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CAMPITELLO MATESE, Italy (AFP) — Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) won the Giro’s mountainous 186-kilometer eighth stage as the strongest surviving breakaway rider on the day. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) protected his Giro d’Italia lead by crossing the line with Fabio Aru and Dario Cataldo (Astana), Richie Porte (Sky), and Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-QuickStep) 35 seconds later in a compact group, despite the best efforts of Aru and Porte to get separation on the final climb.
On the challenging ascent to the finish, Intxausti jumped clear of a core group of breakers with Sebastian Reichenbach (IAM Cycling), sailed past a few other breakaway aggressors – led by LottoNL-Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk – up the road, and then left Reichenbach behind in pursuit of stage honors. Though the main bunch started to sweep up fading breakaway riders behind him as the finish line neared, Intxausti was able to hold off Mikel Landa (Astana), who had jumped from the chasing peloton and tried to close down the gap, to take the stage victory. Intxausti the line 20 seconds ahead of Landa and 31 seconds ahead of Reichenbach, with the GC favorites close behind led by Fabio Aru.
Two days after dislocating his shoulder in a nasty crash during the sprint finish of the Giro’s sixth stage, Contador was able to respond to several attacks from Aru and Porte on the final climb to the summit finish, ensuring he lost no time to them as he rolled over the line in fifth. In fact, he actually increased his advantage over his chief rivals on the day, taking two bonus seconds at the first intermediate sprint early on in the stage—only minutes after rejoining the main peloton after getting caught on the wrong side of a split that had briefly opened up in the high-speed bunch on wet roads.
“I am happy with things turned out today,” Contador said. “I was not comfortable on the bike, but I could handle myself on the climbs. I knew my rivals would attack me today, but the team was strong, and I was able to follow the moves from Aru. I am not sleeping the best right now. I have to immobilize the arm, and try not to do anything to cause more damage. I hope to get through tomorrow’s stage, and then we have a rest day.”
Aru, who attempted to drop his GC rivals more than once without success, tipped his hat to the rider in the pink jersey, saying: “Alberto is a big champion, and I have a lot of respect for him.”
“Mikel did his race for the stage, that was the plan to try to get Inxausti,” Aru said. “The team was surrounding me all day. We were hoping he could win the stage. Things are OK considering where we are. There are still many stages to go, and I am concentrating on the stages. I have to be happy where I am right now.”