Spain’s Alberto Contador retained the lead of the Giro d’Italia after Wednesday’s 11th stage won by the Katusha team’s Russian rider Ilnur Zakarin.
Zakarin biked in to victory alone after a long, solo breakaway on the 153km ride from Forli to Imola.
Tinkoff’s Contador, whose goal is to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and the Tour de France in the same season, held on to the leader’s pink jersey, with a slender three seconds advantage over chief rival Astana’s Fabio Aru.
Contador, who launched an unsuccessful attack, admitted it had been a tough day in the saddle.
— Giro d’Italia (@giroditalia) May 20, 2015
Stage winner Zakarin, the shock Tour de Romandie winner last month, broke away from an escape group 23km from home.
With three laps of the Imola motor track to finish off the stage, the 25-year-old Zakarin held off the advances of the chasing pack led by Australian Simon Gerrans, eventually finishing 53sec clear of a sextet led by Colombian Carlos Betancur.
Thursday’s 12th stage from Imola to Vicenza is a gruelling 190km ride, with the final 60km over very hilly terrain, with some very demanding climbs and an uphill finish on the final ramp.
Skydive Dubai’s Rafaa Chtioui successfully retained his lead in the Tour of Japan while Nicolas Marini of Nippo-Vini Fantini won stage three.
The third stage of the 2.1 category tour saw the riders pedal through 139.4km, starting and finishing in Mino.
Marini triumphed in the bunch sprint finish, clocking 3:32:18, with Chtioui and his team-mate Francisco Mancebo arriving at the same time.
Chtioui, a Tunisian rider who is a former silver medallist at the World Junior Championships, hung on to his general classification jersey and now leads second-placed Mancebo by 19 seconds, with Drapac Professional Cycling’s Adam Phelan 23 seconds off the pace.
The North African also leads the points classification with 27 points – two more than Marini, who has shot up to second after his win yesterday.
“I’m really happy to be the leader of this Tour of Japan, also to win a stage. Happy for myself, happy for the team… my team did a really good job yesterday for the win and also today to control the race. It’s really great to have these kind of days in the season,” Chtioui told Sport360°.
“The Tour of Japan is one of the most important races in the Asia Tour. It’s one of the biggest, a professional race, it’s a 2.1. It’s a really hard race, there are strong teams. It’s not easy to win or have the leader’s jersey. I like this race because I know it’s a famous one, so I’m really motivated and that’s what gives me the plus to make a difference yesterday. It’s a really important race not just for Asian teams but for European teams as well.
“About winning the whole tour, it’s really hard. There is a mountain stage coming up, it’s a really short stage, so it will be hard for me to keep the jersey because it’s not my specialty. It’s a short race with 13km of mountains, it will be really hard. But we are hopeful to keep the leader’s jersey in our team with Mancebo or any of our other riders.”
Skydive Dubai are top of the teams classification, Phelan is in the Best Young Rider jersey, while Nippo-Vini Fantini’s Mattia Pozzo has the King of the Mountains jersey.
The tour, which concludes on Sunday in Tokyo, resumes with stage four, a 123.6km trek from Minami to Shinshu.
Nicola Boem lead home an all-Italian breakaway group to win stage ten of the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday (19th May).