Ewan beats Viviani and Ackermann to end Giro drought in thrilling sprint finish
Caleb Ewan beat Pascal Ackermann and Elia Viviani to win Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia.
Lotto Soudal's Caleb Ewan had missed three big opportunities for stage wins earlier in the race, but was perfectly placed on the shoulder of Pascal Ackermann of Bora Hansgrohe, going into the finishing straight and took advantage of the German’s decision to launch early.
Deceuninck Quickstep's Italian champion, Elia Viviani never looked like getting around the Australian in the run-in and the delight on Ewan’s face was clear to see, as he claimed his second Giro d'Italia stage win in his career and his first of the 2019 edition.
The result means UAE Team Emirates' Valerio Conti keeps hold of the maglia rosa going into the time trial tomorrow.
HOW THE RACE WAS WON
The longest stage of the race was what the riders had to tackle, 239.6km of predominantly flat roads leading towards a mini Milan-San Remo style finish.
The day started with three riders going clear with one deciding to drop back thinking that today wasn't worth it. That rider was Nathan Brown of EF Education First, the other two were Marco Frapporti of Androni Sidermec and Damiano Cima of Nippo Vini Fantini.
The peloton held the leading duo at around five minutes for the vast majority of the stage with no real issues for any riders in the peloton.
Throughout the stage rumours were going around that the final 3km would be neutralised for safety reasons, and it was clear why as the final few kms were plagued with nasty hairpins and right angle bends.
The problem was, the dangerous roads started with around 5 or 6km to go as they descended down into Pesaro. Not to mention the fact that it was also raining at the finish. A twisty finish with wet roads is a recipe for disaster.
Tony Gallopin was particularly upset before the start of the stage though, tweeting:
"We are circus animals... Why so dangerous???"
Up front though, both intermediate sprints were ridden through by Cima and Frapporti. They had no interest in that category, they were going for the Fuga Pinarello prize, which is the most kms out in the break over the entire race.
It was won by Frapporti last year, he's aiming for the same again.
The first intermediate sprint, into Senigallia, did cause some action behind though, Arnaud Demare and Pascal Ackermann were led out and the German sprinter sat on the Frenchman's wheel as Demare took third. Ackermann is in a comfortable position in the points jersey so didn't really need to challenge.
Moving away from the sprints and onto the three categorised climbs of the day, this is where the peloton started to close in on the break with De Gendt, Lotto Soudal, Le Gac, Groupama FDJ, and Benedetti, Bora Hansgrohe, leading the chase.
The first climb was the category three, Monte Della Mattera. this was taken by Marco Frapporti who dropped Cima on the final few 100 metres. Cima took 2nd with the blue mountains jersey of Giulio Ciccone, Trek Segafredo, taking 3rd, De Gendt took the final point in 4th.
The final two climbs were both category four, the Monteluro and the Gabicce Monte came quite close together, so, as Cima was caught by the peloton, Ciccone went in pursuit of points and Frapporti.
He caught the Androni rider with around 200m till the top of the Monteluro, he said a few words to Frapporti, then the 2018 Fuga Pinarello winner attacked for the points. He was quickly put in his place by Ciccone though, as the Trek man took maximum points, extending his lead further.
They pushed on over the climb in an attempt to make it to the Gabicce Monte but it wasn't to be, being swamped by a very busy peloton as they prepared to hit the climb.
As they started the climb, Team Sunweb rider Louis Vervaeke attacked, dragging Ciccone out yet again. This also brought a reaction from AG2R La Mondiale man, Francois Bidard. The trio started working together and pulled out a good gap, Ciccone taking maximum points over the top again.
The new break got up to a 48" gap on the peloton, but once they got onto the flatter terrain, Bora, Lotto and Groupama started pushing the pace behind.
Bidard saw that they were about to be caught and decided to attack, this dropped Vervaeke. From then on the break didn't work together. Vervake did make it back but just as Ciccone attacked. The blue jersey wearer didn't get away however and they were then taken back in by the peloton.
Bora, Lotto and Groupama continued pushing the pace over the top of the uncategorised climb. Ewan and Ackermann stayed in the top 7 wheels the whole time. No sign of Viviani, Deceuninck Quickstep, anywhere near the front.
But then, Senechal and Jungels came to the front, Capecchi moved Viviani up and joined the front himself, Quickstep were moving up at the perfect time. Bora still had Schwartzmann and Selig with Ackermann and looked solid for the finish.
Everyone wanted Ackermann's wheel, after all, he has won two stages already. It was Lotto Soudal's Caleb Ewan who managed to muscle himself onto it, Viviani, Demare and Nizzolo were left to battle for the Aussie's wheel.
Senechal lead the peloton though the first right angle bend before Rudiger Selig, Ackermann's lead out man, hit the front from about 500m to go, elbows and shoulders were being used behind the German sprinter, who was getting an armchair ride to the final 90 degree bend to the right, Selig lead him and the rest of the peloton through, pulling off with around 150m to go.
Ackermann opened up his sprint but it was too early, the big powerhouse was passed by the man who had his wheel the whole way, Caleb Ewan stormed to what was actually quite a comfortable win in the end.
Elia Viviani also pipped the German to the line with Ackermann having to settle for third.
Lotto Soudal's faith finally paid off and Caleb Ewan gets his second Giro d'Italia victory.
The GC saw no changes in the top places. Valerio Conti, UAE Team Emirates, still leads Movistar's Jose Joaquin Rojas and Bardiani's Giovanni Carboni by 1'32" and 1'41" respectively.
Tomorrow's stage is set to really shake the GC up once again. It's the individual time trial from Riccione to San Marino. The 34.8km course has been given four stars on the giro website, with an uphill finish once again in the TT, its lumpy too.
Maybe Primoz Roglic, Jumbo Visma, won't have to wait too long to be back in pink yet again. Watch out for riders like Simon Yates, Mitchelton Scott, and Vincenzo Nibali, Bahrain Merida, as things will begin to really shake up in the first Grand Tour of the season.