Anton tames the Zoncolan
Contador second home to extend lead
Last Updated: 21/05/11 4:32pm
Anton: Pulled away on the climb to take the most prestigious win of his career
Igor Anton rode clear on the Monte Zoncolan to take an impressive win on stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia.
The Euskaltel rider attacked the race favourites mid-way up the gruelling climb and held on to win by 33 seconds from race-leader Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard).
The pink jersey holder attacked rival Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) going into the final kilometre to extend his grip on the race.
Earlier the Spaniard had appeared content to sit on the wheel of Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) after Nibali had been distanced, allowing the Italian to briefly return to the fray.
The Liquigas man made the bridge and tried to attack, dragging Contador with him in a move that put Scarponi into difficulties and resigned him to fourth place on the climb.
Star of the previous two mountaintop finishes, Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) was unable to repeat his heroics from the previous day, coming home 10th.
The result saw Contador extend his lead in the general classification to three minutes and 20 seconds over Nibali after the second of three punishing days in the mountains.
The savage nature of the stage was watered-down overnight after the removal of the Monte Crostis climb, with its narrow descent deemed a risk to the sporting aspect of cycling due to insufficient rider assistance.
The amended route saw the stage run an extra 20km but removed the fearsome climb, replacing it with a tense run up to the mythical Monte Zoncolan.
Three men escaped up the road early on as Bram Tankink (Rabobank) bridged across to Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago) and Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini).
The trio were allowed to stretch out a lead of close to 11 minutes with Saxo Bank-Sungard setting the tempo at the front of the bunch.
Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) attacked for the second day running as the peloton hit the top of the Passo della Mauria but the Croatian was not allowed to move clear as the race plunged into confusion.
The proposed run over the penultimate Tualis climb was cancelled mid-stage by the organisers due to protests at the cancellation of Monte Crostis, removing the extra 20km that had been introduced and transforming the complexion of the race.
Liquigas came through to lend a hand as the race approached the foot of the final climb, stringing out the bunch in the process in a move that saw a number of contenders on the back foot.
As the break hit the wall of the Zoncolan Rabottini was tailed off and Gianluca Brambilla slowly accelerated away from Tankink, only to be overhauled by the Dutchman a few kilometres later.
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) attacked out of the bunch with an ambitious dig before Anton followed suit, drawing a reaction from Contador.
Michele Scarponi again looked to follow the Spaniard and as Rodriguez slid backwards, the three riders looked to put time into Nibali who appeared to be struggling.
Anton stretched out an advantage as Contador seemed content to sit on the wheel of Scarponi, allowed Nibali to return to the fray as the leaders overhauled Tankink.
The two main rivals for the Giro rode together up the climb before the Spaniard produced a final effort, drawing boo’s from the partisan crowds as he crossed the line behind a jubilant Anton.