Giro d’Italia: Nibali takes pink in Saltara time trial as Dowsett takes his maiden win
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Giro d’Italia: Nibali takes pink in Saltara time trial as Dowsett takes his maiden win

by Ben Atkins at 11:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results
Puncture and bike change for unlucky Wiggins but still takes second place

alex dowsettVincenzo Nibali (Astana) time trialled his way into the Maglia Rosa of the 2013 Giro d’Italia in the rolling 54.8km eighth stage between Gabicce Mare and Saltara’s Villa del Balì. The Sicilian’s time of one hour 16 minutes and 48 seconds was good enough for fourth place on the day, but crucially was considerably quicker than the times of his overall rivals for the final victory.

The stage was taken by Alex Dowsett (Movistar), whose time of one hour 16 minutes and 27 seconds was good enough for the British time trial champion to take a victory in his Grand Tour debut. Dowsett had been just the 39th rider to start the stage and, having set the fastest time, faced an anxious three hour wait as the rest of the field took aim at his time.

The closest rider to Dowsett was stage favourite Bradley Wiggins, who managed to stop the clock just ten seconds outside the time of his compatriot despite his run of bad luck in the 2013 Giro continuing. The Tour de France champion punctured on the the rolling, winding first half of the course, and was forced to change his bike, but still managed to finish first of the overall race contenders.

Third place was taken by Nibali’s Estonian Astana teammate Tanel Kangert, whose time of 1hr16’41” put him just 14 seconds slower than Dowsett and was good enough for second place until Wiggins finished soon afterwards.

“For me, the race was about doing what I do," Dowsett explained afterwards. "I was catching a lot of riders: it was like a carrot on a stick for me, although I knew a lot of them were taking it easy.

"The wait was horrible," he continued, referring to his more than three hours in the hot seat. "There were three stand out moments: one, when Kangert came in very close to my time. Two, when I was up on Wiggins at the split, although I knew he’d improve. And three, with Nibali, when I knew the reverse would happen: I knew he’d be good in the twisty start, but I’d be better on the later, power sections, and that was how it went."

Dowsett joined the Movistar team at the beginning of 2013, having raced for two years at Team Sky. Had things been different, the 24-year-old could have been racing alongside Wiggins, instead of against him.

“It wasn’t a hard decision," he said of his move. "I enjoyed my time with Sky and for my first two years as a pro it was the best place to be, but I wasn’t in the big races and I couldn’t see me getting in.

"Movistar wanted me and, more importantly, they wanted to put me into the big races," he added. "I’m very grateful to the team; they rested me as much as they could before this stage, and I’m glad to repay then for their faith in me."

Of the other general classification contenders, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) finished just 39 seconds slower than Dowsett - losing just 18 to Nibali and 29 to Wiggins - while defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) finished in 1hr18’50” losing upwards of two minutes to his rivals.

The non-time trialling contenders Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) and Robert Gesink (Blanco) both put in strong performances of 1hr17’20” and 1hr17’49” respectively to stay in touch with the others as the race heads towards the mountains.

Overnight leader Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) was not expected to perform well in his less-favoured discipline; the Spaniard lost more than four minutes to teammate Dowsett and ceded his Maglia Rosa to Nibali.

A long, long course, but not one for the specialists

At 54.8km the stage eight time trial was to be one of the longest in the Giro d’Italia’s recent history but, with the first 26km covering the winding, rolling coast road between Gabicce Mare and Pesaro - where the first checkpoint was located - meant that the course was far from one for the specialists.

The course’s final sting would come in the final 3.3km, however, as it climbed from the second checkpoint in Calcinelli to Saltara. The final kilometre would rise at an average of 9%, with sections of up to 13%, making it a very tough finish to the stage indeed.

Individual pursuit World record holder Jack Bobridge (Blanco) was the first out of the start house, but the Australian was clearly feeling his time in the stage six breakaway in his legs and was caught for three minutes by Maxim Belkov (Katusha) out on the course. The Russian was the first rider to finish, posting a time of 1hr21'32", which was to stand for 20 minutes, until Jesse Sergeant (RadioShack-Leopard) went more than three minutes quicker with 1hr18'27. The New Zealander was only to be in the hot seat for a little over quarter of an hour, however, until Dowsett crossed the line exactly two minutes quicker. The British champion had been fastest at the first and second checkpoints, passing the 26km point in 36’20”, and the 51.5km point in 1hr08’38”, before finishing in 1hr16’27”.

Five minutes later Australian champion Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) came close to Dowsett’s time, but was 35 seconds slower in 1hr17'02", then half an hour later, Manuele Boaro (Saxo-Tinkoff) also threatened, but the British champion could breathe a sigh of relief as the Italian specialist crossed the line in 1hr17’12”, 45 seconds slower. Former Netherlands champion Stef Clement (Blanco) then went even closer to the British rider, but - although he became only the second rider to duck below 1hr17 - his time of 1hr16’59” was still 32 seconds outside.

Tanel Kangert (Astana) did cause Dowsett’s heart to flutter, after the British champion had been in the hot seat for just over two hourse. The Estonian road champion - and former time trial champion - had been 42 seconds behind Dowsett at the 26km point, then held onto the same margin by the time he reached the foot of the final climb; Kangert was 24 seconds quicker than the British champion over the final, uphill 3.3km, but couldn’t quite make up the deficit and crossed the line 14 seconds down.

Wiggins unlucky week continues as Scarponi defies all expectation

Having crashed and lost time on the previous day’s wet finish, Wiggins was the earliest of the major contenders to start, and his bad luck was set to continue. Puncturing on the first half of the course, Wiggins was forced to change his bike and, by the time he reached the 26km checkpoint in Pescara, he was way out of contention, 52 behind the time set by Dowsett.

Once on the flatter, straighter second half of the course, however, Wiggins accelerated and passed the second checkpoint in 1hr09’37”, having only conceded another nine seconds to Dowsett. Wiggins managed to take 49 seconds out of his compatriot on the climb to the finish and stop the clock just ten seconds behind. 1hr16’37”.

Scarponi passed through the Pescara checkpoint having conceded just 30 seconds to Dowsett, and so was 22 seconds quicker than Wiggins. Evans then went through just 22 seconds slower than the British champion, now 30 seconds ahead of Wiggins, with the flatter part of the course to come.

Hesjedal had had a less good time of it over the rolling first half of the course, however, and passed through 43 seconds down, although the Canadian was still quicker than big rival Wiggins at this point.

Nibali on the rampage as Intxausti struggles under the weight of pink

Nibali then passed the 26km in 36’12”, eight seconds faster than Dowsett but, more importantly, the Astana rider was taking time out of all of his rivals.

Scarponi was unable to sustain his leading ride over the flatter second half of the course, but still managed to stop the clock in 1hr17’20”, just 53 seconds slower than time trial specialist Dowsett. Hesjedal seemed to be accelerating in the second half, however, and passed Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) before he reached the second checkpoint.

Evans went through the second checkpoint in 1hr10’11” in provisional eighth place, now 34 seconds behind Wiggins, but the Australian managed to take five of those back on the climb to the finish.

Ahead of Evans, Gesink crossed the line in 1hr17’49”, before the 2011 Tour de France winner followed in 1hr17’06”. Evans’ time was 39 seconds slower than Dowsett, but just 29 slower than Wiggins.

Hesjedal posted 1hr11’22” at the final checkpoint, 1’45” behind Wiggins, and a massive 2’44” behind Dowsett. Not far behind the Canadian Nibali went through in 1hr09’45”; now eight seconds behind Wiggins and more than a minute off Dowsett’s leading time.

Nibali also passed the struggling Caruso and almost seemed to be gaining on Hesjedal on the final steep ramps of the climb, but the defending champion managed to hold off the Italian to finish in 1hr18’50”, 2’23” behind Dowsett and more than two minutes behind Wiggins.

Nibali sprinted up the final metres but couldn’t beat Dowsett’s time. He eventually 1hr16’48”, in fourth place behind teammate Kangert, and 21 seconds slower than the British champion. Crucially, Nibali was faster than all of his overall rivals, however, bar Wiggins, to whom he conceded just 11 seconds.

Intxausti was the only rider left on the course, but the Spaniard - dressed in an all-pink skinsuit - was a long way behind his British teammate as he hit the final ramps of the climb. The 26-year-old Spanish rider eventually crossed the line in 1hr20’29”, 4’02” behind teammate Dowsett, confirming the British champion’s victory and passing the Maglia Rosa across to Nibali.

Result stage 8
1. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar Team 54.8km in 1hr 16’27”
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky @ 10s
3. Tanel Kangert (Est) Team Astana @ 14s
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Team Astana @ 21s
5. Stef Clément (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling @ 32s
6. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge @ 35s
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team @ 39s
8. Manuele Boaro (Ita) Team Saxo-Tinkoff @ 45s
9. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky @ 53s
10. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida

Standings after stage 8
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Team Astana
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team @ 29s
3. Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling @ 1’15”
4. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky @ 1’16”
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida @ 1’24”
6. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp @ 2’05”
7. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky @ 2’11”
8. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia @ 2’43”
9. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida @ 2’44”
10. Rigoberto Urán (Col) Team Sky @ 2’49”


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