Saxo’s Chris Sorensen wins stage 8 of the 2010 Giro d’Italia,

Saxo Bank's Chris Sorensen rides away from a 17-man breakaway on the final climb to win the first real mountain stage of the 2010 Giro d'Italia.
Sorensen left nothing in the tank

Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank) won Sunday’s eighth stage of the Giro d’Italia, a 189-kilometer race from Chianciano Terme to the mountain-top finish at Terminillo. The 25-year-old Dane rode away from the remnants of a large breakaway group midway up the final climb to score a dramatic win atop the fog-shrouded summit, less than a minute ahead of the chase group.

It was a huge win for Sorensen, who won a mountain stage at the Dauphiné Libéré two years ago and is one of Denmark’s most promising climbers.

“I’m really happy. It was a great victory for me. It’s the first mountain stage in the most beautiful race in the world. I had a crash and broke my right collarbone seven weeks ago, but I was able to come back and win a stage,” Sorensen said. “I wasn’t sure the break was going to make it. I was trying to keep a fast tempo on the climb. I knew I had to have some sort of good gap to the favorites to have a chance to win.”

Overnight leader Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) held onto his maglia rosa as the Giro rounds out what was without a doubt one of the most exciting, dangerous and unpredictable opening weeks of a grand tour in years.

Long warm-up

Despite a few forays, the peloton remained intact far into the race, as the caravan proceeded through sometimes rainy and foggy conditions. Stage 6 winner Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) led the peloton up the Category 3 Valico di Monte Nibbio, which topped out at 46.7km. Lloyd took the first place KOM points at the summit to pad his lead in the climber’s competition.

Big break

Some wide-spread aggression broke part the lead group over the next 20 kilometers, and eventually a group of 17 split off the front.

The unusually large group began working well together and built a lead of about 3 minutes over the penultimate climb, the Cat. 3 Marmore at 138.6km. Astana, with some help from Lampre, led the chase. The break contained no threats to Vinokourov’s overall lead but contained several potential stage winners who were eager to hit the base of the final climb with a big enough cushion to stay ahead of the heavy hitters in the bunch.

Team Sky's Steven Cummings takes a pull at the front of the 17-man breakaway.

The biggest names in the break were French stars Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and David Moncoutié (Cofidis). Neither were GC threat, sitting in 66th at 28:23. and 163rd at 48:28, respectively, but oddsmakers would give both a good shot at producing a second 2010 Giro d’Itala stage win for France, following Jérôme Pineau’s stage 5 win.

The best placed five in the break:

  • Johann Tschopp (BBox Bouygues Telecom), 34th at 14:05
  • Cayetano Sarmiento (Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo) 35th at 14:22
  • Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli-Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) 45th at 18:04
  • Evgeni Petrov (Team Katusha) 47th at 18:48
  • José Ochoa Carlos (Androni Giocattoli-Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni), 55th at 22:20

Sorensen started the stage in 92nd place, 34:40 behind Vinokourov.

The 17 worked steadily, with Voeckler taking some monster pulls, but rarely got their gap much above three minutes. Lampre rode the front of the bunch much of the day, likely hoping to set up 2004 Giro victor Damiano Cunego for a stage win attempt.

The break hit the base of the Monte Terminillo with a 2:20 gap.

The final push

In the break,  Sorensen was the first to launch an attack, marked by Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank). The two were soon neutralized, but the accelerations whittled the break down to just a handful of survivors.

With 9k to go, Simone Stortoni (Colnago) got a gap and Sorensen worked for more than a kilometer to bridge, rode with the Italian for a k, then stormed off on his own, riding into the fog on the climb’s upper slopes.

Behind, aggression at the front gave an idea of which of the GC favorites had the legs. The first victim was 2008 Tour de France champ Carlos Sastre, who couldn’t follow the accelerations.

It was another blow for Sastre’s GC hopes as he eventually lost another minute to the favorites and sank further out of contention.

““I suffered as much as I could so I could stay as close to the favorites and lose the minimal amount of time,” Sastre said. “But for me, the start of this Giro has been especially challenging for the crashes and all the other problems I’ve had since the start. I counted on the help of my teammates today. Marcel Wyss was with me today because (Xavier) Tondo is in great form right now and you have let him have his chances. If it wasn’t for the riders in the break, he would have given the team something to cheer about.”

Tondo, indeed, had the goods, and threw in an attack with 4km to go. Vinokourov, Evans, Wiggins and Nibali survived in an elite chase group about 1:25 behind Sorensen with 2k to go.

David Millar (Garmin-Transistions), in third overnight, also lost contact with the leaders on the final climb.

Evans hung tough

Sorensen, whose twisted face left no questions about his commitment to the effort, worked his way up the slick road, in and out of the saddle as his team director yelled encouragement from the sun roof of the follow car.

Stortoni held on for second and Tondo came in third.

Up next

Monday’s ninth stage, 187km from Frosinone to Cava de’ Tirreni is over rolling terrain south of Rome that will give both the breakaways and sprinters a chance of success. (Related: 2010 Giro d’Italia route).

Race note

  • At least six riders dropped out of the race on Sunday. Notably, Cadel Evans lost his second support rider so far when BMC’s John Murphy abandoned. The other dropouts: Dmitriy Kozontchuk (Rabobank), Sacha Modolo (Colnago), Fabian Wegmann (Milram), Andrea Masciarelli (Acqua e Sapone) and 20-plus-time Giro stage winner Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre). The 36 year old packed it in because of a persistent cough that kept him from sleeping Saturday night, his team said.

Complete results

Quick results

Vinokourov easily held the pink for another day.

Stage results

  • 1. C. Sorensen (Saxo) 4:50:48
  • 2. Stortoni (CSF-Colnago) +0:30
  • 3. Tondo (Cervelo) +0:36
  • 4. Petrov (Katusha) +0:49
  • 5. Gadret (Ag2r) +0:55
  • 6. Cunego (Lampre) +0:56
  • 7. Garzelli (Aqua e Sapone) +0:56
  • 8. Vinokourov (Astana) +0:56

GC standings

The stage 8 profile
  • 1. Vinokourov
  • 2.
  • 3.