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Giro d'Italia
GIRO’16 St.8: Brilliant Brambilla!
Race Report: It started as a difficult breakaway but Luca Brambilla and his Etixx-QuickStep team read the race perfectly and ended with both the stage win and the overall. An Italian leading the Giro d’ Italia and winning in the historic city of Arezzo. It doesn’t get much better for the tifosi as Brambilla wins his first ever Grand Tour stage and takes the jersey into the bargain.

 




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Chasing the Maglia Rosa
We’re in the hearts of Umbria and Tuscany as the riders wend their way up the spine of Italy. After a spectacular run of wins for the Gurning Gorilla, Lotto-Soudal are on a high and Andre Greipel could make it four-in-row. But today’s stage is far from simple as it has a fairly big lump towards the end of the day…and that lump is made all the harder by taking the riders over dirt track roads on the way to the summit. It’s a fast run down from there to a narrow finish in Arezzo and it’s impossible to count out the sprinters from getting here in one piece. Impossible to count them out but with the dirt roads on the climb coming as a springboard for the GC guys, not very likely.

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Certainly hoping to survive the day was Tom Dumoulin as he has vowed not to give up the Maglia Rosa without a fight. If he could last the day then with tomorrow’s time trial he stood a good chance of getting at least 3 more days on top. Will the GC guys come out to play or will he make it through a series of postcard-pretty cities to stay in pink?

Here’s how it went...

The Wrong Composition
Through Assisi and the pace was high. Different groups came and went as the peloton never seemed quite satisfied with each one. Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) had missed the move as had Nibali (Astana) so there were some frantic moments as that particular move was foiled. With the major climb not coming until 160km in it was always going to be a breakaway day…but it had to be the right breakaway to keep everyone happy.

Through the first intermediate sprint the escapees were very slowly pulling ahead but the 13-man group still contained one rider considered dangerous enough not to be given his head. Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) was 1:56 off the overall and Giant-Alpecin would not make it easy for him. The 13 riders were: Biel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale), Alessandro Di Marchi (BMC), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale), Moreno Moser (Cannondale), Gianluca Brambilla and Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep), Jacobus Venter (Dimension Data), Alexey Tsatevich (Team Katusha), Sean De Bie and Jasha Sutterlin (Movistar), Giancomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Nikias Arndt in the policeman’s role for Giant-Alpecin.

Inside 100
As the leaders dipped under the 100km to go mark their advantage was sitting at 3:20. News was coming through that nails and tacks had been spread over certain sections of the gravel roads but the true fans seemed to be doing a good job of clearing the ground.

Giant-Alpecin was doing a decent job of keeping the advantage from getting out of hand but they weren’t prepared to push themselves too hard and the gap was creeping out towards the 5-minute mark. Through the ancient town of Anghiari and up the steep but uncategorized climb the peloton was easing back a little but with the first of the day's climbs proper coming up very shortly that was bound to change.

Scheggia
With the riders tackling the 3rd Cat climb there was a battle of a different kind developing. Etixx-QuickStep had realized that they had a chance of taking the main prize and Trentin was now firmly working for Brambilla.

Over the top the points went to Sean De Bie but the break was more interested in getting to the finish intact.

Into the last 50km and Giant-Alpecin was throwing more riders at the front of the bunch as they sought to bring the gap down…but it wasn’t working. 45km to go and the lead group had 5:30 over the chasing bunch.

With Trentin doing the work he easily took the second sprint at Indicatore and there was now 40km left to ride. The bunch had brought the gap down to just 5 minutes and while that would normally be outside the golden rule of a minute for every 10km there was still the main climb to come.

Through the Finish
First time through the center of Arezzo and the break was still out front but the chase was on. The bunch now had them at 3:40 and with a 10.2km climb, 6km of it on gravel roads, it was now looking less hopeful for Brambilla and Etixx-QuickStep. The climb would be difficult but it was the descent that most people thought would decide the outcome of today’s stage.

Alpe di Poti
Onto the climb and with just 3:26 over the bunch, the attacks started coming on the steepest section close to the bottom. Montaguti and Berlato were the first to go away. The always-attentive Di Marche saw the danger and started to bridge across just as Berlato lost the wheel and dropped away.

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Chasing pink, Brambilla made his move and quickly passed everyone as his teammate Trentin, and the others who had just been holding on, went out the back. Brambilla was on his own with Di Marche and Moser behind.

First of the GC contenders to stretch his legs was Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as he rode off the front of the bunch. Nibali was immediately wise to the move and brought the now-splintering bunch back to the Spaniard’s wheel. Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) was there as was Majka (Tinkoff) but the man that had missed the acceleration was Maglia Rosa Dumoulin.

Brambilla was still holding a 2:50 lead over the GC attackers and he was now on the little technical descent before the final climb to the summit. White dust kicking off his rear wheel Brambilla was pushing for the top of the climb as Valverde and Nibali sought to distance Dumoulin… but Landa (Team Sky) had fought his way back into the group.

Dumoulin was slipping backwards through his group which was now over 30 seconds down on the Valverde/Nibali attack. Any time he’d hoped to make up in tomorrow’s time trial would now not make as much of a difference as he’d hoped.

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Valverde went again and took Majka and Nibali as they passed more of the original break but up ahead Brambilla was cresting the climb with a lead of 2:16 and dreams of both the stage and the overall down in Arezzo. Chaves led the others over with Valverde, Uran (Cannondale), Majka, Nibali and all of the other big favorites still there but Dumoulin wouldn’t see the summit until another 75 seconds had passed. Could he get back on the descent?

In the Middle
Almost forgotten was Montaguti who was still chasing and was only 25 seconds behind the Italian, trying to make contact on the descent. With 12km still to ride he might just do it. Brambilla was throwing caution to the wind and almost overcooked one of the corners as his rear wheel stepped out going into the turn.

Gaps were appearing in the main group as Valverde attacked the descent, coming very close to ramming the camera motorbike on the tight turns. Chaves and Nibali were right there too with the others just a little way off.

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Time Trail Tomorrow, Time Trial Today!
With just 5km to the finish and a slim lead of 20 seconds over chaser Montaguti, Brambilla was in pure TT mode as the finish couldn’t come quickly enough. Primed to take the win, Brambilla was also taking a few seconds back on Montaguti but behind it was Dumoulin who was fighting back and beginning to recover some of the lost time.

Nibali was trying to coax Landa and the others to come to the front and do some of the work but Dumoulin could well be back in pink tomorrow if he did an extra time trial today.

Twisting and turning through the narrow streets Brambilla knew he wouldn’t be caught and was stretching away from Montaguti.

Chilometro Finale
The strongman of the day Brambilla was pushing for the finish and a famous double-header. Onto the cobbled streets to the line and round the final turn Brambilla had plenty of time to celebrate his win with Montaguti coming home a minute later. All eyes were on Zakarin (Team Katusha) to see if the winner would also be wearing pink tomorrow and as Valverde brought the GC riders home 1:46 behind the Italian, Brambilla could now celebrate both the stage and the lead of his own grand tour.

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Seconds after the stage finish, stage winner and new Maglia Rosa Gianluca Brambilla said: "This is amazing! My idea at the beginning of the Giro was to focus on today's stage and I've made it but I cannot believe that I've done it. I have to thank Matteo Trentin because he did an excellent job. I was the rider who initiated the breakaway but he did most of the work until I rode away in the steep part of the climb. I'm delighted. Everything is going well for me this year. The birth of my daughter Asia twenty days ago has also changed my life. It's beautiful".

The big loser of the day was Tom Dumoulin but the gap was not as bad as it first seemed and he could still take it back tomorrow.

A stage of drama and another to come tomorrow. Keep it Pez for all the action.

• See ALL PEZ Giro news here.

Giro d’Italia Stage 8 Result:
1. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx – Quick-Step in 4:14:05
2. Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale at 1:06
3. Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale at 1:27
4. Jaco Venter (RSA) Dimension Data at 1:28
5. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC at 1:33
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1:41
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo
8. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Sky
9. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEDGE
10. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha
11. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff at 1:44
12. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
13. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale
14. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar
15. Sergey Firsanov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
16. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale
17. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar at 2:17
18. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 2:32
19. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
20. Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx - Quick-Step
21. Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani-CSF at 2:35
22. Aleksei Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha
23. Rein Taaramae (Est) Katusha
24. Giacomo Berlato (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini
25. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Dimension Data.

Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 8:
1. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx – Quick-Step in 33:39:14
2. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha at 0:23
3. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo at 0:33
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:36
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 0:45
6. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEDGE at 0:48
7. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale at 0:49
8. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff at 0:54
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:54
10. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Sky at 1:03
11. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 1:05
12. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 1:12
13. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar at 1:18
14. Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx - Quick-Step at 1:21
15. Sergey Firsanov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
16. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 1:27
17. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Dimension Data at 1:38
18. Rein Taaramae (Est) Katusha at 1:55
19. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 2:11
20. Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani-CSF at 2:19
21. Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale at 2:36
22. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Trek-Segafredo
23. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale at 2:49
24. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 3:05
25. Carlos Verona (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step at 3:24.

 


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