Plenty to talk about after the best stage of the Giro d'Italia so far
Izagirre finally takes a Grand Tour win
Eight-and-a-half Grand Tours and 146 stages after taking to the start line of the 2011 Tour de France, Gorka Izagirre has his first Grand Tour stage win. And what a way to do it.
Not part of the day’s main breakaway, Izagirre was one of a number of riders who jumped across to the break when the peloton came within a minute on the Monte Sant’Angelo climb midway through the stage.
From there he rode a textbook race, making sure that he was constantly towards the front of affairs, generally following the wheels and only wasting energy on one fruitless attack with 8km to go.
Some might say he was lucky when Conti crashed in the final kilometre, but you make your own luck, and Izagirre was in the perfect position to capitalise as Luis Leon Sanchez and Giovanni Visconti had to slow to avoid the stricken Italian.
Heartbreak for Valerio Conti
It’s hard to doubt that Valerio Conti was the strongest rider in stage eight’s decisive four-rider break, but the stage win was not be his as he slid out on a hairpin bend with 800m to go.
That fall was a terrible end to a roller coaster stage that at one point had him in the virtual maglia rosa as the gap to the peloton went out to four minutes.
Quick-Step Floors had to work hard to bring that down as the Italian attacked to whittle down the gap, meaning that entering the final 10km it was clear that Conti would only be contesting the stage win rather than fighting to move in to pink.
And the 24-year-old looked strong as he attacked under the flamme rouge as he looked for that stage win, but fell victim to one of the slippy hairpin bends on the climb to the line, lying on the ground as Izagirre moved clear to take the stage win, and cutting a folorn figure as he stood at the side of the road as the peloton flew past 30 seconds later.
Watch: Giro d’Italia stage eight highlights
Mikel Landa goes on the attack
With the a summit finish up the Blockhaus tomorrow, everyone was expecting the GC contenders to take it fairly easy today, content to save their legs ahead of a crucial stage.
And perhaps that’s exactly the reason why Mikel Landa went on the attack with 10km remaining, catching all of his rivals off guard and quickly opening a 15-20 second gap over the peloton.
Landa said after the stage that the attack wasn’t planned, and team boss Dave Brailsford also said he was pleased to see such spontaneity from his riders. You just have to wonder whether Geraint Thomas was quite so happy…
Let’s all take a breather
If we’re being completely honest, this year’s Giro d’Italia hasn’t exactly been ram-packed with excitement with its stage after stage of flat finishes and bunch sprints.
But stage eight made up for all of that with a thrilling day of racing that saw action from start to finish.
The first hour was covered at an astonishing average speed of 56kmh as it took more than 60km for a break to establish itself, and even then it was never given more than a couple of minutes, allowing a few riders to jump across on the climb midway through the stage.
From there you could barely take your eyes off the screen as the Giro d’Italia finally delivered the sort of cut-and-thrust racing that we expect from it.
Bring on the Blockhaus
All of the GC contenders are within 10 seconds of each other, and although it is still early in the race, some of the big riders may be prepared to roll the dice with a rest day coming up the following day.
The raw stats of this climb are savage, with a maximum gradient of 14 per cent and an average gradient of nearly 10 per cent for the final 10km.