Giro stage 8: Persistence pays off for Ewan

Following a string of near-misses, the Australian outsprints key rivals Ackermann and Viviani after marathon stage.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) finally got the win he’d been hunting all Giro, timing his sprint to perfection to take stage 8 on Saturday. Pink jersey Valerio Conti (UAE-Team Emirates) finished in the bunch to maintain his grip on the overall.

The victory marked Ewan’s second Giro stage win of his career, and his first grand tour victory for Lotto-Soudal, having finished second on stage 4, and third on stage 2. He launched an impressive sprint, having waited for Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) to go first, coming off the wheel as the German started to fade.

Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) had followed Ewan’s wheel rather than his leadout men throughout the final kilometer, however, didn’t have the legs to come around the Lotto-Soudal man. The Italian champion finished second, with Ackermann third.

“We’ve been trying pretty much all eight days we’ve been here now, and I’m just so happy to repay [the team] with a win,” said Ewan.

The 239-kilometer stage to Pesaro saw the peloton take on the longest stage of the race so far, having already ridden 238km on stage 6, Thursday, and 235km on stage 4, Tuesday. After a flat first 140km, the back half of the race was packed with lumps and bumps on heavy, rough roads.

There had been some pre-race nerves about the stage’s tricky run-in, with a steep, twisting descent falling with 4km to go before a flat but complicated final few kilometers into the finish line.

Mountains classification leader Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec), and Damiano Cima (Nippo Vini Fantini) formed the day’s breakaway, and were all swept up with 30km to go.

Cioccone attacked again on the final classified climb of the day, drawing out Francois Bidard (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Louis Vervaeke (Sunweb). The trio pulled out a 40-second lead over the peloton, and it looked like they may make it to the line. However, the sprint teams took charge with 10km remaining, and soon brought the race came back together.

Despite rain showers falling on the technical descent into the finale in the final hour of the race, the peloton made it down the greasy road without drama, with Deceuninck-Quick-Step controlling the pace. Bora-Hansgrohe then took over through the technical run-in through Pesaro, looking to settle the speed and keep Ackermann in contention.

Ewan, looking isolated, kept himself to himself in the middle of the bunch, marked by Viviani, who seemed intent on following his rival rather than his teammates.

Bora-Hansgrohe led out the sprint, with Ackermann hitting the front early, Ewan on his wheel, and Viviani following the Australian. Ackermann faded fast however, and as he did so, Ewan powered through to take the win. Viviani was unable to challenge and came second.

“This finish suits me better than some of the other finishers we’ve had so far,” said Ewan. “When I saw how the finish was, I knew exactly where I had to be. We had to work pretty hard in the last 30km to bring it back, so I didn’t have a lead out. I was getting on the wheel of [Ackermann]. This is a big win for me to give it back to the team. I’m really happy about it.”

“Today was a long day but we avoided any troubles in the stage,” said race-leader Conti. “Everyone was vigilant and no one wanted to take big risks in the bunch.”

Sunday’s lumpy 35km time trial is a day that could see major changes in the GC.

“Tomorrow won’t be easy for me to defend the pink jersey,” said Conti. “I have a few riders who are close to me. I’ll do everything I can to keep it.”

Conti holds a 1:32 lead over second-place Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar). However, perhaps more importantly, the GC favorites Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) are still all within 45 seconds of each other, with Roglic highest on GC, 12th overall at 5:24.