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Having gained time on Thursday’s uphill finish, both via splits in the bunch and also the bonus he picked up for second place, Alberto Contador’s apparent vice-like grip on the Maglia Rosa was dramatically lost on Friday when the Tinkoff-Saxo leader was delayed in a crash.
He and Sky rival Richie Porte were amongst a number of riders who were caught up in the big pileup just outside the three kilometre to go area; had the fall occurred a couple of hundred metres earlier, the time lost would not have counted towards the general classification.
That wasn’t the case, however, and as a result Contador conceded 36 seconds to his main rival Fabio Aru. As a result the Astana leader took over in the pink jersey, with the fall deposing Contador, for the first time ever, of a leader’s jersey during a Grand Tour.
“We were well positioned in the stage and we could see the crash coming,” the Spaniard said. “We were waiting for the 3km mark but, unfortunately, the crash took place 3,200 meters from the finish and as a result there was no neutralization.
“My first reaction, before checking if I was ok, was to try to get a bike as soon as I could in order to make it to the finish line.”
He recovered in recent days from an earlier pileup with left him with a partially dislocated shoulder, and is once again injured. Fortunately the more recent accident may have less physical effects, although it may be Saturday before the full picture is known.
“The time I lost wasn’t extraordinary, about 36 seconds, but it will be quite difficult to recover,” he said. “However, what worries me more is the blow I received on my left leg because it seems I got hit by the chainring of another bike.
“This is what could potentially harm me the most. Hopefully, it’s nothing more than superficial wounds.”
Porte has had a frustrating race thus far and there was more of the same on Friday. He lost even more time than Contador, giving up two minutes and eight seconds to the stage winner Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and dropping from 12th to 17th. He is now five minutes and five seconds back.
“Richie lost more time today after the crash and it’s certainly not a lucky Giro d’Italia for him,” said team-mate Elia Viviani. “Tomorrow we have a big time trial and then after the Madonna di Campiglio stage he can decide what he wants to do for the rest of the race.
“We knew it was dangerous today with the rain and we had a lot of guys to support Richie. But there was another crash and it’s just not a lucky race for us.”
Contador pledges to fight onwards. He’s still very close to the lead and knows that it could well be possible to get it back.
“I won’t lose my fighting spirit and I will keep a positive attitude. I will try to recover as soon as I can, put ice on my leg in order to limit the inflammation and then see what happens tomorrow.”
The team’s head directeur sportif explained that the time lost was minimised by the actions of Matteo Tosatto, who realised the problem and gave Contador his machine.
“Thanks to his fast reaction, Alberto got his bike so that he could cross the finish line, minimizing the time loss as much as he could,” he said.
“Fortunately, Alberto’s shoulder wasn’t affected by the fall and we are very happy with that. His left leg was hit but tomorrow we have a very long time-trial and we can get some time back. We will see what happens but I feel confident today’s incident will not be a big issue.”
Next up is that time trial, a 59.4 kilometre race from Treviso to Valdobbiadene.