Spaniard Alberto Contador bounced back from a crash to retake the overall lead in the Giro d’Italia as rivals Fabio Aru and Richie Porte stumbled in Saturday’s 14th stage time-trial.
The 32-year-old, who won the Italian race in 2008, finished third on the day but finished nearly three minutes ahead of overnight leader Aru after a 59.4km race against the clock won by Sky’s Belarus rider Vasil Kiryienka.
Contador, the 2007 and 2009 Tour de France winner, is bidding to become the first man since Marco Pantani in 1998 to complete the Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double.
The Spaniard now looks in complete command of the race ahead of the final week which nevertheless includes some key mountain stages prior to next Sunday’s final to Milan.
Aru has dropped to second place to sit 2min 28secs behind the Spaniard, with Costa Rican rider Andrey Amador of Movistar third overall at 3:36 and 2013 runner-up Rigoberto Uran fourth at 4:14.
Porte, who along with Contador got caught up in a crash at the end of Friday’s stage and reportedly damaged his knee, saw his challenge all but slip out of sight, the Australian finishing 55th at 4:40 to drop to 17th overall at 8:52.
“I knew I could make a difference today, but I didn’t expect the time gaps to be so large,” said Contador, who admitted this will likely be his last participation in the Italian race as he looks forward to retirement.
“I’d like to thank the crowd, they’ve been fantastic especially as it will likely be my final Giro d’Italia.”
It was Kiryienka’s third stage win in the Giro, his first in the time-trial.
“It’s a really special victory me for,” he told Eurosport. “Of course I go well in the time trials but I’ve not had a big time trial victory in a while so it’s nice to take one.”
However the Belarusian’s win was scant consolation for Sky compared with the objective they had set Porte at the start of the race.
“Of course we’re not very lucky this Giro with Richie,” added Kiryienka.
“It seems that it is difficult for the overall (victory) now, but in the next few days of course we’ll be there and we’re going to try and fight for (stage) wins.”
Leading results from the 14th stage of the Giro d’Italia, a 59.4km individual time-trial between Treviso and Valdobbiadene on Saturday:
1. Vasil Kiryienka (BLR/SKY) 1hr 17min 52sec, 2. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/AST) at 12sec, 3. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 14, 4. Patrick Gretsch (GER/ALM) 23, 5. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/LNL) 1:09. 6. Tanel Kangert (EST/AST) 1:17, 7. Jürgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LOT) 1:25, 8. Fabio Felline (ITA/TRE) 1:26, 9. Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE/GIA) 1:27, 10. Luke Durbridge (AUS/ORI) 1:36.
29. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 3:01
1. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 55hr 39min 00sec, 2. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) at 2min 28sec, 3. Andrey Amador (CRC/MOV) 3:36, 4. Rigoberto Uran (COL/ETI) 4:14, 5. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LOT) 4:17, 6. Dario Cataldo (ITA/AST) 4:50, 7. Mikel Landa (ESP/AST) 4:55, 8. Damiano Caruso (ITA/BMC) 4:56, 9. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/TIN) 4:57, 10. Leopold König (CZE/SKY) 5:35
– Agence France-Presse