Alberto Contador forges ahead in the lead while Levi Leipheimer and Michele Scarponi try to limit their losses.
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Spaniard believes the 2011 Giro will be the hardest challenge he’s ever faced
After carrying out reconnaissance of several of the key stages of the upcoming Giro d’Italia in recent days, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) has admitted that his fears about the difficulty of the climbs have been confirmed. Speaking to Cyclingnews two weeks ago in Spain, Contador described the Giro route as likely to be the toughest challenge he had ever faced in his career.
Contador rode four of the race’s key stages with his teammates Dani Navarro and Jesús Hernández, who will both be part of Saxo Bank’s line-up focused on helping the Spaniard toward a second Giro d'Italia triumph. Contador was particularly awestruck by the stage to Monte Zoncolan, regarded by many of the toughest climb in professional cycling. But it was new Giro ascent Monte Crostis, which precedes the Zoncolan that day, that Contador admitted "makes me afraid".
Speaking to Marca, Contador revealed that he had previously seen "nothing similar" to Monte Crostis. That verdict was delivered despite the fact that Contador and his colleagues could not make it to the summit because of thick snow. Rising to 1982m, the ascent of Monte Crostis climbs 1417m in just 14km at average of 10.1 percent. Sections of up to 18 percent should favour Contador and similarly strong climbers. The final 2.5km of the climb are on dirt road, which could be a complicating factor.
"Let's hope that it doesn’t snow because if it does, the climb won’t be open," said Contador. "It's an amazing place, for a barbecue that is," he added with more than a hint of irony.
Contador said he was much happier with the Zoncolan, confessing, "I like that climb." Although at 11.9 percent, it is steeper than Monte Crostis, it is almost 4km shorter and does not climb as high. While Navarro and Hernández stopped below the summit of the Zoncolan, Contador continued on to see the final four curves for himself.
Contador also admitted to having some concerns about the 15th stage that follows the stage to the Zoncolan. Covering 230km between Conegliano and Gardeccia, it includes the climbs of Piancavallo, Forcella Cibiana, Giau and Fedaia. "I think there will be more than 6500m of vertical climbing on this stage. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life," said Contador. "It’s incredible, and you also have to take into account that its 230km come the day after the Zoncolan."
With more irony, he said,"If I'm alive after the Zoncolan stage then this stage will seem like a walk in the park."
Finally, Contador looked at the stage in Austria that finishes on the Grossglockner pass, plus the 12.7km mountain time trial to Nevegal, that he believes should particularly suit him.
In addition to Navarro and Hernández, Saxo Bank’s Giro d'Italia line-up will include Kasper Klostergaard, Michael Morkov, Gustav Larsson, Matteo Tosatto, Laurent Didier and Volodymir Gustov.
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