Saxo Bank-SunGard manager Bjarne Riis revealed that Alberto Contador's late attack on stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia was not premeditated and dismissed the idea that Contador had landed psychological blow to his rivals’ morale in Tropea.
In the closing kilometres of the stage, as the peloton tackled the twisting, rolling roads along the coast to the finish, the Saxo Bank squad massed to the front, but Riis was adamant that their intention was simply to keep Contador out of trouble in a potentially treacherous finale.
"It was not planned to do something," Riis told Cyclingnews at the finish. "The plan was to bring him to the last 3-4km at the front to stay safe. But you know Alberto, when the opportunity is there, he goes, he takes it. At the start that was not the plan, but when the opportunity is there, you go, you have to take it."
On Friday's stage to Montevergine, Contador showed little interest in contesting the stage victory, and was content to follow in the wheels as Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana) sprinted for the bonus seconds. Riis denied that Contador's move on stage 8 was a sign that he was disappointed with his showing on the previous day.
"Yesterday was special and the climb was not that hard. He just decided to follow," Riis said. "Normally he would have decided to follow today too, but when the opportunity is there you take it."
No psychological warfare
Although Contador fell just short of catching winner Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) before the line, he gained five seconds on the peloton as well as an additional 12-second time bonus, which moved him ahead of Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) in the overall standings. He is now fifth, 13 seconds behind Pieter Weening (Rabobank).
There were shades of Miguel Indurain's famous ambush on the road to Liège at the 1995 Tour de France when Contador made his acceleration in Tropea, but Riis rejected the idea that he was engaging in psychological warfare with his rivals. Riis also dismissed the notion that Contador was seeking to reassure himself of his form.
"I think he knows how strong he is," Riis dead-panned. "He doesn't have to show it here."
One place where Contador may indeed have to show his strength is on the slopes of Mount Etna on Sunday, and Riis acknowledged that stage 9 would be the first major rendezvous of the race.
"I think it's obvious it's another stage tomorrow," he said cagily. "It's a harder climb than yesterday (Montevergine di Mercogliano), where there was a big group. For sure there will be more of a selection."