Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) took back the pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia and opened a lead of 2:28 on nearest rival Fabio Aru after his impressive ride in the 59.4km time trial to Valdobbiadene, yet he modestly and sportingly refused to say that he was now in total charge of the race.
Contador went close to winning the stage, with a paced effort but was slowed by what seemed like a change in the wind direction. He finished third, 14 seconds slower than surprise winner Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) and two seconds slower than Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana).
With Andrey Amador (Movistar) third at 3:36, Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-QuickStep) fourth at 4:14, and Richie Porte (Team Sky) down in 17th place at 8:52, Contador can play off his rivals as they fight for a podium spot or try to save their race. But he refused any comparison to fellow Spaniard Miguel Indurain, who was the master of control and making friends while he dominated his five Tour de France victories and two wins in the Giro d'Italia in the early 1990s.
"Miguel was unique. He could do great time trials and made bigger differences than I ever can. I'm not like him," Contador said in his post-race press conference.
"We'll see happens in the race. There are lots of different race situations that may come about over the coming days. They (Astana) have a strong team, and it's sometimes hard for me to hold myself back. In any case, sometimes the best form of defence is to attack."
"For sure Aru can still be a contender. I've ridden many Grand Tours and for many days as a race leader, and I know that you don't suddenly lose your form or good legs. Fabio didn't have a good day today, but he might have a great one tomorrow at Madonna di Campiglio."
Contador also refuted a suggestion that he may start to think about July, the Tour de France and his hopes of securing a Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double. He insisted he is keen to savour what could be his last ever ride in the Giro d'Italia.
"I don't know if I'll come back to the Giro d'Italia next year, so I want to make the most of every moment," he said.
"Thinking about the Tour would be a mistake. Yesterday (Friday) is a good example: I fell 3.2km from the finish line. I didn't lose too much time because I got up quickly, saw that my bike wasn't in good shape and so I got another one from a teammate. The same thing could happen tomorrow (on the mountain stage to Madonna di Campiglio), so I'll take this race day by day, and then I'll start thinking about the Tour de France."
Unconcerned about Astana
The time splits form the time trial indicate Contador's carefully paced performance. He was only 19th fastest after the opening, flat 17.6km. He pulled back time and was third fastest on the first climb of the stage to the 35km mark. He then accelerated in the hills through the Prosecco vineyards and rose up the standings to take third place and more importantly distance all his overall rivals.
"When I first heard about the time trial I only knew that it was the 14th stage and that it would influence the race and how people recover in the race. Personally I wouldn't have included it or excluded it," he explained.
"I came to look at the route after the Vuelta a Catalunya (in March) with Ivan Basso. We took the opportunity to ride it by bike, and then to drive it by car. I wanted to see it again yesterday (Friday), but because of the crash, I couldn't. I couldn't even warm down on rollers. So this morning I did some rollers to see how my knee was, then I went to look at the route by car. I wanted to remember where it went, and to record a video with comments. After that recon, before I did my warm up, I watched the video because it's important for me to see where I'm going. Then I warmed up, and then I went out to compete."
Contador is back in the maglia rosa as the race finally heads into the mountains for the finish at Madonna di Campiglio. It was noted that his Tinkoff-Saxo teammates seemed to save their legs in the time trial, while the Astana riders raced hard and remain in the top 10 of the overall classification.
Aru is at second overall at 2:28, with Dario Cataldo sixth at 4:40 and Mikel Landa is seventh at 4:55. Even domestiques Tanel Kangert, Paolo Tiralongo and Diego Rosa are in the top 30.
"Every team has its own strategy and race how they want. I'm very happy with my team. I can only say thanks to them," Contador said before ending the press conference.
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