Giro d'Italia
Alberto Contador had his left shoulder wrapped up...

In defiance of injury, Contador takes stage 7 start in Giro

Contador defiantly starts Friday’s seventh stage proudly dressed in the pink jersey despite a heavy crash in Thursday’s finale

FIUGGI, Italy (VN) — It’s going to take more than a shoulder injury to stop Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

The 32-year-old leader of the Giro d’Italia defiantly started Friday’s seventh stage proudly dressed in the pink jersey despite a heavy crash in Thursday’s finale that threw his entire season into doubt.

Speaking to journalists as he left the team hotel Friday morning, Contador vowed to press on, saying, “I have worked very hard for this race, and I will do everything possible to continue. … The morale is still high.”

Contador dislocated his left shoulder in the high-speed crash at the end of Thursday’s sixth stage, casting uncertainty over his ability to continue in the 2015 Giro.

With his shoulder packed with ice, Contador was in so much pain after the stage Thursday he could not don the pink jersey on the post-stage podium ceremony. He also would not lift his arm, for fear of exacerbating the injury. Post-stage X-rays and exams confirmed that he did not break any bones.

Contador said he had a “bad night” in the team hotel, and tried to sleep as well as he could. His left shoulder is wrapped in tape, and he hopes to endure Friday’s long stage.

Whether he can make it all the way across the lumpy 264-kilometer seventh stage from Grosetto to Fiuggi will be a test of Contador’s steely determination. It’s the longest stage of the Giro and steady headwinds, possible rain showers, and rough roads are expected. There are no major climbs in the stage, however.

“I hope it doesn’t rain. If I have to put on a [rain cape], it could be a problem,” Contador told the Spanish daily AS. “My teammates will have to help me with food, and I need to try to not lift my arm above my head, because the arm might slip out again.”

Some questioned why Contador was so far forward in the bunch sprint, especially in light of the 3km rule designed to give GC riders room to avoid danger in mass gallops. Contador traditionally likes to ride at the front, even in bunch sprints, to avoid possible gaps in the peloton inside the 3km to go flag. Paolo Bettini, writing in , said Contador “made a mistake” by riding so close to the front of the peloton in Thursday’s sprint.

At least Contador was able to start Friday’s stage. Last year, Contador was forced to abandon the 2014 Tour de France after crashing heavily in stage 10.

Contador is hoping to continue in the Giro in what’s the first step in his quest to tackle a grand tour double, with a planned Tour de France start later this summer.

If he makes it through Friday’s stage, Contador will face an even tougher challenge in Saturday’s 186km eighth stage from Fiuggi, ending with an uphill finale to Campitello Matese. The hilly stage features tight, twisting roads with narrow descents.

One rider who didn’t start Friday was Daniele Colli, the Nippo-Vini Fantini rider who collided with an over-eager fan overhanging the barriers to take a photograph, provoking the pileup that also brought down Contador. Colli suffered a horrible injury to his arm in the gruesome high-speed impact.