Giro d’Italia 2019: Stage 8 – Caleb Ewan takes a technical sprint

It was the longest stage in this year’s Giro d’Italia and, boy, did we feel it. With the threat of rain, mumblings of possible neutralisation of the finish and a technical sprint finish, it felt like quite a cautious stage, with perhaps the crashes over the past few days weighing heavy on the riders’ minds. But nothing was neutralised, there was only a touch of rain and the double zebra-crossings of slippery paint didn’t bring anyone down. The sprint was won by Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan, after a heroic effort by his team from 50km out to keep him in the running over the cat-climbs. Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took second, while maglia ciclamino wearer Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) was third.

Rider of the Race

Today’s rider of the race goes to that tractor-trailer of an athlete, Thomas De Gendt. As usual, his presence was felt by today’s breakaway, except this time, he didn’t join Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Damiano Cima (Nippo Vini Fantini – Faizane) on going up the road. With the duo at 6min ahead, the Lotto team must have had the call to hunt the duo down as everyone worked their way through the climbs and descents in the second half of the stage. ‘Keep Ewan near the front, make sure he gets over those climbs and let’s take that stage!’

And that’s exactly what the team did, with TDG ruthlessly closing down the break threat with monster turns on the front that lined the peloton out. Certainly by the time the peloton had reached the 10km banner, the peloton had lost about two-thirds of its riders, as the gruppetto got larger and larger. Would Ewan have won without TDG’s hard work and outstanding road captaincy today? Perhaps, but for me, his work today gave the Australian sprinter the best possible conditions to cross the finish line first.

Always a rider with enormous fierce joy, TDG is going to be riding all three Grand Tours this summer. And in this Giro, it looks like he is eschewing breakaway revelry for the time being in order to ensure team victories in the sprints. With next week’s mountain stages on the horizon, I wonder if he’ll hear the siren call of the break again. Let’s hope so.

True Blue

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The only other rider that was even with a shout for top dog of the day was Trek-Segafredo’s Guilio Ciccone. Looking pretty magnificent in the bold blue of the KOM jersey, he wasn’t taking any chances with pesky breakers scooping up valuable points in the mountains competition.

Once De Gendt had whittled the break gap down to flying attack length, Ciccone bridged to the nearly-pooped Frapporti, had a little chat with him about, you know, points and such, as they neared the top of the Monteluro. They started a full gas sprint but Frapporti’s heart wasn’t in it (and certainly not his legs) and Ciccone bagged the points. Reeled in, he went again out into a three-man break (Ag2r’s Francois Bidard and Sunwebber Louis Vervaeke were along for company) to get the points on the Gabicce Monte and was only finally assimilated into the peloton with 6.5km to go.

The waiting is over

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There’s been a lot of pressure on Caleb Ewan to make the most of this Giro – and he’s been trying to get over the line first all week. Today, he did it, with an emotional victory over his two main rivals, Elia Viviani and Pascal Ackermann.

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Speaking of Viviani, the Italian national champion has not had the dominant Giro that we were all expecting. The relegation on Stage 3 must have hurt and perhaps made him a bit more circumspect when it comes to the push for the line.

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Pascal Ackermann definitely looks the strongest and most confident of the three, with his two emphatic stage wins so far and the maglia ciclamino firmly on his shoulders. He is sitting in front with 150 points, with Arnaud Demare (yes, he’s in this race! who knew?) at 98pts and Ewan at 91. His Bora team have done a great job supporting him this week, although they’ll be on Majka Mountain Duty™ soon, but scooping up intermediate sprint points shouldn’t be out of reach for the German rider.

And on that point, with mountains coming up, I wonder which sprinters we’re going to have left by the last weekend. With no razzle-dazzle sprint on the final stage, it’ll be interesting to see who is going to be in that last ITT in Verona in two weeks time.

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date

Dawdling over his morning coffee, perhaps? Vincenzo Nibali – with four teammates – had to ride through the cars and catch up to the peloton, who were already a minute up the road.

Stage results – top 5

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1 Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 5:43:32

2 Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) same time

3 Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) s/t

4 Fabio Sabatini (Deceuninck-QuickStep) s/t

5 Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) s/t

General Classification – top 10

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1 Valerio Conti  (UAE-Team Emirates) 35:13:06

2 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) +1:32

3 Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF) +1:41

4 Nans Peters (AG2R La Mondiale +2:09

5 Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) +2:17

6 Amaro Antunes (CCC) +2:45

7 Fausto Masnada (Androni Giacattoli – Sidermec) +3:14

8 Pieter Serry (Deceuninck – Quick Step) +3:25

9 Andrey Amador (Movistar) +3:27

10 Sam Oomen (Sunweb) +4:57

All the jerseys

Maglia rosa – Valerio Conti (UAE-Team Emirates)

Maglia blanca – Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF)

Maglia azzurra – Giulio Ciccone (Trek – Segafredo)

Maglia ciclamino – Pascal Ackermann (BORA – hansgrohe)

For full stage review and race results, go to cyclingnews

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