Alberto Contador (Astana) said he was forced to approach yesterday's wet time trial with caution, but had really been aiming to win the important stage. The Spaniard laid down an impressive effort which claimed his second place on the stage, just eight seconds behind winner Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre).
"I tried to win the stage, that was my first objective," said Contador. "Believe me, without the rain, I would have been the winner. I didn't dare to take risks in the end. The last 500 meters on the cobblestones were very slippery as well. Anyway, afterwards I am happy with the time I gained today."
While Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) has admitted to being impressed with his general classification rival's performance, others foresaw the rider's strong ride. Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) said at a press conference on Monday's rest day that he had the Spaniard figured out.
Contador claimed his impressive second place with a fractured elbow, which was uncovered during x-rays on Monday's rest day. Following the discovery of Contador's injury, the team was casting doubt over his ability to even obtain the correct time trial, which threatened to affect his ability to remain in general classification contention.
"My elbow? In the beginning it bothered me a bit, but the further we went in the stage, the better I felt," he said. "My second part of the time trial was indeed much better: the elbow, the legs and the performance.
"I do not want to make provisions for the future," he added. "I feel better and better but I have no idea what I can do in the big mountain stages. I have to repeat: we will see day after day."
While Contador is talking a cautious game, his Astana squad holds an impressive position in the general classification. Contdaor's German team-mate Andreas Klöden claimed third place on yesterday's time trial, putting him in a strong position on general classification which leaves the squad with two cards to play as the Grand Tour's big mountain stages near.
"[Today's] is a very hard, very hard," said Contador. "So my tactic is simple: wait for developments and see how I go in the first mountain stage compared to riders who are in better shape than I."
Contdaor sits 6.59 minutes behind race leader Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) in fourth position, while Klöden is just two positions and 55 seconds behind him. Both riders are ahead of Di Luca and Riccò, while American team-mate Levi Leipheimer isn't too far down the order in 14th spot, 9.10 minutes behind Visconti ahead of the mountain stages.
The team's strong presence on general classification comes despite having virtually no prepartion time for the Italian Grand Tour. Astana had just one week to prepare a squad for the Italian race and arrive at the event's start in Palermo. The squad had been left out of the event as Giro organiser RCS Sport stood with Tour de France organiser ASO in boycotting the team following a tumultuous 2007.
RCS Sport changed its stance against the team following a string of early season successes that has seen the squad take the ProTour teams ranking lead. Astana took the place of NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte, which had originally been named to compete in the event.
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