Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) missed out on the stage win at the Montevergine di Mercogliano finish of the Giro d'Italia but still gained something from the uphill finish in the Campania hills, inland from Naples.
His second place behind Bart De Clercq (Omega Pharma-Lotto) gave him twelve bonus seconds and lifted him to fifth overall at 14 seconds. He is now the highest ranked of the favourites for overall victory in Milan. He precedes Vincenzo Nibali by ten seconds and Alberto Contador by sixteen seconds. Scarponi is now within range of the maglia rosa and could take it from Pieter Weening (Rabobank) if he wins the stage on Etna and the Dutchman fails to take any bonus seconds.
“If the GC guys keep watching each others like today, it’s possible that I keep the pink jersey at the Etna,” Weening suggested.
Contador lost contact in the final two hundred metres but wasn’t worried about that after he had crossed the line of the Montevergine.
“Our group was riding fast because there were some breakaway riders to catch. There was no room for attacks but I expect the selection to be more important on the Etna on Sunday,” he said before riding down the climb.
Giro d’Italia general director Angelo Zomegnan confirmed that Sunday’s stage ninth in Sicily will be held as planned despite the recent eruption of the Etna volcano. Catania airport has reopened and the riders will be able to fly to Pescara on Sunday evening as scheduled before the first rest day of the race.
Scarponi was happy to pick up some bonus seconds but wanted to win the stage.
“I thought I was going to win. The breakaway rider (Bart de Clercq) looked like finished but he made it by just,” Scarponi told Cyclingnews.
“We did a great job to come across to him but he was super strong. I said that I wouldn’t move until one kilometre to go and I didn’t. I remained on the wheels all day. I did a good sprint but I needed a little bit more to win. I’ve raced well. It’s ok, I’m doing well, my team is doing well, and I liked this finish. It’s all good. The hardest stages are yet to come and I’m ideally placed for what I want to achieve on the overall classification,”
Scarponi added that he would take it easy on Saturday during the flat stage to Tropea, letting teammate Alessandro Petacchi go for the stage victory on the slightly uphill sprint finish.