Alberto Contador claims pink jersey

ETNA, Italy -- Giro d'Italia favorite Alberto Contador surged to his first stage win of this year's race Sunday and took the leader's pink jersey from Pieter Weening.

The three-time Tour de France winner finished the 104.7-mile ninth stage from Messina in 4 hours, 54 minutes, 8 seconds, with Jose Rujano three seconds behind.

"The plan worked today," Contador said. "We had some doubts at times because the race was so slow, but we thought we should try it. [Vincenzo] Nibali stayed with me for a while, but I went and managed to hold on for the win.

"As far as I'm concerned I don't expect to win every stage as long as I'm close to the winner. I felt good today and my legs were good, so I had to try something."

Stefano Garzelli then led the chasing pack across the line for third, 50 seconds behind Contador.

Overall, Contador has a 59-second lead over Kanstantsin Sivtsov.

Earlier in the week there were some fears as to whether this stage would even go ahead after volcanic activity opened a crater on the east face of Mount Etna -- Europe's most active volcano -- and sprayed ash down on Catania and the surrounding countryside.

Organizers had to work hard to clear ash and debris off the roads ahead of the stage, but by the start it was clear and a large number of supporters lined the roadsides.