Contador tightens grip on Giro with stage win

NEVEGAL, Italy Tue May 24, 2011 6:38pm BST

1 of 2. Pink jersey and overall leader Alberto Contador of Spain climbs during the time trial for the 12.7 km (7.9 miles) 16th stage of the Giro d'Italia cycling race from Belluno to Nevegal May 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

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NEVEGAL, Italy (Reuters) - Spain's Alberto Contador strengthened his overall lead in the Giro d'Italia with his second stage victory of the race, a 12.7 kilometre uphill time trial, Tuesday.

Contador won the stage from Belluno to Nevegal with an advantage of 34 seconds over Vincenzo Nibali of Italy with Italian Michele Scarponi in third.

After winning stage nine on Mount Etna and taking the lead, stage 16 was Contador's second victory and he now leads overall by four minutes 58 seconds from Scarponi with Nibali in third.

Nibali claimed the fastest time on the flatter first five kilometres of the course, but Contador's steadier ascent on the second section enabled the Spaniard to surge ahead.

"The Italian fans were a big help psychologically today, they cheered me just as much they would any local rider," Contador said.

"They've really been supportive for the last three weeks, and for any rider that's always a big plus."

Nibali was left in awe of 2008 Giro winner Contador's display.

"Beating Contador today would have been impossible, it was like racing against a Martian."

"Alberto is the strongest I've seen him in years," added Stefano Garzelli, who took fifth on the stage.

"We all knew he'd be a contender but he's on another level altogether."

Contador's major remaining challenges are two summit finishes in the Alps Friday and Saturday, and a final flat time trial on May 29 through the streets of Milan where the race ends.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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