Giro d'Italia 8: Pozzovivo climbs to stage win

Ryder Hesjedal clings on to maglia rosa

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Diminutive Domenico Pozzovivo finally delivered on his huge climbing ability as he claimed the biggest victory of his career at Lago Laceno in the Giro d'Italia. Having attacked from the lead group on the Colle Molella climb 7km from the finish, the Colnago-CSF team leader quickly gained a 30-second advantage and held on to most of it coming into the finish despite a determined chase by Movistar’s Beñat Intxausti.

The maglia rosa group finished hard on Intxausti’s heels, Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) outsprinting Thomas De Gendt to take third place and a very handy eight-second bonus. That moved him into second place overall, just nine seconds down on Garmin-Barracuda’s Ryder Hesjedal, who finished in the same group despite some struggles on the final climb.

“This seems like a dream,” Pozzovivo told Rai TV. “It’s my first win in the Giro, which was a feat that seemed I was never likely to achieve! I couldn’t give any more in the final two kilometres. But I felt it was going to be my day and it was.”

Pozzovivo thanked the many fans who had come out to support him. “I knew that I would have a lot of fans on the climb and I attacked where a lot of them were gathered. This stage was very close to my heart, as it is not far from my home. Although it wasn’t the most suitable for me, given that the hard section of the climb was so short and also because there was a flatter section beyond the climb to the finish line.”

Hesjedal was also smiling at the finish despite his difficulties heading towards the line. “I made a really big effort on the final climb, but the team was perfect in the way it stayed close to me and together we have succeeded in our objective of keeping the jersey for another day. We did our best and this jersey is a reward for all of us,” said the Canadian.

Just like Saturday’s stage, this was another long day. Although there were only two categorised climbs, the course rolled up and down relentlessly. The break of the day formed with almost 200km remaining to the finish. Andrey Amador (Movistar), Julien Bérard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Miguel Mínguez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) were in it. As the bunch eased along they opened up a lead of more than 11 minutes.

With 160km covered, a sudden acceleration by Marczynski resulted in the clearly unhappy Bérard being dropped. Mínguez’s hopes soon disappeared as well, leaving just two men at the front.

Their advantage began to drop rapidly inside final 35km, as Katusha started to push the pace on the front of the bunch. This wasn’t the ideal time for best young rider Peter Stetina (Garmin-Barracuda) to puncture. Although he quickly got a new wheel from teammate Robbie Hunter and was paced back to the bunch by Jack Bauer, the effort he made then surely cost him on the Colle Molella, where his hold on the white jersey was loosened.

Amador and Marczynski were caught 17km from home. Soon after, a long line of Astana riders took up the pace-making as the riders approached the steepest section of the Colle Molella. As the road ramped up, Liquigas-Cannondale took control on the front in the shape of Sylvester Szymd, who kept an even pace going for team leader Ivan Basso, sitting just behind him.

It was always likely that the winning attack would come on these ramps, and it was not a great surprise when Pozzovivo delivered it. One of the smallest riders in the bunch, the Italian’s confidence was boosted by his victory in last month’s Giro di Trentino, which marked him out as a contender for the Giro. His triumph today pushed him right into contention, although we will probably have to wait until next weekend’s stages to see if the Colnago-CSF Inox leader can build on this success.

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