Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) won stage eight of the 2011 Giro d’Italia on Saturday in a two-up tussle with Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard).
The 217km stage from Sapri to Tropea was billed as one for the sprinters, if only they could make it over the final steep, switchbacked hill leading to the finish.
As things turned out, they couldn’t — not in time to stop Gatto from launching out of one of the hairpins and taking a massive advantage over the field. Contador took off after him, but couldn’t close him down and settled for a strong second on the day, with Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) best of the rest in third at five seconds back.
“To beat Contador to win this stage is obviously quite something. When I looked back at the finish I saw a Saxo Bank jersey but I never thought it was him,” said Gatto.
“The next time I checked he was even closer. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Pieter Weening (Rabobank) finished with the bunch, five seconds back, to retain the maglia rosa with Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad) second overall at 0:02 and Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) third in the same time.
Contador, meanwhile, vaulted from ninth to fifth overall at 13 seconds.
“I knew it would be difficult in the end and maybe we can gain an advantage,” Contador told journalists at the line. “The team did a great job to keep me at the front all day. I gained a few seconds and the time bonus, so the sensations are good. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
The break of the day featured Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Leonardo Giordani (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), who built an advantage of more than 10 minutes at one point. With 80km to race the twosome still had 8:30.
Then HTC-Highroad and Quick Step moved forward and began snipping away at their lead, the peloton eventually pulling them back with less than 10km to go. Quick Step was thinking of Gerald Ciolek and Francesco Chicchi, while HTC of course had Mark Cavendish in mind.
Despite their teams’ work, none of the three would get a chance to battle for the bouquet. Gatto sprinted clear on that final ascent, leaving everyone save Contador to fight for the crumbs on the stage-eight table.
• Up next: Sunday’s ninth stage is a 169km run from Messina up Mt. Etna, which spewed lava and ash overnight Wednesday, forcing the temporary closure of nearby Catania airport. Maglia rosa Weening conceded that the ascent of the volcano would be tough, adding: “It won’t be the first time I’ve undergone a tough examination. Anyway, whatever happens it’s been a great adventure wearing the leader’s pink jersey and I’ll give my maximum to hold on to it.”
Agence France Press contributed to this report.
- 1. Oscar Gatto (ITA) Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli, in 4:59:45
- 2. Alberto Contador (ESP) SaxoBank-Sungard, s.t.
- 3. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA), Lampre-ISD, at 0:05
- 4. Alexander Kristoff (NOR), BMC Racing Team, at 0:05
- 5. Roberto Ferrari (ITA), Androni Giocattoli-Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni, at 0:05
- 1. Pieter Weening (Netherlands), Rabobank, 28:09:49
- 2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Belarus), HTC-Highroad, at 0:02
- 3. Marco Pinotti (Italy), HTC-Highroad, at 0:02
- 4. Christophe Le Mevel (France), Garmin-Cervélo, at 0:03
- 5. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spain), SaxoBank-Sungard, at 0:13