Spain hit the heights in the Giro d’Italia on Saturday as Spaniard Igor Anton claimed the stage win on the Monte Zoncolan summit finish and his compatriot Alberto Contador extended his overall lead.
Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Anton attacked on Stage 14 with about 6km to go on the steep slopes of the Zoncolan to claim victory with a 33-second advantage over second-placed Contador. Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali was third, 40 seconds behind.
Often visible to the pursuing duo on the 10.1km climb’s zigzagging single-track road, Anton clung on to his advantage to claim his team’s first stage victory in the Giro in their 17-year history.
After crashing out while leading the Vuelta a Espana last year, where he also won twice on summit finishes, Anton recognized he had taken a big risk with a long distance attack on the Zoncolan.
“This climb is so steep and long that you can really pay a high price if you go from too far out,” Anton told reporters. “In the last kilometre I thought I wasn’t going to make it, but the other contenders like Nibali and Contador are so strong, I had no option but to try my luck more than halfway up the climb.”
Three-time Tour de France champion and 2008 Giro winner Contador has stretched his overall lead to 3 minutes, 20 seconds over Nibali, while Anton is now third in the general classification 3 minutes, 21 seconds back.
“I feel very exhausted right now, but I was able to hold on,” said Contador, who found out on Friday that a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing over his doping case would be heard in three weeks.
Despite losing time to Contador on each of the last three mountain stages, Nibali said that the race was far from over.
“Contador had an extra gear today, but there’s still eight days racing yet. There’s no predicting what could happen. Anybody can have a bad day, even Contador,” Nibali told reporters.