Italian Paolo Tiralongo won the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia yesterday as his Astana team leader Fabio Aru snatched back one second on leader Alberto Contador.
Veteran Tiralongo, 37, counter-attacked out of a breakaway group of 10 riders 14km from the end to catch long time lone leader Tom Jelte Slagter, who had escaped with 70km still to ride.
By that point the Cannondale-Garmin rider was spent and Sicilian Tiralongo left him in his wake to claim the victory at the end of the 224km stage from Benevento to San Giorgio del Sannio.
“I got into the breakaway but the aim was to act as a bridge for Fabio on the last climb,” explained Tiralongo. “But the team changed plans during the race, they gave me carte blanche to go for the stage win.”
Dutchman Steven Kruisjwijk, who had come so close to a solo victory on Saturday, took second at 21sec with Simon Geschke of Germany heading the breakaway sprint finish a further two seconds back as Slagter faded to seventh.
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But behind the breakaway riders, Aru had attacked out of the main peloton and while Contador and Richie Porte matched his kick, Colombian Rigoberto Uran could not, and lost around 45sec.
“I’m feeling better and better,” said Contador, 32, who crashed badly on Thursday, injuring his shoulder. “On the last climb, Aru put in a strong attack but I managed to control the situation.”
The 2008 Giro winner and reigning Vuelta a Espana champion added: “Uran was behind and that was a chance to take some time out of him because he remains dangerous in the overall standings.”
Tuesday’s 10th stage is a pan-flat 200km from Civitanova Marche to Forli.
Alberto Contador sees his overall lead of the Giro d’Italia narrowly reduced as breakaway rider Paolo Tiralongo claims a solo victory on stage nine.
Yousif Mirza admits a tactical mistake cost him individual victory in cycling’s President’s Cup on Saturday but says there is still plenty to celebrate after his Al Nasr side clinched the team title.
In blistering conditions in Fujairah, 130 riders representing 10 clubs in the UAE, took part in the season-closing race.
Mirza, the UAE’s top cyclist ranked No6 in the Asia Tour rankings, was unable to stop Al Ahli’s Tariq Obaid, who attacked in the final 200m of the 66km road race to take home first place.
"It was a good race. There was really stiff competition from the other riders. I could tell that Al Nasr were focused on winning the team title so I took advantage of that. I stayed close behind them for most of the race and then I attacked in the last 200 metres and it worked out," Obaid told Sport360.
Nasr were indeed focused on the team crown, according to Mirza, but he also regrets a mistake made by his brother Bader that cost him the individual medal.
"We were focused on the team event, so we guaranteed winning that but we made a mistake in the individual. I was in the lead throughout the entire race, but Bader (my brother) didn’t really understand our strategy well. It was tough for him and for us.
"Still it’s a big honour to win the team title. This event is called the President’s Cup and the fact that three of us get to lift a trophy bearing that name is huge for us."
The Nasr squad is mostly comprised of UAE national team riders, who have had a hectic schedule recently, taking part in the Tour du Maroc and the Tour de Banyuwangi Ijen in Indonesia.
The weather also played a major factor in many riders’ performances and Mirza says there are five to six riders who are still in the hospital recovering from heat-related fatigue.
"The conditions were extremely tough and the weather was so hot," he added. "But I also understand why the organisers are unable to stage this race earlier in the season since we’re busy competing all year in different tours elsewhere."
Most clubs will be taking a break for a few weeks before resuming training next month in camps outside the country. The next main event in the Emirates is the Nad Al Sheba race, held mid-Ramadan.
Mirza says the national team’s focus now is to get as many riders as possible to gather points to qualify for this year’s World Championships.
"We have until December to get other riders to qualify so we have plenty of times to gather points. We’ll be competing in tours in Qatar, Sharjah and China," said Mirza, who has already qualified to Worlds and the Rio 2016 Olympics.