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Giro d'Italia Cycling News, May 26, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Tour Champion Contador takes Giro's maglia rosa

Confidence rising as mountain stages pass

By Gregor Brown in Passo Fedaia

Contador is happy in the lead
Photo ©: AFP
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Winner of the Tour de France's maillot jaune, Spaniard Alberto Contador, has donned the Giro d'Italia race leader's maglia rosa after a demanding stage to the Passo Fedaia. The 25 year-old of Team Astana kept the reins tight on Italy's Riccardo Riccò and now leads the overall classification by 33 seconds heading into Monday's mountain time trial.

Contador's Team Astana only got its invitation at the last minute after organiser RCS Sport booted NGC Medical. However, the team has made the most of its visit to Italy by placing Andreas Klöden, Levi Leipheimer and Contador within the top of the classification leading into Sunday's stage 15, where Contador emerged as the man to beat.

"Yesterday, wasn't a good day for me," he revealed in a press conference following the romp of 154 kilometres in the Italian Dolomites. In the stage 24 hours previously, he had been hampered by allergies, even though he went on to finish 45 seconds behind the top GC favourite. "[I had] a lot of allergies to begin with. Considering how things went, I had to be content because I am not in top condition. Today, when it started to rain, I felt a lot better."

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In fact, he drilled back on Riccò with Italian Danilo Di Luca. Neither of the top guns where able to pull the wily Saunier Duval rider back, but losses were limited to 16 seconds. Moreover, the classification was whittled down to a manageable group that includes, above all, Riccò, Di Luca, Marzio Bruseghin, Denis Menchov and Gilberto Simoni.

It almost did not work out so well for Contador, who felt threatened on the Passo Giau, some 70 kilometres from the finish. "There arrived a moment when I didn't feel that good; when they started to attack – Riccò, Menchov – I chased but I couldn't get their wheel. It was a moment when I didn't feel good. I thought that my chances of taking the pink weren't possible. Then when we started the Marmolada [Passo Fedaia - ed.] my sensations were very different – even though I broke a wheel – my head was totally focused on it."

Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana) initially struggled
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Contador's back wheel was wobbling due to a broken spoke and, although he opened up the brakes to the maximum, there was still rubbing when he was riding out of the saddle.

"I tried to climb without standing so the wheel wouldn't move as much. ... I tried to sit in the saddle, and I thought with six kilometres to go to change the wheel or not." He decided on the latter, continuing to the finish without stopping.

If Contador manages to hold his advantage on the 12.9-kilometre individual time trial run to Plan de Corones Monday, he can potentially keep the leader's pink top at least until Friday's stage to Monte Pora.

"I think it's a perfect day to take the maglia rosa," said the rider from Madrid. "I came close yesterday at five seconds, so, today, to have it is the best day. I don't know tomorrow's time trial course and in the morning will try to climb it in the car. Then it is a rest day and, later, more normal stages [Wednesday and Thursday - ed.] and then we have two hard days, so I think it's a perfect day.

"It's a gift – if they and told that 20 days ago on the beach that I would be in the maglia rosa I wouldn't have believed it. I came here thinking about the stages, but little by little, the people around me lifted my spirits, and they convinced me to keep fighting. The sensations became better, for that I am in the maglia rosa."

Contador is a gifted time trialist and excelled in the Urbino time trial last Tuesday. For that reason, he relishes in the fact that this Giro is laden in timed events - four in total counting one team and three individual time trials. He will have his work cut out for him Monday – an ascent with gradients touching 24 percent – but the final 28.5-kilometre to Milano on the Giro d'Italia's final day will suit his talents.

Read the complete feature.

Sella wins again

Sella-bration time once more
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Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) made it two solo victories in a row on Sunday in stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia. The Italian faced no less than six major mountain climbs including Pordoi, San Pellegrino, San Tommaso di Agordino, Giau, Falzarego and the finish up Fedaia and surprised himself with a second Giro stage win in as many days.

"The intention was to take as many heads as possible in the first two climbs," said Sella after the finish. "Then at Giau, my legs started to turn like yesterday. I still had a margin on the chase group and so I tried to go for it."

"I haven't yet taken account of how well I went today," said Sella. "Yesterday, I was euphoric after my Giro win, which I had chased for four years without success. Today, was different. It will take some time alone to understand."

His efforts were rewarded not only with the stage win, but also with a heap of mountain classification points. He now leads with 117 points - a huge margin considering second placed Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) has just 28 points. He sits in 10th overall on the GC after stage 15, 4'41" down on maglia rosa Alberto Contador (Astana).

Simoni roars amongst lambs

By Gregor Brown in Passo Fedaia

Gilberto Simoni adjusts his radio
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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"Definitely, definitely," two-time Giro d'Italia champion Gilberto Simoni said to Cyclingnews Sunday morning in Arabba's Piazzale Funivia in response if it would be a day that he attacks. It will be "a day for the lions and not the lambs."

The 36 year-old Italian from Trento lived up to his promise in stage 15 and helped eliminate key rivals – Pellizotti, Klöden, Leipheimer and Savoldelli – while mixing it in the front on the Passo Fedaia with Riccò, Di Luca, Menchov and Contador.

"There is pretty high limit in this race. The races are hard. They cause fear," The Diquigiovanni rider added. Simoni distanced himself from Spain's Alberto Contador (Astana) and Italy's Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes), but was not impressed with the movement of the favourites. "It was nothing," he said of the moves up the Alpe di Pampeago. Did anyone impress him? "Sella, who went on to win."

Simoni was at odds with the others' performances, but also with his own. "Nothing for me," he said about Saturday's stage, 195 kilometres. "The race went that way, no one was moving. I was the first to get going. Menchov took the extra step, but..."

Sunday's tappone [stage - ed.] to Passo Fedaia was better. "It was tiring, my head is good," he confessed at the finish. "If one is there they can't make the difference. Riccò was ahead, but only held 10 metres on us.

"This rhythm is good and my level is high. I am there, up front and I am taking it well. However, I had thought of something more from today. ... I remain confident."

Little Pozzovivo makes big moves

By Gregor Brown in Passo Fedaia

One of the smallest riders in the Giro d'Italia peloton, Domenico Pozzovivo is making big moves through the high mountain passes of the Italian Dolomites. The 25 year-old CSF Group rider, from Italy's south, remained easily with the classification favourites on Saturday's stage to Alpe di Pampeago and attacked them on Sunday during stage 15 to Passo Fedaia.

The morning of the 153-kilometre day to Passo Fedaia, he commented on his form. "I saw that the classification riders were watching each other," the fourth year professional said of stage 14, won by team-mate Emanuele Sella. "My move was not a move to arrive solo, but just to up the rhythm that was there. I already knew that Sella won." He finished 12th for the day, 23 seconds behind the best of his group, Russia's Denis Menchov (Rabobank).

"My legs are good and I will try again today. The squad's morale is good and I will try to build on that today. I will try to remain with the favourites," said Pozzovivo of stage 15.

Pozzovivo did just that by chasing down Franco Pellizotti's move on the Passo Giau and keeping with the favourites to the finale on Passo Fedaia. After Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) lifted the pace, Pozzovivo went away to join up with one of the early escapees and team-mate Fortunato Baliani, while team-mate Sella was further up the road going towards the stage win.

Pozzovivo continued solo after Baliani faded, finishing the day second, 2'05" behind stage winner Sella.

Vande Velde saves bullets for next shoot out

By Gregor Brown in Passo Fedaia

Christian Vande Velde is in this packed start area somewhere
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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Slipstream's Christian Vande Velde is saving his bullets for the next shoot out of the 91st Giro d'Italia. The 32 year-old American rider wore the race leader's maglia rosa for the first day of the tour and showed well again in stage 14 by making the main escape of the day, but now is looking forward to Varese.

"I hunted for a stage, and the end of the day I also had a chance at the jersey," recalled Vande Velde at the start of stage 15, in Arabba's Piazzale Funivia. He was captured on the day's finale up the Alpe di Pampeago.

"I shot off a bunch of bullets to be in the move anyway - we were going so hard initially to form the escape. There were a lot of guys who wanted to get in and there were a lot of guys who did not make it because we were going so damn fast up that hill [Cerro Veronese - ed.]. It was an awesome and it was pretty cool to be apart of it because we were just flying."

He planned on having an "easy" day through Sunday's Dolomite stage to Passo Fedaia. "I know that today is really hard," said Vande Velde. "I don't want to absolutely destroy myself; it has already been a long spring, and I went pretty deep yesterday, so, from now one I will take it as the day goes."

Vande Velde, winner of the 2006 Tour de Luxembourg, would not mind being lower in the overall rankings so that he is allowed some freedom for a stage win. He is eyeing the stage that starts and ends on world championship circuits.

"It will help my chances to have a 'day off' so to speak," added Vande Velde. "There are couple of lumpy days. ... The Varese day, that is going to be really hard. It is on both worlds circuits [starts on Mendrisio 2009 and ends on Varese 2008 circuit - ed.]. That will be a great stage and to pull something off in that stage would be really neat."

Voigt strong in the mountains

Jens Voigt (CSC)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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Team CSC's Jens Voigt rode a strong stage on Sunday's queen stage of the Giro d'Italia. Voigt was part of the early racing action and played a role in creating the break of nine riders that lasted for half the stage.

It was on the third climb, that Voigt and five others dropped from the break, but he soon joined up with more than a dozen racers to ride with the group of favorites up the fourth mountain. Voigt couldn't keep pace with the attacking favorites, but he did end up in 18th place 7'26" off winner Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare).

"We've gotta hand it Jens Voigt who had yet another great day," said Team CSC director Kim Anderson according to team-csc.com. "He's up there all the way 'til five kilometers before the end of the queen stage, which shows both great form and will power – very impressive."

Besides being in a position to regain the top 10 of the GC, Voigt may have other aspirations. "He's definitely a possible candidate for a stage win before this race is over," said Anderson.

Unlike Voigt, team-mate Chris Anker didn't have such a good day. "Unfortunately today was most likely the end for Chris Anker as far as the overall standings go," said Anderson. "He had a really bad day and this was not the stage to do badly in. He's done his best and we couldn't ask for more. This year's edition of the Giro has been gruelling and you pay the price if you have a couple of bad days."

See Cyclingnews' complete coverage of stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia.

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