Contador survives longest Giro d'Italia stage despite painful shoulder injury

'There are some very difficult days ahead and I hope I can get through them as best as I can,' says Tinkoff-Saxo leader

An injured Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) made it through stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia to maintain the overall race lead but he admitted it had been an exceptionally tough day.

After stage 6's big crash and double dislocation of his shoulder, there had been initial doubts whether Contador would be able to start Friday's racing, the longest stage of the Giro d'Italia at 264 kilometres. Although he did manage to finish the stage in 30th place, after seven and a half hours on the bike, Contador said he had had an exceptionally difficult day.

"I suffered a lot because the stage was a very long one and after the fourth hour, I had no idea where I should put my arm," Contador told reporters afterwards.

"I'm pleased I got through the day, something that I wasn't sure if I would be able to do at the start. I just hope and trust that as the days go by I start feeling better."

Although Contador appeared to be pedalling normally and was in his normal position close to the front during most of the day, what was noticeable during the stage was that he stood out of the saddle more than usual. Team sources later said this was to test to see whether the posture caused him additional pain.

In what appeared to be a clear bid to reduce the risk of another crash, Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo teammates Ivan Basso and Mick Rogers moved to the front in the closing kilometres, with the Giro d'Italia leader and Roman Kreuziger all but glued to their back wheels. The quartet of riders only eased back into the main peloton once the 'three-kilometres-to-go' banner had passed.

After briefly patting one of his teammates on the arm as he crossed the line to thank him for their work in keeping him out of danger, Contador did go through the winner's protocol, donning the leader's jersey - as he had not managed to do the day before after his shoulder dislocated a second time in the crash. However, he was careful not to raise his arm above shoulder height and he avoided risking putting any strain on his arm, either, with the celebratory bottle of prosecco. After a brief smile to the public, he then opted to skip the usual press conferences after the stage for a second day running.

"There are some very difficult days ahead and I hope I can get through them as best as I can," Contador said in a brief tv interview. "Right now all I want to do is put some ice on my injuries and rest."

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