Ten years after his historic win on the Stelvio, Thomas De Gendt soared to a second Giro d’Italia stage win with an emphatic victory on the streets of Naples thanks to a little help from his Belgian compatriot and teammate Harm Vanhoucke.
The Lotto Soudal duo were part of a four-man move that extricated itself from a stellar breakaway that featured a third Lotto Soudal rider in Sylvain Moniquet as well as the likes of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates).
On an absorbing 153km circuit race that had the feel of a mini world championships, the day’s breakaway built up a maximum lead of over four minutes during four lumpy loops around Bacoli, the picturesque peninsula to the west of Naples.
'Given up' to 'fastest here' – The extraordinary return of 'Thomas the Tank Engine'
Despite the quartet’s lead coming down to just 10 seconds over chasing duo Van der Poel and Girmay as the riders entered the final kilometre, the four leaders held on to contest the win with De Gendt launching himself from team-mate Vanhoucke’s wheel to hold off Italy’s Davide Gaburro (Bardiani-CSF) and Spain’s Jorge Arcas (Movistar).
The Belgian breakaway specialist’s emphatic burst to the line ensured that the remaining three riders of the move will have to wait another day for their first ever pro win – not that fourth-place Vanhoucke looked too concerned after he punched the air behind to celebrate his team-mate’s victory.
- Giro d’Italia Stage 8 as it happened – De Gendt defies the big names to take breakaway win
- Giro d'Italia GC standings
“I was working for Harm so he could attack on the final climb,” De Gendt revealed after the 17th win of his career. “But he said he didn’t have good legs anymore so I told him to ride full gas on the last three kilometres because I was sure I would win the sprint. He did it perfectly until a few hundred metres to go so I have to thank Harm a lot that he could pull this result off for me. We did a good job as a team today.”
Eritrea’s Girmay took fifth place at 15 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Mauro Schmid (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and the Dutchman Van der Poel, whose early swashbuckling solo attack at the start of the stage provided the springboard for the day’s 21-man move to form.
Van der Poel attacks alone… with 146km remaining!
It was Van der Poel’s subsequent attack on the third of four ascents of Monte di Procida on the penultimate lap with 46km remaining which caused the first major shake-out in the breakaway and paved the way for De Gendt and Vanhoucke to put in the decisive counter-attack.
A quintet of Van der Poel, Girmay, Schmid, Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) formed behind but the four riders stretched their lead to 40 seconds on the run back from Bacoli towards the centre of Naples.
And despite a late effort from Van der Poel and Girmay – the two riders who finished first and second on the opening stage of the race – the chasing duo ultimately ran out of road in the capital of pizza on the Campania coast, largely down to the Eritrean's understandable insistence on making his Dutch counterpart do all the work.
‘He had kind of given up’ – De Gendt rolls back years with breakaway victory
Frenchman Martin took ninth place to surge up the overall standings on a day the peloton came home just over three and a half minutes down. Martin is now fourth on GC, 1:06 behind Trek-Sagafredo’s Juan Pedro Lopez, who was forced to shut down a late attack by rival Lennard Kamna of Bora-Hansgrohe.
Spaniard Lopez retains his 38-second lead over Germany’s Kamna on the eve of the second major mountain test of the 105th edition of the Giro – a daunting summit showdown on the infamous Blockhaus climb in the Apennines.
But the day belonged to Lotto Soudal and De Gendt, the 35-year-old veteran who proved their was life in the old dog yet – swooping to his fifth Grand Tour stage win three years after his last win on the Tour de France at Saint-Etienne.
“Today was one of those days which suited me. It was always up and down and hard to recover, but it’s also hard to close the gap,” De Gendt said.
“Ten years after the Stelvio stage I finally win a stage in the Giro again. If you’d asked me two weeks ago if I was able to win a stage on the Giro I would have said no because I was in such bad shape. But now the good legs are coming.”
- - -
Stream the Giro d'Italia live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.
Stage 8 highlights: De Gendt tees up his own victory as Van der Poel denied
Kamna wins atop Etna on Stage 4 as Lopez takes pink and big names struggle
Share this article