Oscar Gatto won Saturday’s Tour of Italy eighth stage here, the Italian rider beating Spain’s three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador. Gatto got first run on his rivals in the final dash for the finish, sprinting clear with less than a mile to go to come in ahead of Contador with a five-second gap back to the peloton led by Italian Alessandro Petacchi.
This was the 26-year-old Farnese Vini rider’s first ever stage win in the Giro. He said: “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. “The next time I checked he was even closer, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
On the eve of Sunday’s stage up Mount Etna, the giant volcano which erupted briefly this week, the overall lead was retained by Rabobank’s Dutch rider Pieter Weening. “Etna’s going to be tough but 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,” said Weening.
Contador, who climbed from ninth to fifth, 13sec behind Weening, commented: “I was feeling good, and when I saw there was a chance to get in front I went for it and I only missed out by a little bit in getting up to the leader (Gatto).”
Saturday’s 217 kilometer run from Sapri was marked by an early breakaway by Mirko Selvaggi and Leonardo Girodani, the Italian duo forging over ten minutes clear of the chasing pack at one point.
They were eventually reeled in 7.5km from the finish. The 2011 Giro lost one of its number with the defection of Colombia’s 2008 junior world champion Fabio Duarte during the day with a knee problem.
Sunday’s ninth stage is a 169km run from Messina up Etna, which spewed out lava and ash overnight Wednesday forcing the temporary closure of nearby Catania airport.