Caleb Ewan relieved
Caleb Ewan took his first Grand Tour stage win for new team Lotto-Soudal, a victory that would have left the Australian feeling relieved.
With Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) taking three victories and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) being awarded the opening sprint stage after Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) was relegated, Caleb Ewan was the only elite sprinter who had not yet crossed the finish line first using either his legs or through race jury decision.
With Bora-Hansgrohe driving the peloton towards the finish line after surviving the technical descent, Ackermann was led-out by a team-mate with Viviani sat in Ewan’s wheel as they came past the German. The 24-year-old Aussie then managed to hold off the Italian champion.
After recently making the switch from Mitchelton-Scott to Lotto-Soudal in order to concentrate on Grand Tour stage wins, his old team more focused on the GC ambitions of the Yates brothers, this was an important win not just for Ewan, but for his Belgian team who over the years have become accustomed to sprint victories at Grand Tours when they had the likes of André Greipel in their roster.
Viviani still without a win
A good day for one sprinter means a bad day for the others. After saying the race jury had “destroyed his Giro”, Elia Viviani looked to bring some respite with a victory before stage nine’s time trial followed by Monday’s rest day.
With a number of team-mates stationed at the front of the peloton in the closing kilometres, the Italian instead opted to sit in Ewan’s wheel, the pair coming past Ackermann in the finishing straight after the German launched early.
However, this time Viviani didn’t have the power to get past the Australian, and had to settle for second place for the second time this Giro. After the rest day, he will have two further opportunities for victory before the race heads uphill.
The rain held off
Rain at the finish line was rumoured, threatening to make an already tricky finish even trickier. And who would have bet against it, with many saying the weather at this year’s Giro the worst it’s been in years.
However, despite a few rain drops on the camera in the closing 20km, the peloton escaped the gathering clouds and all got home dry.
It wasn’t just the weather which was a cause for concern for the peloton on stage eight…
‘Dangerous’ descent passes without incident
Stage eight offered up a technical 7km descent into the finish town of Pesaro. In the final three kilometres the peloton would face 10 hairpins with zebra crossings on corners providing extra potential hazards should rain have fallen on the road.
Before signing on at the start, Tony Gallopin described the finish as “dangerous” and publicly called for race organisers and the UCI to explain why it had been allowed to feature in the Grand Tour.
However, the race finished without incident, with all riders who made it to the final 7km passing through safely.
This won’t be the end of weather and safety talk this Giro, though, as speculation over just how much snow will remain on the Gavia, scheduled for the queen stage on May 28, meaning we’ll surely be hearing from UCI President David Lappartient talking about route changes sooner rather than later.
165 riders have basically made it through the first week
A 34.7km individual time trial lies between the peloton and the first rest day of the Giro d’Italia 2019. Whilst 11 riders haven’t made it, including high-profile retirees such as Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), 165 have, and if any are carrying injuries they will be able to temper their efforts tomorrow and roll across the line, making use of the extra time either side of the racing to recuperate.
This won’t apply to riders with GC ambitions, though, with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) who was caught up in a big crash on stage six. Although the Slovenian has likely escaped largely unscathed, riders of his ilk won’t be allowed to briefly switch off until the end of racing tomorrow.