Alberto Contador today tightened his grip on the 2010 Giro d'Italia on the first of three big mountain stages that will reshape the top of the general classification. As with Sunday's stage on Mount Etna, only Jose Rujano of Androni-Giocattoli proved able to get anywhere near the 2008 Giro champion, and it was the Venezuelan who took the stage win although the impression was that the Saxo Bank-SunGard rider was riding well within himself. John Gadret of AG2R, winner of Stage 11 in Castelfidardo two days ago, finished third.
While Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas Cannodale and Lampre-ISD’s Michele Scarponi had been talked up prior to this year’s Giro starting as the men most likely to challenge the Spaniard for the overall win, once again neither managed to make an impact when it counted and even today, the first in the Alps, it is very difficult to see anyone other than Contador wearing the maglia rosa when the race ends in Milan a week on Sunday.
However, on a day when he took a huge step towards the overall win as the race headed into Austria, news came from another of Italy’s Alpine neighbours, Switzerland, that the 28-year-old may not have much time to celebrate any eventual win.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Lausanne, confirmed that the appeals by the World Anti-doping Agency and the UCI against the Spanish federation’s decision to clear the cyclist of doping charges brought following his positive test for clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France will be held over three days starting on 6 June, less than a fortnight after the Giro ends.
Should that decision go against Contador, the likelihood is that he will be stripped of his third Tour de France win last year, as well as any subsequent results, including those achieved in this year’s Giro.
As of now, though, the record shows that Contador was absolved of wrongdoing by his national federation and should he go on to record the sixth Grand Tour win of his career and the appeals by WADA and UCI fail, the cycling world will belatedly be able to celebrate what looks like being his second Giro d’Italia victory.
If the appeal goes against him, however, a Contador overall win subsequently scratched from the record would further damage the image of a sport already battered by doping scandals and governing bodies, teams and race organisers that too often seem opposed to one another rather than coming together to present a united front.
That’s not to mention the suspension of disbelief required by the millions of fans watching the race around the world who while watching the Saxo Bank-SunGard rider dominate his rivals must be aware that the eventual victor of the 2011 Giro d’Italia may ultimately be decided by a three-man committee sitting in Switzerland next month.
As for today’s stage, in terms of the overall standings, racing today began in earnest 10 kilometres from the end of the 167km race which began this morning in Spilimbergo before heading across the Austrian border.
That coincided with the last of the day’s 16-strong breakaway being passed by a very select group of similar size that contained most, but not all, of the men occupying the top ten of the general classification this morning, the most notable absentee being the HTC-Highroad rider Kanstantsin Sivtsov, in second place behind Contador this morning.
With rain coming down as the riders headed up the ascent of the Grossglockner, Rujano and Scarponi both tried to get off the front of the group, but neither was able to establish a gap as the group quickly brought them back.
Then, 8.5km out, Contador upped his tempo and seemingly effortlessly rode away dancing on the pedals, and this time only Rujano was able to go with him as again pre-race favourites such as Scarponi and Nibali proved unable to find a response.
Behind, John Gadret of AG2R, winner of Stage 11 two days ago in Castelfidardo, managed to get away from the chasing group to clinch third spot, nearly a minute and a half after Rujano and Contador had crossed the line.
The Spaniard’s 12-second time bonus for finishing second meant that he put nearly two more minutes into the likes of Nibali, Scarponi and another former Giro winner, Denis Menchov of Geox-TMC.
Nibali, Italy’s great hope for this race, third last year when team mate Ivan Basso won, moves up to second overall, but now lies 3 minutes 9 seconds behind Contador.
With more than a week’s worth of mountain stages to come, there will no doubt be opportunities to get at least some of that time back, if Nibali or indeed any of the other riders viewed as pre-race contenders for the maglia rosa are up to the task.
But on Etna last Sunday and again on the Grossglockner today, it has been Contador who has asked the questions, and so far only Rujano, third in the 2005 Giro, has been able to provide any kind of response although on the slopes of the Sicilian volcano last weekend he, too, was ultimately found wanting.
Giro d’Italia Stage 13 Result
1 RUJANO Jose Androni-Giocattoli 4:45:54 2 CONTADOR Alberto Saxo Bank-SunGard same time 3 GADRET John AG2R at 1:27 4 DUPONT Hubert AG2R 1:29 5 ANTON Igor Euskaltel-Euskadi 1:29 6 KREUZIGER Roman Astana 1:36 7 SCARPONI Michele Lampre-ISD 1:36 8 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale 1:36 9 KIRYIENKA Vasili Movistar 1:36 10 MENCHOV Denis Geox-TMC 1:36 11 ARROYO David Movistar 1:36 12 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin Katusha 1:52 13 KRUIJSWIJK Steven Rabobank 1:52 14 CARRARA Matteo Vacansoleil-DCM 2:02 15 MASCIARELLI Francesco Astana 2:14 16 NIEVE Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi 2:28 17 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC-Highroad 2:42 18 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw Lampre-ISD 2:42 19 TSCHOPP Johann BMC Racing 2:42 20 CATALDO Dario Quickstep 2:42 Giro d’Italia Overall Standings after Stage 13 1 CONTADOR Alberto Saxo Bank-SunGard 49:40:58 2 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale at 3:09 3 SCARPONI Michele Lampre-ISD 3:16 4 ARROYO David Movistar 3:25 5 KREUZIGER Roman Astana 3:29 6 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC-Highroad 3:53 7 ANTON Igor Euskaltel-Euskadi 4:02 8 GADRET John AG2R 4:06 9 CARRARA Matteo Vacansoleil-DCM 4:35 10 DUPONT Hubert AG2R 4:38
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.