Tinkoff-Saxo’s captain took matters into his own hands on the slopes of Mortirolo after an all-out effort from his teammates. Contador bridged the gap to main rivals Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa on the captivating climb after having lost time due to a puncture on the descend from Aprica. “My team has been extraordinary”, says Alberto Contador, who extended his lead to 4’02” over Mikel Landa.
In what many people have already dubbed an epic stage, Tinkoff-Saxo and Alberto Contador prevailed and turned a difficult situation into a consolidation of the pink jersey. After crossing the finish line of stage 16 in Aprica, Alberto Contador thanked his teammates for their extraordinary support.
“It was a very hard day, an incredible stage. I’m very proud of all my teammates because they have given 100 percent. They have been extraordinary and people forget that my team is leading the race from the start of the stage every single day. I have this jersey because of them. These are the stages that people remember”, comments Alberto Contador before elaborating on the difficult situation he found himself in on Mortirolo.
“Cycling isn't mathematics: I had a puncture on the descent, Ivan Basso gave me a wheel because he has the same gear as me, but ahead they were going at full speed, and it was impossible to close the gap immediately. On Mortirolo I was focused on keeping my speed, it was like a time trial, I couldn’t lose the moral and I had to keep calm and focus on the road ahead”.
Alberto Contador crested the summit of Mortirolo together with Mikel Landa and Steven Kruijswijk after having bridged the gap to Fabio Aru and soon after dropped him. With 4k to Aprica, Landa attacked Contador and Kruijswijk, who had led the trio after Mortirolo, and won the stage with 38 seconds.
“It was hard for me on the final part, but I'm very happy with the time gaps now. I would have liked to help Steven Kruijswijk, but it was not to be. To Mikel Landa, I can only say: chapeau. Kruijswijk deserved the win but in cycling everybody has their interests and I respect that”, tells Alberto Contador.
Rogers: “We’re still here, still fighting, still in pink”
On the run-in towards Mortirolo, Michael Rogers was one of the Tinkoff-Saxo riders riding to exhaustion to decrease the gap to the front group of favorites paced on by Astana.
“It’s not over until it’s over. I think it was a great performance of the team and I see that there has been criticism by people outside that we can’t support Alberto on the climbs. But tell me any team that could have done what we did today to get him back within striking position before Mortirolo. Then, certainly, Alberto brought it on and turned a negative situation into a positive one and even extended his lead”, explains Michael Rogers, who adds:
“For me, today was certainly very tough and I spent a lot of energy on bringing Alberto back and my race was well and truly over before the start of Mortirolo, but that was the plan today. If it hadn’t been us chasing in the valley, we would have been at the front setting the tempo for Alberto before the climb to put him into a good position. At the end of the day, we’re still here, still fighting and we still have the pink jersey and we’re going to keep fighting all the way”.
The 177km stage 16 from Pinzolo to Aprica was expected to showcase the true strength of the contenders fighting for the GC. But Tinkoff-Saxo’s race took an unexpected turn as Alberto Contador suddenly found himself trailing by 55 seconds at the foot of Mortirolo. Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh explains the situation.
“It was quite tense, when Alberto and the guys were 55 seconds behind before Mortirolo. At some point we realized that at front they weren’t waiting for the pink jersey. Then, of course, you try to motivate the team to bring Alberto into a good position ahead of Mortirolo, and in the end Alberto did an unbelievable climb. He did the climb 2’40” faster than Aru. In one sentence; Alberto did a hell of a climb”, tells Steven de Jongh before assessing the team effort:
“The boys did a great ride both before and immediately after the puncture and they can be really proud of themselves. Anybody who is criticizing the team here at the Giro should take a look at the entire race and analyze each stage - from the start of each day. I can only say that I’m very proud of them”.