Alberto Contador has taken control of the Giro d’Italia with his lone victory on Mount Etna but has hinted he may let the maglia rosa go as he stays focused on pulling on the final winner’s jersey in Milan on May 29.
Contador now leads Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad) by 59 seconds, with his key rivals for overall victory even further behind. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) is fourth at 1:21, Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) is fifth at 1:28, and Roman Kreuziger (Astana) is seventh at 1:41, while Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) is a distant 20th at 3:18.
Contador refuted comments from his rivals that he has taken control of the Giro, refusing to fall into the trap of having to defend the pink jersey.
“I don't think I’ve become the boss of the race. I gained some time on them and it was very important, but whatever they call me, their eyes are on me and the whole world is watching what I do. I don't think that's going to change the behaviour of my rivals,” he said.
“Our objective was not to get the jersey. The goal was to gain time on our rivals. It was a climb that was not particularly suited for me but the result was amazing and I am very happy. To have taken the pink jersey is not significant now though. The Giro has only just begun. The first nine days have been intensive. We have seen how well the rivals are doing and now we have some incredible stages in the Dolomites plus the two time trials to come.”
Contador is likely to remain in pink after today’s stage to Teramo because the sprinters teams will control any breakaway attempts. However Wednesday’s 11th stage to Castelfidardo is up and down all day and Contador will probably be happy to let some who is not an overall threat take the pink jersey.
“We have to see how things go day by day but for us the goal is to have the jersey on the 29th in Milan,” Contador pointed out.
“The Giro is very difficult to control, especially with these stages that are long and so hard. For us it is not that important to keep the leadership of the race now.”
Despite the time gaps resulting from Mount Etna, Contador is keeping an eye on all his rivals.
“The rivals remain the same. Some have been lost some time but I don't know if it's because a bad day or because they aren't in good shape, like Menchov and Joaquín Rodríguez, who didn't have a brilliant day. Scarponi lost a bit more than Nibali but not because he’s at a lower level, just because he went into the red. The mountains suit him better and I’m sure he’ll be up there.”
“Everyone is going to attack and to attack from afar they will probably send riders ahead and will be very difficult to control. I'm ready for everything.”
Racing under a cloud
Contador is racing under a cloud as he awaits the appeal hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Yet he seems able to handle the pressure and deflect any criticism.
“I’ve been through several seasons that, in one way or the other, have been complicated,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport during the rest day. “There was a lot of tension last year and it ended with a change of team. Yet when I’m racing, nothing and nobody affects my concentration.”
Despite a bitter rivalry with Lance Armstrong, Contador admits he has learnt a lot about handling pressure from the Texan.
“I was able to learn a lot about racing from Lance. He knew how to understand the people he had around him, who were good and who weren’t. He was also very good tactically. He finished third in the 2009 Tour de France thanks to these qualities.”
Critical of the Crostis
Contador spent several days in the Dolomites studying the key mountain stages before the start of the Giro d’Italia.
The riders are said to be satisfied that the descent of Monte Crostis on stage 14 is safe after seeing a video and learning that extra safety measures have been put in place. However Contador still believes the risks of riding the descent are excessive.
“It’s one thing seeing a road in a video and another seeing in person. They seem to have done a good job: They’ve put nets up that are used in skiing and have asphalted the descent. But they’ve also said the team cars can’t follow the race on the descent,” Contador said.
“I honestly think it’s a bit too risky and not needed. After what has happened, I just don’t think it’s worth it. The stage and the finish on the Zoncolan will still be important and spectacular, even without the Crostis.”