Giro stage 8: Dowsett soars in British one-two

Stage 8: Gabicce Mare to Saltara, 54.8km individual time trial

A leg-breaking 54.8km time trial was topped and tailed by a pair of Movistar riders. British national time trial champion Alex Dowsett set an early benchmark that stood up as the winning time, while teammate and maglia rosa Benat Intxausti could only finish 41st, four minutes down, to relinquish the jersey he claimed yesterday. It was a stage so long – Dowsett’s winning time was 1:16:27 – that a tongue-in-cheek Taylor Phinney petitioned the UCI to allow the use of iPods

It will take a bit of time before I’ve realised what I have done. I still can’t believe it myself.
Alex Dowsett comes to terms with his own victory

That’s only half the story of an afternoon filled with tension and a few surprises, though. Sky’s Bradley Wiggins was expected to dominate but he seemed to stutter in the first half of the course – not helped by a bike change – and he was nearly a minute down at the first time-check. He followed this with a strong second half and pulled almost all of that time back to finish in second, just ten seconds behind.

It was a strong recovery but disappointing relative to expectations. The anticipated gains on his major GC rivals did not fully materialise as Cadel Evans (BMC) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) both put in storming rides, finishing 39 seconds and 21 seconds behind Dowsett respectively.

But not everybody had a good day. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) struggled to finish 2:23 down. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) lost nearly a full minute more.

Nibali and Evans were rewarded by moving up to first and second overall. Wiggins is fourth at 1:16, one second behind Blanco’s Robert Gesink, with teammates Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran moving back into the top ten.

VeloVoices rider of the day

Without doubt, the star of the day was Alex Dowsett, whose early time was never bettered. Although only 24 years old and riding his first grand tour, the young man from Essex has already been British time trial champion twice and his performance will not have come as too much of a surprise to many people.

He made a brave move at the end of last season to switch from Sky to Movistar, and it’s great to see him enjoying success already. I’m certain there is a lot more to come from him as well!

Opinion & analysis

This was supposed to be the day the race ignited and in some respects that’s exactly what has happened, just not in the way many anticipated. The parcours itself delivered an excellent test – almost a race of two halves – and it seemed to prove difficult for riders to measure their efforts effectively. A large number faded heavily in the latter stages of the course, while several made big gains. It must have made difficult viewing for Dowsett.

Yet again this stage further distanced this Giro from the expectations that the race was almost a foregone conclusion. This race is full of surprises, and where we thought this time trial would mould the shape of the race to come, if anything it has opened everything up further.

The GC at the end of today is tantalising, with the main overall contenders all now present in the top ten. The big winner today was Vincenzo Nibali, who must be feeling confident now with the climbing that lies ahead.

A decent day for Sergio Henao also underlined that he is more than just a climber and brought him up to seventh overall. Sky now have three riders in the top ten with just over a minute and a half between them, which suggests that Chris Froome may not be the only Skytrooper with leadership issues when the race hits the big climbs.

It’s a tough call to see a stand-out favourite now, and you couldn’t rule anybody out. Even Hesjedal, who lost so much time here, has the time and surely the opportunities to re-energise his race. Today has not delivered a winner or even a favourite – it has underlined that this is one hell of a race.

Stage 8 result

1. Alex Dowsett (Movistar) 1:16:27

2. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:10

3. Tanel Kangert (Astana) +0:14

4. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +0:21

5. Stef Clement (Blanco) +0:32

General classification

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 29:46:57

2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:29

3. Robert Gesink (Blanco) +1:15

4. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +1:16

5. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) +1:24

6. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) +2:05

7. Sergio Henao (Sky) +2:11

8. Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) +2:43

9. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) +2:44

10. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +2:49

Link: Official website

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