THOMAS DE GENDT WINS FIRST GIRO STAGE IN TEN YEARS
The Belgian rider got to the front with three other riders, teammate Harm Vanhoucke, Davide Gabburo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) and Jorge Arcas (Movistar) with 40km left in the race, powering away from a group containing Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Biniam Girmay (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux).
Building up a gap of over 30 seconds, the quartet managed to hold onto their lead heading into the final stages, despite the best efforts from Van der Poel and Girmay working together to try and reduce the gap. In the end, it came down to a four-way shoot out for the stage eight victory, with Vanhoucke leading out De Gendt in the final straight. The 35-year-old launched off Vanhoucke's back wheel with 250m to go, and comfortably crossed the line ahead of Gabburo and Arcas.
De Gendt's nine years and 353-day wait for a consecutive stage win is the second-longest in history, with Alfredo Sivocci's ten years and 360-day wait between 1911 and 1922 only longer. Regardless, the Lotto-Soudal rider certainly deserved the win after a brilliant performance in Napoli.
EXPLOSIVE DAY FULL OF ATTACKS
Mathieu van der Poel decided to take matters into his hands on the eighth stage of the Giro, launching an early attack 146km until the finish line as he forced the rest of the peloton into making a decision. A chasing group soon caught him, creating a 21-rider strong breakaway that would open up a gap of over two minutes to the peloton.
In fact, the opening hour of racing produced an average speed of 47kmh. Arguably, the procession of stage six might have helped create better entertainment on this stage, with the riders fresher and more confident to power their legs on the undulating parcours.
Van der Poel continued to launch separate attacks throughout the race, in an attempt to string out the breakaway and perhaps even hold onto a long range win. They weren't able to stick though, until 47km left in the race. Biniam Girmay, Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) and Mauro Schmid (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) all went with the Dutchman, but a counter-attack by Davide Gabburo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) saw five riders pass this quartet of riders.
The leading group of five managed to build up a gap of 30 seconds, dropping Simone Ravanelli (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) in the process. Attacks kept coming though, with Van der Poel, Girmay and Schmid all picking up their pace close to the line as they attempted to catch the leaders. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) also joined, with Poels still there.
However, attempts from Van der Poel and Girmay working together to catch the leading four were in vain, with De Gendt too far ahead to reel back in. With this particularly ferocious day of racing, don't expect any, or many, of the breakaway riders to feature much on the gruelling stage finishing up Blockhaus tomorrow.
LENNARD KÄMNA CONTINUES TO TEST JUAN PEDRO LÓPEZ
Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) continues to test Juan Pedro López’s (Trek-Segafredo) mettle for the GC, with the German rider launching an attack from the peloton with 10km to go.
López managed to comfortably follow though, keeping Kämna within his sights in order to maintain his 38-second lead overall. During Friday's stage Kämna even attempted an early attack, with 154km to go, to try and put his rival under pressure, but to little avail.
His desire for the maglia rosa is most certainly evident, though, and up Blockhaus tomorrow he might have the perfect opportunity to spring an attack that sticks, potentially moving him into the general classification lead.
Elsewhere, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) has managed to reduce his deficit to López overall, with the Frenchman now 1-06 back. Martin followed the breakaway group to finish three minutes ahead of the GC contenders, but an intense day calls into question his ability to maintain the same pace tomorrow on a heavy climbing day.
MATHIEU VAN DER POEL'S EAGERNESS FOR ANOTHER STAGE WIN LEAVES HIM UNSUCCESSFUL
Mathieu van der Poel came into the eighth stage as the favourite, due to its punchy nature and classic-like parcours. Van der Poel also targeted the stage as one he could win, as he hoped to add to his stage one victory from earlier in the Giro.
He immediately made his ambitions known in the race by attacking within the first 10km of the race. Twenty other riders went with him, but that didn't cause him to let up as he again tried to spring away from them in an audacious long-range attempt for the line.
Opting for the tactic that the best form of defence is attack, the Dutchman continuously attempted to steal a march on his closest competitors by sprinting away from them, only for the other 20 riders to work together to reel him back in. Perhaps this proved Van der Poel's downfall, all of the intense bursts of energy taking their toll as he completed the joint-most consecutive number of competitive days riding in his professional career.
This approach was epitomised by his efforts in the conclusion of the race. Working with Biniam Girmay, it seemed likely the pair would catch the leading quartet and battle for the win themselves, as they came within ten seconds of them heading into the final 3km.
However, they didn't continue to reduce the gap, and the Alpecin-Fenix rider ultimately ended up finishing in seventh, six places back on where he would ideally have liked, or maybe even expected, coming into the stage today.
RETURN TO NAPLES LIVES UP TO EXPECTATIONS
The last time the Giro d'Italia route visited Naples was in 2013, when Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory on the opening stage of the event on Via Caracciolo, an incredibly quick finish which returned for this year's edition.
However, the undulating route meant this wouldn't end up being a stage for the sprinters. Instead, what followed around the city was an intense and exciting affair, full of attacks and drama within the breakaway and peloton alike. Covering the 19km circuit over the Monte di Procida four times certainly helped to spice things up, especially with little time for respite over the climbs and descents.
This also offered plenty of opportunities for riders such as Van der Poel and De Gendt to launch attacks that stuck somewhat, with teams having to work together to either conserve energy or match the required, quick tempo.
Tomorrow won't disappoint, either. A high mountain stage across the Apennines, stage nine will start in Isernia, rising past the Macerone pass before hitting the first major climb in Roccaraso. A double climb to Blockhaus then beckons, with a series of hairpin bends ensuring the difficulty is maintained at all times.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 202