1. Astana fail to take advantage after Contador's crash
As Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) picked himself off the tarmac in Castiglione della Pescaia following his crash on stage 6, the Giro d’Italia threatened to take on altogether different guise. Although the Spaniard remained atop of the overall standings, just four seconds clear of Fabio Aru (Astana) his shoulder injury meant that he couldn’t don the maglia rosa on the podium that evening, and even when a subsequent x-ray revealed a subluxation of the shoulder rather than a fracture, it felt like a temporary reprieve.
On the road to Fiuggi the next day, Contador was a typically defiant presence at the front in the finale, but one wondered if this was a bluff worthy of El Cid rather than a true indication of his recovery. Stages 8 and 9 through the rugged Apennines would provide the acid test and received wisdom had it that Astana team of Fabio Aru – already so startlingly aggressive in the opening week – would surely recoup significant ground against a diminished Contador.
Instead, however, Contador coolly repelled the Astana offensive as the Giro reached its most southerly point. At the summit finish at Campitello Matese, after Tanel Kangert, Paolo Tiralongo and Mikel Landa had laid the groundwork, Aru placed stinging attacks with 5km and 1.5km to go, but on each occasion he was unable to discommode Contador, with Landa eventually given the green light to pursue a stage victory, though the honours would fall to Benat Inxtausti (Movistar).
Astana were again aggressive in their build-up play on the heavy day to San Giorgio del Sannio the following day, but once again Aru was unable to put the ball in the net. While Tiralongo went up the road to win the stage, Aru’s acceleration on the Passo Serra failed to trouble Contador. He did manage to pick up a second place on the Spaniard when he opened a gap in the sprint for 10th at the finish, but for all his joy at his mentor Tiralongo’s win, Aru must have realised that he had missed a golden opportunity. As the Giro broke for its first rest day, and despite his injury, the pendulum was already swinging decidedly in Contador’s favour. (BR)
2. Richie Porte's costly wheel change – and Matteo Tosatto's quick thinking
There was more than a hint of schadenfreude in some quarters of the Italian press the following day when Sky’s decision to sleep Porte in a motorhome for the Giro and fly him north via helicopter ahead of the rest day was juxtaposed with the fundamentals errors that took place in Forlì. In particular, it beggared belief that a general classification contender could enter the finale of such a fast stage without a teammate riding behind him for the express purpose of handing over his bike in the event of a puncture or crash.