BELLUNO, Italy (VN) – Riders were coming across the finish line in Gardeccia in a daze. Some had been riding more than eight hours. Giro leader Alberto Contador called it “the hardest stage of my life.”
Rain started to pelt the peloton on the Fedaia and some wondered if the extreme conditions were really necessary.
“It’s too much. You should see the faces of the riders – they’re just dead. Imagine if it had been raining the entire day,” said Garmin-Cervélo sport director Bingen Fernández. “Do we need this? It’s one thing to race eight hours in a classic, but to race eight hours after what we’ve been through in this Giro is too much. A shorter stage would have delivered the same result, probably be more spectacular and it would be more humane. That’s the Giro. It’s crazy, but you know that coming in.”
Riders are at the end of their rope and there’s still a week to go before the Giro ends May 29 in Milano.
“The rest day couldn’t come at a better moment for me,” said last year’s runner-up David Arroyo (Movistar), who tried to attack his way back into the GC hunt. “This Giro has been incredibly difficult and tomorrow I am going to have a complete disconnect.”
Somewhat surprisingly, no riders were eliminated by the time cut. Robbie Hunter (RadioShack) did not start and six riders, including Garmin’s Brett Lancaster, did not finish.
Garzelli rides into KoM jersey
Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone) got a bonus Sunday for going on the attack but falling short of the stage victory with second by climbing into the best climber’s jersey.
The 37-year-old surged into the green jersey and will try to defend it in the final week. He leads with 62 points to Mikel Nieve’s 39. Alberto Contador, who started the stage leading the category, is third with 38.
It appeared Contador might be poised to sweep three of four jerseys on offer during the Giro (he’s too old for the best young rider category, led by Roman Kreuziger). He also holds an equally comfortable lead in the red points jersey competition, with 133 points to Scarponi’s 87, and will likely win that in Milano.
The only jersey Contador is worried about, of course, is the pink one.
With three solid days of racing across the Dolomites, Contador carries a solid, 4:20 lead to Michele Scarponi and 5:11 to Vincenzo Nibali. Contador was cautiously optimistic about the final week.
“If there are no crashes or illnesses, I should be able to get to Milan in the pink jersey,” he said. “We’re still far from over and there are no easy stages at all. It’s going to be hard and I will have to be attentive every day.”
Contador responds to boos on Zoncolan
Alberto Contador admits he heard the boos as he crossed the finish line up Monte Zoncolan on Saturday, but said the fans had it all wrong. Fans seemed to turn their angst against Contador after the descent of the Monte Crostis was pulled from the race just hours before the start of Saturday’s stage.
“The media put words into my mouth that I never said about Crostis. I want to repeat to Enzo Cainero (Giro technical director): I was never against racing down the Crostis,” Contador said. “I heard the boos, but overall, people have been applauding me during this Giro.”