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Attacking from a 13-rider breakaway on the final climb with gravel roads, Brambilla rode to a solo win in stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia; Dumoulin was dropped from the group of favourites and so the Italian takes over the maglia rosa

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele










14.05.2016 @ 17:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) achieved one of his biggest dreams on a marvelous stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia by riding to an impressive solo win on the gravel roads in Tuscany and riding himself into the maglia rosa. Having joined a 13-rider breakaway after a very fast start, the Italian attacked on the final climb and held off lone chaser Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r) to claim the biggest win of his career. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) split the group of favourites to pieces and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) was unable to keep up with the best, losing more than a minute and dropping out of the overall standings. Instead, Brambilla moves into the race lead on the eve of the time trial.


In March, Gianluca Brambilla was agonizingly close to winning the Strade Bianche classic. Having attacked from a group of classics contenders, he was only passed by Fabian Cancellara and teammate Zdenek Stybar less than 500m from the finish and had to settle for third place in his home classic.


The near-miss was a big disappointment for the punchy Italian but it proved that he has a taste for the Tuscan gravel roads. That made him ambitious for today’s stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia which included a piece of the famous Strade Bianche in the finale where the riders tackled a tough 8.6km climb that averaged 6.5% and included 6.5km of the dirt road before it descended to a puncheur finish in Arezzo.


Today things came together for Brambilla who achieved what had so narrowly failed a few months ago as he emerged as the strongest from a 13-rider breakaway. To make things even better for the talented Italian, he gained enough time on the favourites to move into the maglia rosa on the day when he claimed his second win of the year.


While Brambilla fought alone, the GC riders tested each other on the final climb and it was Alejandro Valverde who blew the race to pieces. With several accelerations, he created a select group of favourites from which Tom Dumoulin was the notable absentee. The Dutchman cracked on the steep roads and with a time loss of more than a minute, he slipped out of the top 10 of the overall standings. Second-placed Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) had bad luck to suffer a mechanical on the final climb, meaning that Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) is now in second behind Brambilla.


Brambilla was part of a 13-rider group that also included Blel Kadri, Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Moreno Moser (Cannondale), Jaco Venter (Dimension Data), Matteo Trentin (Team Quick Step), Sean de Bie (Lotto Soudal), Jasha Sutterlin , Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo), Nikias Arndt (Giant) and Alexei Tsatevich (Katusha) and they had built up an advantage of more than five minutes before the fight for position in the peloton started to bring the gap down. Kadri and Trentin emptied themselves for Montaguti and Brambilla respectively and it was the Frenchman who led the group onto the final climb. That set Montaguti up for an attack right from the bottom and only Berlato followed the strong Italian. The pair quickly got a gap before De Marchi tried to bridge the gap.


De Marchi passed the fading Berlato and was about to regain contact with Montaguti when Brambilla mde his move. The Italian caught the BMC rider and the pair caught Montaguti just before they passed the 25km to go banner. Moser almost made the junction too but started to lose ground when Brambilla uppedthe pace just as they hit the gravel section. He immediately got a gap while Montaguti gave chase.


In the peloton, it was an intense fight for position with Rory Sutherland (Movistar), Twan Castelijns (LottoNL-Jumbo), Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) and Lukasz Wisniowski (Etixx-QuickStep) sprinting on the front to keep their captains in a good spot. However, it was Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin) who went full gas from the bottom of the climb before Valerio Agnoli took over for Astana.


Agnoli set the pace until David Lopez (Sky) upped the speed even further as they approached the gravel. However, it was Valverde who started the battle with a big attack right from the beginning of the dirt sector.


Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) regained contact while the peloton exploded to pieces. Michele Scarponi and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) were the nearest chasers while Mikel Landa (Sky) and especially Dumoulin were further back.


While Dumoulin found himself in a big group further back, Valverde kept riding aggressively, setting a brutal pace. Nonethless, Fuglsang was about to pace himself back to the group when disaster struck. A dropped chain forced him to stop and when he was back on his bike, he was already back in the Dumoulin group.


Landa, Sergey Firsanov (Gazprom), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) and Andrey Amador (Movistar) regained contact with the favourites at a point when Dumoulin was already 30 seconds behind. Valverde made repeated accelerations while he used Amador to set the pace on the flatter sections near the top. Further back, Dumoulin was dropped from his group and suddenly found himself with just Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff) for company.


Fuglsang managed to bridge the gap between the two main groups but just as he had regained contact, Valverde accelerated again. The Dane, Firsanov Amador and Pozzovivo were all dropped but while the latter three made it back, the Astana rider never got back.


Approaching the summit, Nibali tried to up the pace in the group that continued to pick up riders from the break. One of them was Sütterlin who took a short turn for Valverde before the Spanish champion again accelerated as they approached the top.


Brambilla crested the summit with a 25-second advantage over Montaguti while Chaves made a small attack to lead the peloton over the top 2.20 behind the leader. Dumoulin crested the summit with a delay of 1.10 to his rivals and soon got company from Arndt who waited for his leader.


Montaguti did a great descent and had reduced the gap to 15 seconds as they entered the final 10km. The GC riders worked well together though and had shaved 20 seconds off their delay at this point while Dumoulin was still stuck 1.10 further back.


Valverde rode very aggressively on the descent, briefly riding away with Chaves and Nibali. The Italian also tried to attack but the group came back together.


As Brambilla hit the flat final 5km, he had increased his advantage to 30 seconds and it was clear that Montaguti had cracked. Further back, Amador sacrificed himself for Valverde until the picked up Rojas who went straight to work. With 3km to go, Dumoulin had been distanced by 1.30 and it was evident that he had lost it all.


Brambilla dug deep in the uphill final kilometre before sitting up to celebrate a marvelous solo win. Montagut crossed the line 1.06 further back while Moser beat Venter and De Marchi in a 3-rider sprint for third. Valverde won the sprint for sixth, 1.41 behind Brambilla, creating a 3-rider split in the finale. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Fuglsang and Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) were first from the next group that lost 2.32 while Dumoulin crossed the line 19 seconds later.


The time gains were enough for Brambilla to move into the race lead with a 23-second advantage over Zakarin, with Kruijswijk 10 seconds further adrift in third. However, he faces a big challenge on his first stage in maglia rosa as stage 9 is one of the most important of the entire race. The 40.5km Chianti time trial is a rolling affair that includes a lumpy first half, a long descent and a gradual climb and a descent in the second half. In general, it’s a stage more for versatile GC riders than big engines and the stage is set to open big time gaps in the overall standings.


A tough stage

After one day for the sprinters, the GC riders were again expected to do battle on stage 8 which brought the riders over 189km from Foligno to Arezzo. Most of the stage was flat with just a category 3 climb in the middle section but it was the 31.6km finishing circuit that was set to do some damage. It included the category 2 climb of Alpe di Poti which averaged 6.5% over 8.6km and included sections of 14% and 6.5km of gravel road. The top was located just 18.4km from the finish from where it was a technical descent that led to Arezzo and the technical, uphill finish that had a kilometre with an average gradient of 5%.


It was dry but cloudy in the morning when the peloton turned up. The 190 riders who reached the finish yesterday, were all present in Foligno, but maybe Fabian Cancellara (Trek) should have stayed at home. The Swiss already punctured in the neutral zone and again after 9km of racing and so had a catastrophic start to the day. It was also a quick opening phase with many attacks, and it was first a 10-rider group that created a gap. While a crash involved riders from LottoNL-Jumbo, Trek, Dimension Data and Bardiani, however, it was quickly brought back.


The peloton splits to pieces

Mikel Landa (Sky) was just as unlucky as Cancellara as he punctured twice on the wet roads, and also Julen Amezqueta (Wilier) had to change a wheel. At the same time, a sextet briefly got clear, but it was 13 riders who ended up forming the break of the day.


Blel Kadri and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Moreno Moser (Cannondale), Jaco Venter (Dimension Data), Gianluca Brambilla, Matteo Trentin (Team Quick Step), Sean de Bie (Lotto Soudal), Jasha Sutterlin , Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo), Nikias Arndt (Giant) and Alexei Tsatevich (Katusha) escaped, but that did not mean that the peloton calmed down. In fact, it was split into several groups. With 160km to go, the first 31-rider peloton was just 10 seconds behind the leaders while the next two groups were 20 and 35 seconds behind respectively. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) was in the second group.


A regrouping takes place

The rain stopped while the Dumoulin rejoined the first peloton that was 23 seconds behind the front group with 149km to go. The peloton slowed down and there was a regrouping behind the 13 leaders who increased the lead to 2 minutes after the first hour that had been done at an average speed of 48.7km/h. Giant-Alpecin took control in the peloton.


The gap slowly went out to 3 minutes when the escapees hit the last 120km. Here Trentin bat Tsatevich and Berlato in the first intermediate sprint while Giant-Alpecin led the peloton over the line 3.45 later. At the start of the last 100km, the gap had even gone out to 4.10 after a second hour with an average speed of 46.9km/h.


Giant-Alpecin set the pace

Tom Stamsnijder, Cheng Ji and Bert De Backer did the early work for Giant-Alpecin but they showed no interest in bringing the break back. In fact, the gap had gone out to 4.50 when the escapees hit the first climb with 70kmto go.


Trentin sacrificed himself for Brambilla and did all the work on the first climb to maintain a gap of a round 4.45. At the top, De Bie beat Berlato in the KOM sprint to protect Tim Wellens’ lead, with Sütterlin and Trentin rolling across the line next.


Giant-Alpecin up the pace

The climb was too hard for Ji and De Backer and it was Stamsnijder who did all the work in the peloton which reached the top 4.46 behind the leaders. The pair returned after the descent but it didn’t have much of an impact on the gap which had gone out to 5.20 with 45km to go.


Trentin beat Tsatevich in the final intermediate sprint, with Kadri rolling across the line in third. At the same time, the fight for position in the peloton started as they entered the final 40km. Chad Haga started to work with De Backer and Stamsnijder in the peloton and they clearly upped the pace, reducing the gap to 4.50 at this point.


A big fight for position

As the peloton entered Arezzo for the first time, the fight for positioning got more intense and it was LottoNL-Jumbo who hit the front. While Maarten Tjallingii set a brutal pace, Kadri led the front group across the line for the first time.


Twan Castelijns took over for LottoNL-Jumbo before Etixx-QuickStep tried to slow the pace down by hitting the front in the narrow and technical finale. Rory Sutherland (Movistar) and Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) passed them and were first across the line 3.40 behind the leaders. Moments later, Kadri led the front group onto the climb and it didn’t take long for Brambilla to make the race-winning move.



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