AN AUDACIOUS SOLO attack on the tough white chalk roads of the Giro d’Italia eighth stage saw Italian Gianluca Brambilla rewarded with a prestigious win and the race leader’s pink jersey Saturday.
Etixx team rider Brambilla had been in an earlier escape of 13 riders on the tough, 186 km ride from Foligno to Arezzo.
But having earmarked the stage, the Italian seized his chance by pulling away from the group of frontrunners on a section of white chalk road, with 25 km remaining.
With the main peloton including overnight leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant) and all the race favourites over three minutes in arrears, it proved a judicious move.
As Brambilla forged on for the finish line virtually unhindered, Dumoulin was left tumbling down the overall standings after race favourites Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde and several other rivals left the Dutchman in their wake.
I can’t believe what I’ve done. I can’t believe I have the pink jersey,” said Brambilla, who was quick to thank teammate Matteo Trentin for increasing the pace at the front of the leading group and allowing him to keep his powder dry.
“I was the rider who initiated the breakaway but he did most of the work until I rode away in the steep part of the climb. I’m delighted.
Everything is going well for me this year. The birth of my daughter Asia 20 days ago has also changed my life. It’s beautiful. I had targeted this stage at the beginning of the Giro, and I did it.”
Matteo Montaguti of the AG2R team was second over the finish line at 1min 06secs with fellow Italian Moreno Moser (Cannondale) in third at 1:27 at the head of a three-man group.
Brambilla now leads the race with a 23sec cushion on Russian Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), although the overall standings are expected to be shaken up again on Sunday after a time trial in the Chianti wine-producing region.
Spanish veteran Valverde, who crossed at 1:41 behind Brambilla, moved up to fourth overall to sits 36secs off the pink jersey on his maiden participation.
Nibali, the 2013 champion, is in fifth overall at 45, with Esteban Chaves (48), Rigoberto Uran (49) and Mikel Landa (54) all in close vicinity. Dumoulin crossed the finish at 2:51 behind Brambilla to drop out of the race’s top 10.
With two weeks remaining on the 99th edition of the race, Dumoulin should still have plenty of racing in his legs.
The Dutchman, who won the opening stage time trial to take the pink jersey for the first time in the race, is a big favourite for Sunday’s 40.5 km race against the clock between Radda in Chianti and Greve in Chianti.
Valverde admitted: “We did a great job today, we managed to make a big gap. We gave everything on the climb and I think that the team did a fantastic job.
Dumoulin and (Jakob) Fuglsang got dropped but this Giro d’Italia is long. We tried to get as much time as possible on Dumoulin because of the time trial tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Ireland’s Nicolas Roche and Philip Deignan finished in 51st and 147th place respectively. Roche is currently 29th overall following today’s results, while Deignan is 99th.
Results and standings after Saturday’s 186km eighth stage from Foligno to Arezzo:
1. Gianluca Brambilla (ITA/ETI) 4hr 14min 05sec, 2. Matteo Montaguti (ITA/ALM) at 1min 06sec, 3. Moreno Moser (ITA/CAN) 1:27, 4. Jacob Venter (RSA/DDT) 1:28, 5. Alessandro De Marchi (ITA/BMC) 1:33, 6. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 1:41, 7. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/LNL) same time, 8. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) s.t., 9. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) s.t., 10. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) s.t.
1. Gianluca Brambilla (ITA/ETI) 33hr 39min 14sec, 2. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 0:23, 3. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/LNL) 0:33, 4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:36, 5. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 0:45, 6. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) 0:48, 7. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) 0:49, 8. Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) 0:54, 9. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) s.t., 10. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 1:03
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