Contador was initially not invited on the Tour
Spaniard Alberto Contador of Astana took the overall lead in the Giro d'Italia on Sunday after coming sixth in the mountainous 15th stage.
Italian Emanuele Sella triumphed in the rain but the plaudits went to Contador, the reigning Tour de France champion.
Contador managed to negotiate the mountain stage from Arabba to Passo Fedaia without conceding more than a handful of seconds.
Italian duo Domenico Pozzovivo and Riccardo Ricco finished behind Sella.
The CSF Group rider completed rare back-to-back stage wins through the mountains as he negotiated a 2057m ascent to the finish.
Sella pulled away on the final climb at Fedaia to finish in four hours, 53 mins and 24 seconds, more than two minutes ahead of the chasing riders.
Contador, who was a late entry in the Giro, was 16secs further back but it was enough for him to take the lead from Gabriele Bosisio.
"The pink jersey is a special present for me," said the Astana rider.
"I appreciate this jersey all the more as I had not prepared myself for the Giro.
"If someone had told me 20 days ago when I was lying on the beach that I would
be in the leader's pink jersey in the Dolomites, I wouldn't have
Stage 15 results:
1. Emanuele Sella (Italy / CSF Group ) 4hrs 53mins 24secs
2. Domenico Pozzovivo (Italy / CSF Group ) +2:05"
3. Riccardo Ricco (Italy / Saunier Duval ) +2:11"
4. Danilo Di Luca (Italy / Team LPR ) +2:20"
5. Gilberto Simoni (Italy / Diquigiovanni ) +2:27"
6. Alberto Contador (Spain / Astana ) same time
7. Denis Menchov (Russia / Rabobank ) +2:34"
8. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Belgium / Silence - Lotto ) +3:18"
9. Marzio Bruseghin (Italy / Lampre ) +3:22"
10. Tadej Valjavec (Slovenia / AG2R ) +3:27"
1. Alberto Contador (Spain / Astana ) 68hrs 06mins 43secs"
2. Riccardo Ricco (Italy / Saunier Duval ) +33"
3. Danilo Di Luca (Italy / Team LPR ) +55"
4. Marzio Bruseghin (Italy / Lampre ) +1:18"
5. Denis Menchov (Russia / Rabobank ) +1:20"
6. Gilberto Simoni (Italy / Diquigiovanni ) +1:26"
7. Franco Pellizotti (Italy / Liquigas ) +2:27"
8. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Belgium / Silence - Lotto ) +2:50"
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Italy / CSF Group ) +4:04"
10. Emanuele Sella (Italy / CSF Group ) +4:41"