Italy’s Eros Capecchi won a sprint finish to take stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday as Spain’s Alberto Contador swatted aside lingering legal clouds over last year’s doping controversy to retain the leader’s pink jersey.
It is the first Giro success for the 24-year-old Liquigas rider, who crossed ahead of Italian Marco Pinotti and Belgian Kevin Seeldrayers in 3 hours, 20 minutes, 38 seconds after the 151km ride from Morbegno to San Pellegrino Terme, north of Bergamo.
Contador now has a 45 minute, 58 second lead over two Italians — Michele Scarponi of Lampre with Liquigas’ Vincenzo Nibali 47 seconds further back three days from the denouement in Milan.
The three-time Tour de France champion was also in the news away from the circuit as his defense team were granted on Thursday a delay of next month’s doping hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) relating to his doping case going back to last year’s Tour.
The doping case concerning Contador was due to be heard before the CAS during three days in Lausanne, Switzerland, from June 6 until June 8 in order to have the decision before the start of the Tour de France on July 2.
However, the CAS announced on Thursday that it had “accepted to postpone the hearing in this matter in order to give to all parties concerned reasonable time to prepare for such hearing and to guarantee the participation in person of witnesses and experts.”
However, the delay surprised the Tour’s organizers.
“We hope that a decision will be handed down before the start [of the Tour],” Tour director Christian Prudhomme said.
“We are surprised as the CAS had several times announced that the decision would be handed down beforehand,” said Prudhomme, anxious to see the matter finally cleared up to avoid having the controversy still looming over the race start.
Despite the legal cloud hanging over him, Contador hopes to be able to concentrate on becoming the first rider since 1998 to complete a Giro-Tour double and he said he is concentrating purely on racing to Italian glory.
“I do not think now about the Tour or other races. My only thought now is victory in the Giro in Milan and my only thought is the Giro d’Italia until Sunday evening,” he said.
Regarding the CAS delay he said: “They are just my lawyers that deal with the CAS. I am thinking about riding — I’m calm because I have a clear conscience.”