Lawks-a-mercy, the Giro served up yet another day of superb racing! The start was brutal, the breakaway was intriguing, the chase furious and the finale on the 13 km Campitello Matese was edge-of-your-seat OMG! Movistar’s Benat Intxausti played a blinder, bluffing on the wheels of his companions until he delivered a stinging attack and soloed in for a fabulous win. Alberto Contador chased down attack after attack to stay in the maglia rosa.
Rider of the day
There were more candidates for this than you could shake a stick at today, but I’m going with Rigoberto Uran of Etixx-Quick Step. He’s not been at his best in previous stages, losing time on his main rivals almost every time the road went up. On the mountain-top finish in Abetone he came in 28 seconds behind and he was trailing Contador by 1:22 this morning. I feared the worst. But our Mick Jagger lookalike was in fighting mood today and he did not give an inch as the attacks flew on the final 5km. I was thrilled to see him strut his stuff and look forward to more of it in the fights to come. It’s only going to make the Giro even better to have all the favourites at or near their best form.
Four things we noticed
Today was a day of strategies. Let’s have a closer look.
1. The bluff. Intxausti spent most of the day in the breakaway in one way or another. He rode away with Sebastien Reichenbach (IAM) on the final climb, catching and passing lone leader Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) with 4km to go. As the pair climbed further, Intxausti looked more and more exhausted, not taking his turns at the front and staying in the wheels. Then, with 3km to go and the peloton closing in, he launched his bid for glory. For the Spanish rider it was the perfect bluff: “I was really cold-blooded today in my tactics.” But for the IAM rider it was heartache.
I gave everything I had to make the break and in the end I got screwed by the Spanish rider.
2. Turquoise strategy. Astana had to attack today and they did so with both power and strength in numbers. Fabio Aru himself launched the proceedings with some blistering turns of pace. Then, when this didn’t shake his rivals, he sent one of his two remaining team mates on the attack, forcing Richie Porte, Contador and Uran to chase while he sat behind. He was the only GC hopeful to have a teammate with him in the closing kilometres. However, despite this seeming superiority they haven’t yet been able to take any time. It’s going to be fascinating to see this develop.
3. Pink strategy. All eyes were on Contador this morning, all looking to see if he would be able to climb with his injured shoulder. We have our answer. He looked a little in pain and uncomfortable towards the end, but he responded to every attack Aru and Porte launched and they could not shake him. Indeed he even increased his lead by taking a sneaky two seconds at the first intermediate sprint. You have to take your opportunities where you find them.
4. Banana strategy. The Eurosport commentating duo of Rob Hatch and Matt Stephens are firm favourites here at VeloVoices Towers – they just have the right mix of knowledge, insight and humour. Today Carlos Betancur (Ag2r) was in the breakaway (this is not a typo, it happened) and riding like we haven’t seen him for a long while.
The secret? Ahh, well Mr Stephens had the answer: he was on the ‘old school’ one banana strategy. None of your fancy-new-fangled gels for the Colombian rider, just pop the portable package in your back pocket and away you go. In all seriousness though, it was a treat to see Carlos at something approaching good form, I hope it continues.
Stage 8 result
1. Benat Intxuasti (Movistar) 4:51:34
2. Mikel Landa (Astana) +0:20
3. Sebastien Reichenbach (IAM) +0:31
4. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:35
5. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) same time
1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 32:40:07
2. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:04
3. Richie Porte (Sky) +0:22
4. Dario Cataldo (Astana) +0:30
5. Mikel Landa (Astana) +0.42
6. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) +1:00
7. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) +1:16
8. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +1:24
9. Damiano Caruso (BMC) +1:34
10. Andrey Amador (Movistar) +1:38
Points leader: Elia Viviani (Sky).
King of the Mountains leader: Benat Intxausti (Movistar).
Best young rider: Fabio Aru (Astana).
Team classification: Astana.
Link: Official race website