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Giro d’Italia stage 13: Contador’s gift leaves Rujano singing in the rain

Stage 13:  Spilimbergo to Grossglockner, 167km

From the way he danced serenely away from his rivals on the rain-soaked ascent to the top of the Grossglockner, you could be forgiven for thinking that Alberto Contador might have been whistling Singin’ in the Rain to himself the whole time. As it was, he was in a sufficiently munificent mood to gift the stage victory to Venezuela’s José Rujano who – as on the slopes of Etna five days previously – was the only man able to live with the maglia rosa‘s attack. The 2008 winner put significant chunks of time into everybody else, extending his overall lead to three minutes. Barring a devastating reversal of fortune on the tough climbs of the next few days, we are likely to look back on this as the day the 2011 Giro d’Italia was won.

Earlier in the day, a 16-man group had been allowed to build a five-minute advantage at the mid-point of the stage. However, by the time the peloton reached the base of the cold and wet Grossglockner only two men – Cayetano Sarmiento (Acqua & Sapone) and former overall leader Pieter Weening (Rabobank) remained up front with a rapidly diminishing lead. And by the 10km mark Weening had also had enough, leaving the Colombian out on his own.

That didn’t last for long, however, as Rujano lit the blue touch-paper behind him. Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) eventually responded from the chasing group, dragging Contador and the other contenders back up to Rujano as they overhauled Sarmiento.

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) was the next to attack, slowly edging away and taking Rujano and Antón with him, while Conatdor patiently held back, waiting patiently for the elastic to tighten again. The gradual raising of the tempo was enough to thin out the pack to little more than a dozen riders, with second-placed Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad) one of several riders who quickly dropped off the back.

As the lead group concertinaed back together again, Rujano attacked for a second time, and now Contador decided it was time for him to make his move. He raised his cadence, gently nudging up to the front and then continuing on up the road, with Rujano the only man who was able to go with him as eased through the gears.

From that moment on, it was a matter of damage limitation for the other top riders, who were simply unable to up their pace on one of the steepest parts of the climb as the front two worked together to build their lead. By the time Contador allowed Rujano to slip ahead unchallenged in the final 150 metres to take the victory, they had stretched out an advantage of nearly 1½ minutes.

José Rujano (left) leads Alberto Contador across the finish line to record a famous victory (image courtesy of official Giro d'Italia)

Behind them John Gadret, the winner at Castelfidardo on Wednesday, broke free on his own to claim the eight bonus seconds on offer for third place. AG2R teammate Hubert Dupont and Antón were two seconds further behind, while Scarponi, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana) finished together in a group of six another seven ticks back. Sivtsov came in more than a minute after that and tumbled from second to sixth overall. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) had an even tougher time, losing nearly four minutes and falling from fourth to 16th.

For Rujano it was his second Giro stage victory, having won at Sestrière and finished third overall in 2005. He confirmed that Contador had been happy to allow him to win:

Contador is a tremendous cyclist, it is very difficult to hold his wheel, so I am very happy with this victory.

We had a pact. We both did our share of the work and because of that we won.

Contador explained that he didn’t want to burn himself out covering every attack, but eventually he knew he had to go:

When I saw the others [Scarponi, Nibali etc] staying behind, I knew I had to keep going. It was not an easy stage for anyone. We were all suffering. I was glad to have Rujano there, so we agreed to work together.

Despite now holding a lead of over three minutes, he insisted there is still a long way to go in the race:

Nothing is finished in this Giro. Tomorrow is another hard stage. You could have a bad day and lose 15 minutes easily.

A despondent Nibali moved up to second, 3:09 behind Contador, but admitted he had been powerless to respond to the Spaniard’s final attack:

There was nothing I could do against Contador. I tried to hang on to Contador but he had an extra gear and it was impossible.

We tried to do what we could but it was pointless. I think everyone saw that. I don’t think there is much else to say. Scarponi tried to attack him a few times and I tried to follow him but neither worked and he just rode away from us.

We’ve got to try and come up with something but what? I’m not giving up yet. But we can only hope he cracks.

In addition to increasing his lead in the general classification, Contador now also leads both the points and mountains classifications. With no flat stages remaining – and with most of the top sprinters having quit the race – the points jersey will now go to a climber or GC contender, which makes a bit of a mockery of that particular competition.

Stage 14 sees the peloton return to Italy for a second day in the Dolomites, starting in Lienz and finishing on the summit of Monte Zoncolan. Race officials confirmed this evening that the ascent and treacherous technical descent of Monte Crostis has been dropped because of safety concerns, but that does not lessen the extreme challenge of the mighty Zoncolan, a 10.1km climb with an eve-watering average gradient of 11.9%. Featuring ramps of up to 22%, its most punishing stretch comes in a 5km middle section which averages 15.3%. If anyone is serious about seeking out any sign of weakness in Contador, there will have to be a series of concerted attacks from a number of riders here. It will be attritional and it will probably result in the field being blown apart, and if Contador can survive the inevitable tests with his lead undented, he will have all but secured overall victory.

Stage 14 profile

Stage 13 result:

1. José Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) 4:45:54

2. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) same time

3. John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) +1:27

4. Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale) +1:29

5. Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) same time

General classification:

1. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) 49:40:58

2. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +3:09

3. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) +3:16

4. David Arroyo (Movistar) +3:25

5. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) +3:29

6. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad) +3:53

7. Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +4:02

8. John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) +4:06

9. Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil-DCM) +4:35

10. Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale) +4:38

Points classification:

1. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) 97 pts

2. Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli) 70

3. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) 59

4. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) 59

5. José Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) 57

Mountains classification:

1. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) 24 pts

2. José Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) 24

3. Branislau Samoilau (Movistar) 19

4. Filippo Savini (Colnago-CSF Inox) 16

5. Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) 12

Links: Giro d’Italia official websiteSteephill.tv

Giro d’Italia recaps

Stage 1: Pinotti swaps red, white and green for pink

Stage 2: Petacchi celebrates, Cavendish remonstrates in ham-fisted Parma finish

Stage 3: Weylandt’s death casts a long shadow

Stage 4: Peloton rides in tribute to Weylandt

Stage 5: Weening takes maglia rosa as Millar bites the dust

Stage 6: Ale-Jet runs out of gas as Ventoso wins uphill drag

Stage 7: De Clercq claims first professional win by a whisker

Stage 8: Gatto gets the cream as Contador shows his claws

Stage 9: Explosive Contador erupts on Etna

Stage 10: No tow required as Cavendish opens Giro account

Stage 11: Gadret times his finish to perfection

Stage 12: Cavendish doubles up and retires from the Giro

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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