Spain’s Alberto Contador retained the lead of the Giro d’Italia after Wednesday’s 11th stage won by the Katusha team’s Russian rider Ilnur Zakarin.
Zakarin biked in to victory alone after a long, solo breakaway on the 153km ride from Forli to Imola.
Tinkoff’s Contador, whose goal is to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and the Tour de France in the same season, held on to the leader’s pink jersey, with a slender three seconds advantage over chief rival Astana’s Fabio Aru.
Contador, who launched an unsuccessful attack, admitted it had been a tough day in the saddle.
“The terrain wasn’t ideal for an attack, but sometimes you just go on instinct: it depends on whether you feel good or not,” Contador said.
“Today was very hard, much harder than yesterday, with 50km less.
“I’m feeling better each day, and the bruising on my legs (after last week’s fall) is getting better.”
The experienced rider added: “A thousand things can still happen. It may look easy, but there is still a very long way to go.”
Stage winner Zakarin, the shock Tour de Romandie winner last month, broke away from an escape group 23km from home.
With three laps of the Imola motor track to finish off the stage, the 25-year-old Zakarin held off the advances of the chasing pack led by Australian Simon Gerrans, eventually finishing 53sec clear of a sextet led by Colombian Carlos Betancur.
“I started the stage in good heart, and the breakaway riders worked well together,” the Russian said.
“I made one attempt to get away, and at the second try, I made it. I learned a lesson in the stage that (Benat) Intxausti won (on Saturday) because that day I made the mistake of attacking too early.
“This time, I waited until the last moment. I still can’t believe that I won the Tour de Romandie, and now I’ve won a stage of the Giro. I feel many emotions, and I’m very happy.”
Thursday’s 12th stage from Imola to Vicenza is a gruelling 190km ride, with the final 60km over very hilly terrain, with some very demanding climbs and an uphill finish on the final ramp.
Results from Wednesday’s 153km 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia run between Forli and Imola:
1. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 3hrs 55min 07sec, 2. Carlos Betancur (COL/ALM) at 53sec, 3. Franco Pellizotti (ITA/AND) 53, 4. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 53, 5. Diego Rosa (ITA/AST) 53, 6. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/LNL) 53, 7. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/CAN) 53, 8. Maciej Paterski (POL/CCC) 58, 9. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) 58, 10. Juanjo Lobato (ESP/MOV) 58, 11. Grega Bole (SLO/CCC) 1min 02sec, 12. Francesco Gavazzi (ITA/SOU) 1:02, 13. Manuele Mori (ITA/LAM) 1:02, 14. Simon Geschke (GER/GIA) 1:02, 15. Simon Gerrans (AUS/ORI) 1:02, 16. Michael Matthews (AUS/ORI) 1:02, 17. Pavel Kochetkov (RUS/KAT) 1:02, 18. Jürgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LOT) 1:02, 19. Andrey Amador (CRC/MOV) 1:02, 20. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 1:02, 21. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 1:02.
29. Rigoberto Uran (COL/ETI) 1:02, 31. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) 1:02.
Overall standings after 11 stages
1. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 46hrs 54min 19sec, 2. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) at 3sec, 3. Mikel Landa (ESP/AST) 46, 4. Dario Cataldo (ITA/AST) 1:16, 5. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/TIN) 1:46, 6. Rigoberto Uran (COL/ETI) 2:10, 7. Giovanni Visconti (ITA/MOV) 2:12, 8. Damiano Caruso (ITA/BMC) 2:20, 9. Andrey Amador (CRC/MOV) 2:24, 10. Leopold Konig (CZE/SKY) 2:30, 11. Davide Formolo (ITA/CAN) 3:01, 12. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) 3:09, 13. Damiano Cunego (ITA/NIP) 3:10, 14. Darwin Atapuma (COL/BMC) 3:10, 15. Yury Trofimov (RUS/KAT) 3:18, 16. Jürgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LOT) 3:33.
17. Maxime Monfort (BEL/LOT) 4:00, 18. Amaël Moinard (FRA/BMC) 4:19, 19. Alexandre Geniez (FRA/FDJ) 4:41, 20. Jon Izagirre (ESP/MOV) 5:47, 21. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/CAN) 6:07.
– Agence France-Presse