• Paolo Tiralongo crosses crosses the finish line to win the 9th stage of the 98th Giro d'Italia (Getty)
Astana's Paolo Tiralongo launched a winning counter attack with less than 15km remaining to win the 9th stage of the Giro d'Italia as the three big contenders continued their battle ahead of a rest day.
Cycling Central

18 May 2015 - 1:27 AM  UPDATED 18 May 2015 - 6:13 AM

Given the tenor of the Giro d’Italia to date no one was certain of the outcome ahead of Stage 9. Would a break prevail? Are the general classification contenders, led by Alberto Contador, going to do battle again as they have repeatedly on earlier, less difficult stages?

There was a much needed rest day to come so leaving everything out of the road would be a tempting option for many, including an aggressive Fabio Aru and his Astana team who were determined to exploit any possible weakness in Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Richie Porte (Sky).

In the end it was the break which delivered after Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) bridged to a leading Tom Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) before riding away for his biggest career victory. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)  finished second closely followed by Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin).

"Today I was part of a great team. I found the right breakaway," Tiralongo said. "My job was to wait for my team-mates on the final climb, but things didn’t turn out that way. It is an unexpected win. The team car told me to go for it, so I rode the final five kilometres at 100 per cent. On the hard final climb, I caught Slagter, then I held on as the finish line approached."

The general classification battle continued without any input from the rest of the peloton. Contador, Aru and Porte are racing in their own bubble with each day similar to the previous one.

Despite the efforts of Aru to break Contador and Porte the top three positions were unchanged.

"I would have preferred to have ridden more conservatively from the final climb to the finish, but Aru asked me to work with him because Urán was behind us, and it was important to put time into him. We worked together, even if he sprinted to gain back a second, but I’m very happy with where I am after nine stages. I have the Maglia Rosa, and I have a rest day for my shoulder and legs to recover." - Alberto Contador.

Tiralongo, Jelte Slagter and Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin), Carlos Betancur (AG2R), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF), Amael Moinard (BMC), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Simon Geschke (Giant Alpecin), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) got the 224km stage from Benevento to San Giorgio del Sannio started - a day with almost 4000 metres total elevation.

Ahead for the peloton was the arrival in San Giorgio del Sannio, a rising 600 metres long finish with a three  per cent gradient guaranteed to rule out the pure sprinters.

Jelte Slagter eventually separated himself from the break and soloed out to a six-minute lead as Astana, Tinkoff-Saxo and Sky maintained their presence at the front of the main peloton.

The race continued that way until Tiralongo bridged to Jelte Slagter who shortly after blew up from the effort of a day long break.

Behind, Aru and Astana again engineered a raid on Contador and Porte but with the exception of a single second gained at the finish.

Stage 9 was a good day for Astana, who, after a season of doubt, now appear to be the strongest team at the Giro. 

Stage 9: 224km, Benevento - San Giorgio del Sannio
1 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana 5hr 50min 31sec
2 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:21
3 Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Alpecin 0:00:23
4 Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC 
5 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar  
6 Carlos Betancur (Col) AG2R  
7 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin 
8 Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin 0:00:27
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana  0:00:56

General classification
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 38hr 31min 35sec
2 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana 0:00:03
3 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky 0:00:22
4 Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana 0:00:46
5 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana 0:01:16
6 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:46
7 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar 0:02:02
8 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx-QuickStep 0:02:10
9 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC 0:02:20
10 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar 0:02:24