Giro d'Italia

Giro notes: Kiryienka wins for Tondo; Scarponi-Nibali podium showdown; Riis on Contador

Vasili Kiryenka said he was riding with an extra pair of legs in his dramatic victory of Saturday’s stage over the Finestre climb. The Belorussian dedicated the victory to his Movistar teammate, Xavier Tondo, who died this week in a freak accident in a parking garage in Spain.

Vasili Kiryenka said he was riding with an extra pair of legs in his dramatic victory of Saturday’s stage over the Finestre climb.

The Belorussian dedicated the victory to his Movistar teammate, Xavier Tondo, who died this week in a freak accident in a parking garage in Spain.

“Today was a great day for me and for my team. I will always remember our teammate Xavi Tondo. I won in a manner very beautiful for him,” Kiryenka said. “It was a hard stage but I was thinking of him when I was riding today. It was like he was riding with me.”

Battle for second

Nibali was dropped on the Colle delle Finestre, fought back and lost time again on the final climb. | Graham Watson photo

Some say it’s been a race for second place ever since Mount Etna, but the final podium will be decided in Sunday’s individual time trial on a flat, but challenging urban course through the streets of Milan.

Michele Scarponi (Lampre) has a slender, 54-second lead to Vicenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) going into the stage. Nibali is a superior time trialist, but the final TT of a grand tour is more about who has the legs than favoring a specialist.

Scarponi has shown that he’s still capable of attacking, putting down accelerations in Friday and Saturday to try to gap Nibali. In Saturday’s final charge to Sestriere, Scarponi took out 22 seconds on Nibali, a difference that could prove decisive in him keeping second place.

“Today’s stage was so hard, I gave all I could to try to get more time,” Scarponi said. “Nibali is usually faster than me in the time trial, but I will give all I have. I want to keep second place.”

Nibali isn’t happy about changes in the TT course that was modified to lessen the impact on traffic disruptions as the election season ends in Lombardia. Official reduced the stage by 5.5km and rerouted the stage to keep less of the route out of the city center. Instead of having 31.5km, Nibali will only have 26km, meaning that he will need more than two seconds per kilometer on Scarponi to move up to second.

“Of course, if the time trial course was longer, it would be better for me,” Nibali said. “Scarponi and I have been more or less equal. One day he’s a little bit better than me, then the next I’m a little sharper. Tomorrow we’ll see who has the legs.”

Even if he does lose second, Scarponi looks all but sure to keep a podium spot that eluded him last year when he finished fourth. French rider John Gadret (Ag2r) is more than two minutes back.

Riis on Contador

Saxo Bank-Sungard boss Bjarne Riis said he was not surprised to see Alberto Contador ride so strongly throughout the 2011 Giro d’Italia.

“I knew he was strong. It’s not a big surprise. What he did in this Giro was incredible,” Riis said. “He demonstrated that he was strong. We didn’t think about winning today. Kiryenka was very strong today, so that’s good for cycling.”

Riis said that he hopes that Contador will be allowed to race the 2011 Tour de France. A change in Contador’s hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport could mean that Contador could race this year’s Tour despite the possibility of a two-year ban and the disqualification from his Tour victory last year.

“This is the objective (the Tour). We have been working first for the Giro and then the Tour,” Riis said. “The rules say that he can ride the Tour, so maybe he will be able to race. We’re content with this Giro.”