Alberto Contador displays his all-round strengths to stretch Giro d’Italia lead

Alberto Contador.

Alberto Contador.

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Alberto Contador strengthened his grip on the Maglia Rosa, finishing third behind race winner Mikel Landa on stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia.

Landa, 25, riding for Astana Pro Team, passed Katusha’s Yuri Tofimov on the closing stages of the 165-kilometre mountain course between Marostica and Madonna di Campiglio before crossing the line in a time of four hours 22.35 minutes.

It marked the first Grand Tour victory of Landa’s career, with Tofimov close on his heels and Contador five seconds behind the winner.

That placing saw the Spanish Tinkoff Saxo rider increase his lead in the general classification by seven seconds over Landa’s Astana team-mate Fabio Aru.

Landa, himself, climbed to fourth on the leaderboard, 4:46 down on Contador, but admits it is all about the team doing well.

He said: “It’s an important win for me and the team, because when you work the way we have today, a win like this belongs to everyone.

“Our objective is to put Aru in the best possible position in GC. We want first place with him but we know it is difficult. Second place looks fairly safe and we’ll try to win this Giro using our superiority in numbers.”

Contador also had praise for Astana and their race strategy.

“Astana were very strong today: it was like a team time trial with me on their wheel,” he said.

“My legs were good today and I would have liked to win the stage but there were lots of attacks and counter-attacks and it was impossible to control all of them.”

On Saturday, Team Sky claimed a second stage victory even as Richie Porte’s nightmare continued, but Contador was the big winner on the stage 14 time-trial as he stormed back into pink and opened up a huge lead.

Team Sky’s Belarusian rider Vasil Kiryienka claimed the stage win, winning by 12 seconds from Astana’s Luis Leon Sanchez, but the presence of Contador in third, 14 seconds back, meant another big change in the general classification.

Contador surrendered the race leader’s pink jersey to Astana’s Fabio Aru on Friday after being caught in a crash late in the stage, but was the only one of the general classification contenders to make good of changing conditions during the time-trial and he gained more than two minutes on all of his rivals.

Porte’s miserable Giro continued as the pre-race favourite, already battered by a two-minute UCI penalty for accepting a spare wheel from a rival team and a huge time loss from Friday’s crash, was way off the pace, finishing in a time four minutes 20 seconds behind Kiryienka’s, down in 55th place.

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