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Giro Stage 20: Aru Again; Contador Does Just Enough


Fabio Aru of Astana capped a topsy-turvy Giro with a second consecutive stage win in Sestriere, but on stage 20 of the Giro d'Italia it was Tinkoff-Saxo's Alberto Contador who had the most to celebrate. The Spaniard won his second official maglia rosa, or so it appears with a single flat stage remaining, with a patient and conservative approach which saw him lose time but never really threatened to lose control of the race. Contador will saunter into Milan with three minutes-plus in hand, and turn toward his assault on the record books as he seeks to do the Giro-Tour double.

Astana's Mikel Landa and Katusha's Ilnar Zakharin stole the show on the fearsome Colle delle Finestre, the latter taking off alone from the bottom and the former ditching the elites as the race made its way through the upper slopes of gravel. Landa took the Cima Coppi, deservedly, and put Contador under a modicum of pressure as he built a lead of 1.30 or so. Things got even hotter on the Finestre as Fabio Aru followed attacks from Cannondale's Ryder Hesjedal to leave Contador on his own, in a lower gear, and shipping time to his two main rivals.

But the Spanish champion of many years' worth of grand tours knew how to defend a sizable lead, riding a comfortable tempo in the style of Paolo Savoldelli years ago on this same course, and with far less at stake. Aru needed to find 4.37 today and Landa over five minutes, and that sort of gap was never available once Contador crossed the Finestre summit within less than two minutes of everyone.

On the final climb to Sestriere Landa appeared to wait for his teammate Aru, coming up from behind with Hesjedal, Steven Kruijswijk and Rigoberto Uran. Doing so cost Landa his chance at the maglia azzurra, which he came within five points of winning after taking the Cima Coppi, but it put the team in position to secure the stage win, which they did with ease as Aru sauntered off the front with 1.5km to go and crossed the line alone, as he did yesterday. Aru has confirmed his class as a Giro rider, if not quite mastering the consistency he needed to beat a master like Contador. Landa also impressed immensely, and if not for curious team tactics we could be celebrating his third stage win today instead.

Classifications to come.