Psychological blow or not?
In stage eight of the Giro, that last uphill ramp to the finish in Tropea, Alberto Contador, El Pistolero, world’s best stage racer, favorite son of the Spanish Cycling Federation, opened up the after-burners. Just making sure there was no dust on the thrusters. A pre-eruption before Etna.
The effect was instantaneous separation, Scarponi and Nibali left behind the same way he left Andy Schleck behind on the climb to Mende in last year’s Tour de France. It wasn’t a death blow and Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis said it wasn’t planned but it was a a scary reminder to everyone in the race. A peloton-wide panic attack.
The short but powerful message was, “Don’t forget who I am and what I can do to everyone, whenever I want.” Alberto dropped everyone and nearly caught the cat Mr. Gatto who threw out his own surprise in the final k, blasting off the front, a sprinter who likes uphill finishes. Only Contador and Alessandro Petacchi made an attempt to chase him down.
Gatto took the biggest win of his career and Contador put on a little demonstration, a painful reminder of what he does when hills go up, and mountains climb. He only gained five seconds on the chasers but the point was made and when he added the 12 time bonus for second, he had himself a tidy 17 second gain, which kicked him into 5th.
Tomorrow Etna looms and the Nibali and Scarponi get to show the rewards of all that training on the volcano. Expect Alberto Contador to be up front, ready to send his own message.