PASSO FEDAIA, Italy, May 25, 2008 (AFP) – Spaniard Albert Contador of
Astana took the overall lead in the Tour of Italy on Sunday after Italian
Emanuele Sella of CSF won the 15th stage.
Sella triumphed on the day in the rain but the plaudits went to Contador,
the reigning Tour de France champion, as he managed to negotiate the mountain
stage from Arabba to Passo Fedaia including five steep climbs and concede just
a handful of seconds to Italian rivals Riccardo Ricco and Danilo Di Luca.
Mountain specialist Sella made it two wins in as many days in the Dolomites
to bolster a team which lost Argentine racer Ariel Maximiliano Richeze to a
positive doping test before the event.
But CSF were smiling again after Sella’s exploits – clad in the green of
top event climber – and also a second stage place for Italian Domenico
Contador, whose team have had to recover from their own doping-related past
woes, was ebullient after bagging the leader’s pink jersey from Italy’s
Gabriele Bosisio, who saw his rival shred his narrow 5sec lead going into the
“It’s great. I think it’s a good time to get into the pink,” said the
Spaniard, noting a Monday time trial to come before a rest day and then two
It could all have been so different as Astana were only invited to the race
after Giro d’Italia organizers performed a dramatic u-turn and invited the
Contador and his teammates were initially and controversially not invited
to either the Giro or the Tour.
Organizers of the Tour de France, run by the Amaury Sports Organization
(ASO) said earlier this year that the doping scandals which plagued Astana at
last year’s race in France left them with little choice despite the team
undergoing a mass clear-out.
Italian media suggested the Giro U-turn came as organizers felt Astana
would send in a strong team in the absence of Tour opportunities later this
Contador is therefore enjoying the moment.
“To be in pink is a real gift. I’ve had a lot lot of support from the
public. Today, I appreciate this jersey all the more as I had not prepared
myself for the Giro,” he said.
And if the final triumph comes down to the wire and the final time-trial
“that won’t bother me,” said Contador, though he admitted Ricco was still a
Sella won through after covering the 154km in 4hr 53min 24sec.
He broke away with teammate, Fortunato Baliani, as well as Spaniard Joaquim
Rodriguez, to lead through the grueling Pordoi, San Pellegrino, Giau, San
Tomaso Agordino and Falzarego climbs on the way to a difficult final ascent up
to 2057 meters altitude at the finish.
Sella pulled away on the final climb at Fedaia to put more than two minutes
between himself and Pozzovivo and Ricco, who came in third with Contador happy
to come in 16sec further adrift alongside Gilberto Simoni as they finished
Photos Courtesy of: www.corvospro.com