Alberto Contador retained his pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia and it all looked rather easy
You would have thought a man with a gammy shoulder would struggle to climb a mountain, but Alberto Contador proved otherwise on stage eight.
Beñat Intxausti showed Movistar’s riches are almost inexhaustible, soloing to the line, but once again it wasn’t the stage winner who set the tongues wagging.
1. Contador looks okay…ish
For a man with a recently dislocated shoulder, Alberto Contador did a very decent job of doing his job on stage eight.
Yesterday’s marathon stage will have been tiring for him, but it was relatively flat. A climb, like the one to the finish line today, was where he would really be tested and he pulled through unscathed.
It’s fair to say that the Spaniard was definitely favouring his right side, with the left arm seemingly glued to the hood of his handlebars.
But on the sometimes steep final climb we saw the trademark Contador action of dancing out of the saddle and other than a grimace and a scarcity of movement down his left side he looked fine and dandy as his rivals tried to take advantage of his potential frailty and failed.
2. Steven Kruijswijk’s solo mission
Trying to spell Steven Kruijswijk’s name is challenging, but not as challenging as the Dutchman riding alone off the front for virtually the entire stage will have been.
The LottoNL-Jumbo rider made his move pretty deep into the stage, but soon had a big group of riders trying, and not really succeeding, to catch up with him.
Two, Carlos Betancur and Kristof Vandewalle, did bridge to Kruijswijk but it wasn’t long before he decided he wanted to be a lone wolf again and shot off.
It would have been one of the great Grand Tour wins if he’d have clung on to his lead, but with under four kilometres to go he was caught by Beñat Intxausti and Sebastian Reichenbach and his stage was effectively over.
3. A change of approach for Ag2r
Ag2r-La Mondiale found themselves without a leader very early in the race when Domenico Pozzovivo crashed and left the race in an ambulance on stage three.
The baton was passed to Carlos Betancur, but the new found responsibility hit the Colombian hard as he subsequently lost 13 minutes on the following stage.
From that point there was little other choice than a change of tack. Out Betancur went in the break on stage eight and at one point it looked as though he may actually challenge for the win.
But it was not to be. Kruijswijk attacked him and Vandewalle and then the Belgian didn’t want to ride with him either and Betancur slid quickly back down the road.
Many a cruel joke were made about the fact that if there were a cake stand at the top of the mountain then Betancur would have won the stage, given his penchant for the unhealthier range of the nutrition spectrum.
Nevertheless, the move showed Ag2r’s reluctance to just see these 21 stages out without a fight. Betancur can be a Grand Tour winner one day. This is just not his day.
4. A good response from Team Sky
After Porte was left stranded by his Team Sky colleagues when Alberto Contador attacked on the first summit finish on stage five it was questioned as to whether his support crew were up to the required standard.
Sky’s domestiques answered their critics well on stage eight. While not immediately jumping on Aru’s late attack, Richie Porte was on hand to nullify the move and allow some of his helpers back up to the group.
Aru also had a host of willing turquoise helpers, two of whom also helped themselves to top-10 finishes. Contador, however, was surprisingly isolated, given his shoulder ailment.
Not that it mattered, he soldiered on through, but Sky got their act together and worked to get their leader in a strong position.
5. Domenico Pozzovivo was back!
Pozzovivo, as mentioned earlier, suffered pretty horrific facial injuries in a crash on stage three, was taken to hospital and received 25 stitches above his eye.
The good news, however, is that he was back at the Giro on stage eight to visit the finishing line and update people on his recovery.
Pozzovivo looked pretty well for someone covered in bandages and it was good to see him back in good spirits.