Zakarin hits top gear to claim Imola spoils
Ilnur Zakarin staged a late solo charge to clinch stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia on a rain-lashed Imola Formula One circuit as Alberto Contador consolidated his lead at the top of the overall standings.
The Russian Zakarin was part of a 10-strong breakaway on the 153km stage from Forli and made his move on the penultimate climb of the day, striking out alone to beat Carlos Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale) into second place with Italy's Franco Pellizotti (Androni) in third.
It was a fine performance from the Katusha rider, the recent winner of the Tour de Normandie. And it was also a good day for Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) who maintained his slender advantage over his rivals as well as scoring a psychological blow on the final climb.
The Spaniard burst from the peloton in a bid to score valuable seconds over closest rival Fabio Aru (Astana) and although he was eventually reeled back in his statement of intent was clear.
Contador goes into stage 12 still with a three-second lead in the standings over Aru with another Astana rider, Mikel Landa Meana in third place, 46 seconds behind. Team Sky's Richie Porte finished in the peloton following his controversial end to stage 10 on Tuesday. Porte had been hit with a two-minute penalty for receiving a wheel from Orica GreenEdge's fellow Australian Simon Clarke after a late puncture, dropping to three minutes and nine seconds behind.
Rules state that riders cannot receive mechanical assistance from those of another team, but Porte - as well as several other riders - pleaded ignorance.
Contador expressed sympathy for his rival: "At points like that in a race you're going flat out, your heart-rate is really high, and you only think about losing as little time as possible, not the rules."