close the day still in the race leader’s pink jersey.
Spaniard Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) won the stage. The group of classification favourites were 35 seconds back. With the two-second bonus calculated in, Contador now leads Aru by four seconds, and Porte by 22 seconds.
“It’s complicated to put a percentage on my condition,” he responded when asked if was bluffing in the post-race press conference.
“Of course, it’s not just in the race, but also at night. I have to have it immobilised.”
Tinkoff’s team doctor said that Contador dislocated his shoulder in the finish line crash in Castiglione della Pescaia. The Giro’s race doctor who examined Contador didn’t use the word dislocated, but “a slight instability of the left shoulder joint”. Nonetheless, Contador did tumble, and his Giro appeared at considerable risk.
Tinkoff’s neon yellow train controlled much of the 264-kilometre stage to Fiuggi yesterday. Today, it did well again, but left Contador alone to manage himself against Porte, Aru and several others.
“Bluffing? I don’t think he can be in too much difficulty if he’s still riding up that climb that fast,” Porte explained while on his turbo trainer warming down. “Day by day, we’ll see how he goes. I have respect for Alberto, he’s a big fighter.”
That is undoubtedly true, but his team’s absence today after so many others on the front, raised some red flags. It could be that his helpers – Michael Rogers, Ivan Basso and Roman Kreuziger, paid for their efforts in the first week through Liguria and Tuscany, and now have run out of gas. Astana, instead, turned the screws today for Aru.
“The Giro is just starting now,” Contador said. “There are good riders around me. Astana are explosive and they are making the stage very hard, but my team are protecting me well.”
The race leader will need help tomorrow when the race reaches its southern-most point for a hellish mid-mountain stage through the Campania region.
Another concern is the 59.4-kilometre time trial next Saturday. Contador could have trouble holding his time trial bars for such a long time if his shoulder is still bothering him.
“That’s a question that I have in my mind,” he said. “Yesterday, I thought that I only have about five to six stages to go until the time trial. We’ll have to make a test to see how I can hold the bars. I usually have the arms together very close, but perhaps we’ll have to change that.”
Of course, if Contador is bluffing and playing up the extent of his injury, then he should have no problem — and could be on his way to his seventh Grand Tour win in this year’s Giro d’Italia.