Giro d'Italia
Without question, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo)...

Monte Ologno: Contador’s payback?

Alberto Contador puts more time into Astana rivals on stage 18 after Aru and Landa are distanced by crash at base of climb

VERBANIA, Italy (VN) — Revenge is a plate best served cold, but Alberto Contador served it hot and spicy in the Giro d’Italia’s stage 18 to Verbania. Only two days after the dust settled on the Aprica stage, he struck back at his rivals in blue

Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team was caught off-guard in Aprica on Tuesday. He punctured, and rival team Astana pulled for Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa. He returned to them at the base of the Mortirolo and dismantled his opponents one by one. Only Landa came home a winner, taking the stage victory and the second spot overall from teammate Aru.

Thursday, along Lake Maggiore, Contador paid back his rivals for not giving the respect that a six-time grand tour winner is due. As soon as Landa was in trouble, followers could hear the shots coming from ‘The Gunslinger’ or ‘El Pistolero.’

“Vendetta? No, today was different,” Contador said in a villa above the lake that the organizer used as the press room.

“We decided to expend energy ahead of the climb because it was narrow and dangerous. We were there, the crash happened. Fabio Aru’s face showed that he was suffering, so we went fast. It was a good decision.”

The decision came in the shadow of the Monte Ologno climb. Landa had to change his rear wheel with teammate Paolo Tiralongo and trailed by 45 seconds when the climb to the pass began. Aru was better-positioned, but his face said it all.

Contador used the instinct gained in six grand tour wins to take advantage of the situation, and perhaps enjoy some revenge. At 45 kilometers to race, he darted away. To avoid losing more time, Landa had to chase solo just to join the group with Aru.

After linking up with Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin), Contador descended to Verbania, lakeside. Philippe Gilbert (BMC), who had been away solo, won the stage. Contador gained 1:13 on Landa and Aru.

If it was not payback for a lack of what some consider fair play in cycling then it is hard to imagine what it was. Contador, who already had a healthy 4:02 on Landa, now holds 5:15. Aru sits at 6:05

“I wouldn’t call it payback, we were doing our race,” Tinkoff sport director, Steven De Jongh said.

“Unfortunately there was a crash, like the other day in Jesolo when Alberto [Contador] crashed and Fabio [Aru] took the leader’s pink jersey.”

Astana lost time, but still kept the second and third spots on the podium. Its work over the next three days to Milan is not to stop Contador, but to stop attacks from behind.

Andrey Amador (Movistar) sits at 7:01 and Yuri Trofimov (Katusha) at 9:40.

Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli, who helped Contador to the 2010 Tour de France title that was later stripped in a doping suspension, blew off the idea of payback.

“It’s bike racing, it’s not a problem. He wanted to show that he’s the boss of this Giro again, but we never doubted it,” Martinelli said.

“Payback? That’s surely not the Alberto that I know. He attacked because that’s his instinct, and that’s that. I don’t think he did it because of the other day, that’s not the way I see it.”

If Contador has now settled the score, the only thing that is missing is a stage win en route to Milan. That could come tomorrow when the race finishes at 6,565 feet above sea level, outside the Cervinia ski resort.