VALDOBBIADENE, Italy (AP) Alberto Contador outclassed his rivals on a tough individual time trial Saturday to reclaim the overall lead of the Giro d’Italia after the 14th stage, which was won by Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus.
Contador started the day 19 seconds behind Fabio Aru after a crash at the end of the previous stage lost him the overall leader’s jersey. But a superb ride in another rain-affected stage with challenging winds on Saturday saw the Spaniard finish third and move 2 minutes, 28 seconds ahead of Aru.
Andrey Amador went into third overall, 3:36 behind Contador after the unusually long time trial of 59.4 kilometers (36.9 miles) from Treviso to Valdobbiadene.
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”My legs are absolutely killing me,” Contador said. ”This result surprises me a lot. I gave everything and kept up a good rhythm throughout the course. I was faster than I thought I would be in the first part but I saw that the wind was changing direction, maybe that was the reason.
”Now I have a good advantage in the general classification over Aru, especially after the crash yesterday, but I have to stay calm. The Giro is still long. Today we had a good day, now we’ll take it day by day.”
Kiryienka, who rides for Team Sky, topped the standings for most of the second half of the day, setting a time of 1.17:52 for his third stage win in the Giro.
Aru’s Astana teammate Luis Leon Sanchez was second, 0:12 slower than Kiryienka, with Contador two seconds further back.
”It was a long and nervous wait for the arrival of Alberto Contador,” Kiryienka said. ”I’ve been waiting a long time to win a time trial. Today our boss said `we’ll win the time trial,’ but he didn’t specify who would win. ”
Rain lashed down throughout the day and later riders were also affected by crosswinds, after headwinds earlier in the day.
Contador coped best with the conditions and the Tinkoff-Saxo rider even overtook Mikel Landa who started the day third overall and had gone off the ramp three minutes before him.
Contador, who dislocated his shoulder in another crash on the sixth stage, is attempting to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and Tour de France in the same year.
A two-time Tour champion, Contador won the Giro in 2008 and was also triumphant in Milan in 2011 but was stripped of that title for testing positive in the 2010 Tour.
Kiryienka’s teammate, Richie Porte, was expected to be Contador’s closest challenge but his Giro chances were all but over after a puncture and illegal wheel change on stage 10 and the crash in the finale of stage 13.
Porte had targeted the time trial for a win but his misfortunes continued as he struggled with the wind change and a knee injury and was more than four minutes slower than Kiryienka, leaving him 17th overall, nearly nine minutes behind Contador.
The race heads into the mountains for the final week and Sunday’s stage is a 165K (102.5-mile) route from Marostica, with three categorized climbs including a difficult ascent to the Madonna Di Campiglio ski resort, which is still covered in snow. Monday is a rest day.