Contador extends overall Giro lead; Landa wins 15th stage

MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy (AP) Alberto Contador extended his overall lead of the Giro d'Italia by seven seconds on Sunday after finishing third behind winner Mikel Landa on a mountainous 15th stage.

Landa attacked on the final steep section of the climb up to the Madonna Di Campiglio ski resort to claim his first Grand Tour stage victory, two seconds ahead of Yuri Trofimov.

Contador finished five seconds behind his fellow Spaniard, but edged out his closest challenger Fabio Aru to claim valuable bonus seconds. The Tinkoff-Saxo rider extended his lead over Aru to 2 minutes, 35 seconds in the overall standings.

''It's an important win for me and the team, because a win like this belongs to everyone when you work as we did today,'' said Landa, who rides for Astana along with Aru. ''We were in three, we had the numerical advantage and we couldn't let the stage win escape from us.

''Our aim is to put Aru in the best position possible in the general classification. We want the maglia rosa (pink jersey) even though we know it is difficult. Second spot seems safe enough, we will try to win this Giro playing with the superiority of the team.''

The battle for the stage win was down to those four men in the final kilometers of the 165-kilometer (102.5-mile) route from Marostica, which included three categorized climbs, after the fast pace by Astana had whittled down the group.

Contador was left isolated for most of the final part of the course. However, he surprised everyone by darting out of the Astana-driven peloton to snatch bonus seconds in the final intermediate sprint - behind Herbert Dupont.

There were several attacks as each of the four tried to distance the others but none stuck until Trofimov went with one kilometer remaining. However, he was caught and passed by Landa in the final 450 meters.

It was only the second time the Giro had finished at Madonna di Campiglio, and the first since Marco Pantani stormed to a stage win in the pink jersey in 1999 but was sent home the next morning after showing elevated levels of haematocrit.

Contador is attempting to become the first rider since Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and Tour de France in the same year.

''I can only continue to give my best,'' Contador said. ''Astana was very strong today, it was like a team time trial with me on their wheel. But my legs were good and I would have liked to win the stage, thinking of Pantani who was a source of inspiration for me.''

A two-time Tour champion, Contador won the Giro in 2008 and was also triumphant in Milan in 2011 but was stripped of that title for testing positive in the 2010 Tour.

Monday is a rest day, before the race continues in the mountains with a 174-kilometer (108-mile) leg from Pinzolo to Aprica, which includes five categorized climbs.

The 98th Giro ends on May 31 in Milan.

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