In the fight for the stage, Filippo Ganna was utterly untouchable as he ripped through the course at more than 56km/h, setting a new fastest ever time on this course and securing the victory for Ineos Grenadiers.
After Ganna had crossed the line, attentions turned to the general classification race with Geraint Thomas (Ineos) and Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) hoping to overhaul Yates’s lead over the short TT course.
Thomas put in a staggering ride to finish fourth on the stage and move up into second overall, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) who secured the GC with a 17-second lead over his fellow Brit.
How it happened
The final stage of the 2020 Tirreno-Adritiaco was the classic time trial climax we’ve come to expect from the Italian stage race.
Following a plan-flat 10.1km course along the seafront of San Benedetto del Tronto, the short course is a tough one to earn time over your rivals as Simon Yates hoped to defend his lead over Rafal Majka and Geraint Thomas.
According to aero expert Xavier Disley from Aerocoach, Majka would need to ride 1.2km/h faster than Yates over the course to overcome his 16-second deficit (equivalent to 25 watts) while Thomas needed to ride 2.9km/h (or 62w) to take the 39 seconds he needed to win.
The 2020 edition of Tirreno also featured a selection of the best time triallists in the world, including world champion Rohan Dennis (Ineos), Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling) and track specialist Filippo Ganna.
Both Dennis and Campenaerts had won in this TT before, setting up an exciting battle for the stage as well as the overall victory.
The early benchmark was set by Matthias Brändle of Israel Start-Up Nation with a time of 11-30, but with the stage favourites following shortly after it looked unlikely the Austrian would hold the hot seat for long.
Britain’s national TT champion Alex Dowsett was out early and will have been looking for a strong performance, but he appeared to suffer a problem out on the course and set a disappointing time of 13-14, which put him a long way down in the standings.
It wasn’t to be for Brändle, as Ganna hit the course with a blistering pace and tore through the out-and-back course at an average of 56km/h, setting a time of 10-42 – faster than any time that had ever been set on this course.
Victory Campenaerts, winner on this stage in 2019, put in a phenomenal ride and knocked 20 seconds off his time last year, but stopping the clock at 11-02 he was still a considerable distance off the pace of Ganna, who looked set for a long day in the hot seat.
The next favourite to hit the course was Rohan Dennis, the reigning TT world champion, but the shorter course clearly didn’t suit the Australian as well, as he finished with an also rapid time of 11-08, good enough for third place by the stage end.
With the TT specialists all finished, it was time for the GC contenders to take to the course and try to gain those valuable places overall.
Thomas was the first podium contender to set his time and the former Tour de France winner was outstanding against the clock, finishing fourth on the stage just two seconds behind his team-mate Dennis.
As Majka finished, Thomas had already jumped up into second place overall as he’d bettered his Polish rival, but had he done enough to overturn Yates?
Yates hit the final turn with the finish line just in sight with a substantial buffer and he only needed to ride smoothly to the line to secure his overall.
The 28-year-old crossed the line with a time of 11-32, good enough for 18th on the stage but most importantly enough to take the overall victory by 17 seconds over Thomas.
Both Thomas and Yates are looking in great form as they carry general classification ambitions into the Giro d’Italia next month.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2020, stage eight: San Benedetto del Tronto to San Benedetto del Tronto (10.1km)
1. Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers, in 10-42
2. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) NTT Pro Cycling, at 18s
3. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, at 26s
4. Geraint Thomas, (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 28s
5. Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ, at 33s
6. Benjamin Thomas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 34s
7. Jos van Emden (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 39s
8. Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) CCC Team, at 40s
9. Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain-McLaren, at same time
10. Michael Matthews (Aus) Sunweb, at 42s
General classification after stage eight
1. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 17s
3. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 29s
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 56s
5. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana, at 58s
6. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 1-18
7. James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 1-42
8. Michael Woods (Can) EF Pro Cycling, at 2-12
9. Gianluca Brambillia (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 3-02
10. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 3-10