Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) stamped his authority all over Friday’s 13th stage of the Giro d’Italia, but allowed breakaway companion Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) to take the stage win.
The decisive move was made with nine kilometres to go of the 167km stage between Spilimbergo and Austria’s fearsome Grossglockner climb, with Rujano the only rider able to follow Contador’s almost gentle attack.
An earlier 16-man move animated the stage, which had built a five-minute gap over the peloton as it crested the category two Passo di Monte Croce Carnico after 80km, where the race crossed from Italian to Austrian soil.
On the penultimate climb of the day – the 12 per cent Iselsbergpass – Astana’s Robert Kiserlovski made his move for freedom from the leading group, and quickly built himself a lead of a minute on the short descent from the Iselsbergpass and the lower slopes of the Grossglockner.
But it was almost inevitable that the race would come back together on the day’s final climb up to the finish, and as riders were shelled out of the back of the bunch, just two remnants of the breakaway – Colombian climber Cayetano Sarmiento (Acqua e Sapone) and Rabobank’s Pieter Weening, who wore the leader’s pink jersey earlier in this race – were still clinging on up front.
With 10km to go, Sarmiento went it alone, but it was short lived as Rujano set off the real fireworks. The diminutive Venezuelan was joined for a short time by overall contenders Michele Scarponi (Lampre) and Euskaltel’s Igor Anton, but calm riding from Contador brought him back up to the front, and then off the front with a casual acceleration. Scarponi tried to hold the Spaniard’s wheel, but only Rujano could follow, and from then on in to the finish, it was a two-man show.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Scarponi and 2009 Giro champion Denis Menchov (Geox) made suitably grim faces as the rain poured down, but it seemed nothing could dampen Contador’s spirits as he danced on the pedals ever further away from them.
On the line, Rujano had to check behind him several times that Contador was indeed letting him take the stage victory, while Contador put another minute and a half into his other rivals, and looks like making this Giro look like a cakewalk, now leading Nibali by 3-09 overall.
Stage 11 winner John Gadret finished third on the stage, 1-27 back, but managed to pull back a few more seconds on his rivals, and must now be considered a podium contender if his climbinbg form is anything to go by.
Brit Russell Downing (Sky) continued to battle on in his first Grand Tour having suffered from a cold all week, he finished in a small group safely within the time cut.
The Contador show, meanwhile, looks like it could easily continue on Saturday’s 14th stage between Lienz, in Austria, and the summit finish back in Italy on the Monte Zoncolan.
Giro d’Italia 2011, stage 13: Spilimbergo – Grossglockner, 167km
1. Jose Rujano (Ven) Androni Giocattoli in 4-45-54
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Sungard at same time
3. John Gadret (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 1-26
4. Hubert Dupont (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiae at 1-29
5. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at st
6. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) at 1-36
7. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
9. Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Astana
10. Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC all same time
General classification after stage 13
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Sungard in 49-40-58
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 3-09
3. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 3-16
4. David Arroyo (Spa) Movistar at 3-25
5. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) at 3-29
6. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad at 3-53
7. Igor Anton (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 4-02
8. John Gadret (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 4-06
9. Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM at 4-35
10. Hubert Dupont (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 4-38
Alberto Contador and Jose Rujano on Grossglockner
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Giro 2011: Who will win?
Giro d’Italia 2011: Stage reports
Stage 12: Cavendish holds off Appollonio to take second victory
Stage 11: Gadret grabs dramatic stage win
Stage 10: Cavendish opens his Giro account
Stage nine: Contador storms Etna to take Giro lead
Stage eight: Gatto springs late attack to take win
Stage seven: Neo-pro De Clercq wins by a whisker
Stage six: Ventoso steals Giro stage six win
Stage five: Weening holds on to take stage and maglia rosa
Stage four: Tearful Farrar and Leopard-Trek lead riders across stage four finish line
Stage three: Vicioso victory overshadowed by Weylandt crash
Stage two: Petacchi wins as Cavendish takes lead
Stage one: HTC-Highroad wins Giro’s opening team time trial
Giro d’Italia 2011: Photo galleries
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Giro d’Italia 2011: Live text coverage
Giro d’Italia stage 11 live text updates
Giro d’Italia 2011 stage seven live text updates
Giro d’Italia 2011 stage five live text updates
Follow the 2011 Giro d’Italia live with Cycling Weekly
Giro d’Italia 2011: Start list
Giro d’Italia 2011: Start list
Giro d’Italia 2011: TV schedule
Giro d’Italia 2011: British Eurosport TV schedule
Giro d’Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index