Alberto Contador’s dislocated shoulder stood up to the mountain test as he retained the overall lead on the eighth stage of the Giro d’Italia yesterday.
Contador, injured in a fall on the final sprint on Thursday, was clearly in pain at times on the 186km leg from Fiuggi to Campitello Matese, but he managed to stay in touch on the two categorised ascents, holding on during attacks from closest challenger Fabio Aru on the climb to the finish. Contador even extended his lead after picking up bonus seconds during an early sprint, moving four seconds ahead of Aru, and 22 ahead of Team Sky’s Richie Porte.
“My team was working very well at the front of the group and I saw the chance to win two seconds and the sprint,” Contador said. “Two seconds are two seconds, you suffer a lot to win two seconds in a time trial. I knew that Aru and Porte would attack on the final climb, and I responded to their attacks.
“I wasn’t at ease in the saddle, but I got through the day and I’m happy. I’ll go to bed with the arm immobilised, and I have to remind myself I’m injured and not do abrupt movements. The time trial could be difficult for me.”
The Spaniard wants to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and Tour de France in the same year.
Benat Intxausti won the stage, attacking with just over three kilometers remaining and steadily increasing his advantage to win the second summit finish of the Giro. He sat up and raised his hands in celebration 300 metres from the line.
Aru’s Astana team-mate, Mikel Landa Meana, finished 20 seconds behind Intxausti, with Sebastien Reichenbach third, 11 seconds further back and four ahead of the group of general classification favourites. “I love the Giro,” said Intxausti “Now I have won two stages and worn the maglia rosa for a day.”
Astana threw everything at Contador on the final category one climb in order to drop him, but the Tinkoff-Saxo rider – isolated after his team-mates couldn’t keep up – managed to stick with Aru on every attack the Italian made, also fending off a late move by Porte.
Contador faces another difficult test on today’s ninth stage, which is an undulating 215km leg through the mountains from Benevento to San Giorgio del Sannio.