Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 5: Alberto Contador wins again, storms into race lead
Tinkoff-Saxo man attacks from a long way out, overnight leader Michal Kwiatkowski cracks
Alberto Contador this afternoon stormed into the race lead at Tirreno-Adriatico as he won his second successive stage, today's concluding with the brutal Guardiagrele ascent, where the gradient hits 30 per cent. Overnight leader Michal Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma-Quick Step struggled today, and crossed the line 6 minutes after Contador, who now lead Nairo Quintana of Movistar by 2 minutes 6 seconds.
It was vintage Contador as the Spaniard launched his first attack on the climb of the Passo Lanciano, with 36km remaining of the 192km stage from Amatrice remaining, and only Quintana able to go with him.
Just 7 seconds behind him in the overall standings, the Colombian was the last person Contador would have wanted as a riding companion, and after an exchange of words, they appeared to knock off the pace, allowing others to rejoin them.
But Quintana had no response to Contador's second attack which he launched with 32km left and this time was quickly dropped.
Reaching Lotto-Belisol's Adam Hansen, dropped from the day's break, the pair worked together to get across to the three remaining members of the escape group still ahead of them.
Once the group hit the Muro di Guardiagrele, the toughest part of the final climb, Garmin-Sharp's Ben King attacked, but Contador countered and moved ahead.
Towards the top of the steepest section, it seemed that Simon Geschke of Giant Shimano would get back to him. However, he had to be content with second place as the Tinkoff-Saxo rider, aware of the threat, surged again, with King finishing third.
With a strong field in this year's race, the past two days suggest that Contador is getting back to his best, and will give defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome food for thought.
Froome had been due to lead Sky's challenge at Tirreno, but pulled out through a back injury and was replaced by Richie Porte. The Australian was missing from the start this morning, having been ill overnight.