Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) finished in the slipstream of Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) at the top of the Grossglockner but his attack on the steepest section of the Austrian climb was again too fast and too strong for his overall rivals at the Giro. He extended his overall lead to more than three minutes with two further mountain finishes to come on Saturday and Sunday.
Contador makes stage racing look easy and makes his rivals embarrassingly inadequate. Yet he is careful not to appear over confident when speaking to the media.
"It might look easy form the outside but it is not easy at all. Today was incredibly hard and nothing has been decided yet in the race," he said in the press conference in a mountain refuge close to the finish on the Grossglockner.
"My rivals are very strong but on the two mountain stages I felt very good and took advantage of that, while my rivals were a little bit doubtful of attacking."
"I'm in good shape because I worked hard before the Giro. The results are thanks to that. Today I wanted to gain as much time as possible on my overall rivals. Winning was secondary this time. It was a hard stage and I suffered so gaining time was important."
Contador raced intelligently on the long climb to the finish. He let Scarponi launch the first real attack and only made his own move when he saw Nibali in trouble. It was clinical racing.
"When other riders attacked, I waited a bit but then Scarponi went and Nibali was behind. I knew it was the right moment to go," he explained.
"I knew this was an important day and in this Giro you never know if you can have a bad day, you could lose 15 minutes really quickly.
You've got to take advantage when you can."
It was put to Contador that he is trying to wrap up victory in the Giro as soon as possible so that he can throttle back and save himself for the Tour de France.
He has to overcome the UCI and WADA appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport before knowing if he can even ride the Tour de France and insisted he is only focused on winning the Giro.
"Being in the lead is important and you can't let chances go because you'll always regret it. For now I'm only thinking about winning in Milan," he concluded.