Aru, Landa and Astana take defeat on the chin at the Giro d’Italia

Fabio Aru, Mikel Landa and the Astana team were forced to accept losing further time to Alberto Contador after stage 18 to Verbania at the Giro d'Italia.

On Tuesday, the Astana riders went on the attack before the Mortirolo climb when Contador stopped for an apparent wheel change. When Landa was caught up in a crash on the early slopes of Monte Ologno today, the Tinkoff-Saxo took his revenge.

They upped the speed at the front of the peloton and then Contador danced away. He was later joined by Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin), who was looking to break into the top 10 overall, and they worked together and finished 1:13 ahead of the group of chasers that included Aru and Landa.

"I think he (Contador) saw the opportunity to make me suffer and he took it, and I've lost a minute and a half," Landa admitted.

"He took advantage the same way that I did on the Mortirolo. Certainly they were angry about what had happened the other day and they took advantage of the situation. Things like that happen. The race is the race, and he took his opportunity. Our objective is the keep these two positions on the podium and try to win another stage."

Aru again struggled on the climb of Monte Ologno and is now in a fight to defend his third place overall and spot on the final podium in Milan from Andrey Amador (Movistar). The Costa Rica rider is only 56 seconds behind in the overall classification with the mountain stages to Cervinia and Sestriere still to come.

"If I'd had the legs, I'd have gone with Contador," Aru joked after the stage. "When he attacked he was very strong. There wasn't much we could do."

No room for fair play

The Astana team could only lick its wounds as riders returned to the team bus and they packed up after another day of racing.

Experienced directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli refused to admitted that they had been put to the sword yet again and that Contador had taken revenge for their attack before the Mortirolo and their constant aggression during the Giro d'Italia.

"It was normal racing. When things happen everyone does whatever they want. I'm not on Twitter, so there's not much else to say…" he said laconically, perhaps taking a shot at Tinkoff-Saxo team owner and frequent Twitter user Oleg Tinkov.

"There's no room for fair play. Cycling is about crashes, attacks and about improvising. The race starts at kilometre zero and the race has to always be honoured. Unfortunately Landa got hit from behind by a rider. He got a wheel from Tiralongo but he lost about a minute. If Contador had been on his own, perhaps we could have caught him but he teamed up with Hesjedal, who was riding to move up into the top 10."

"It was pure coincidence. It happens to us once and then to them twice. I'm sure that Contador can go to bed happier tonight but I don't worry about what other people do, I just worry about myself."

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Stephen Farrand
Head of News

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.