Caleb Ewan rewarded his Lotto-Soudal team for their hard work at the front of the peloton as he won today's Stage 8 in Pesaro, the Australian outsprinting Deceuninck-Quick Step's Elia Viviani and Bora-Hansgrohe's Pascal Ackeermann to cross the line first. Valerio Conti of UAE Team Emirates retains the race leader's maglia rosa.
It's the 24-year-old Ewan's second career stage win at the Italian Grand Tour, and one that will ease pressure on him following his transfer from Mitchelton-Scott.
At 239 kilometres, today’s stage from Tortoreto Lido was the longest of this year’s race, starting and finishing on the Adriatic and played out on mainly flat roads, with three short but sharp categorised climbs in the final third.
Today’s break formed early on and initially comprised three riders, Marco Frapporti of Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec, Daniano Cima from Nippo Vini Fantini Faizane, and the EF Education First rider Nathan Brown, but the latter had second thoughts and soon drifted back to the peloton, leaving the Italian pair alone.
Despite the length of the stage, they weren’t given too much leeway by the peloton, with Thomas De Gendt, so often in the break himself, putting in a big turn at the front of the bunch as he worked today for his team-mate, Ewan.
Cima, by now on his own, was caught on the second categorised climb by mountains classification leader Giulio Ciccone of Trek-Segafredo, who also took maximum points on the day’s final ascent, the Monte di Gabicce.
Ciconne, followed by Louis Vervaeke of Team Sunweb and AG2R-La Mondiale’s Francois Bidard opened up a gap on the peloton on a twisting, technical descent, but the trio were reined in with 6.5 kilometres remaining at the top of an uncategorised climb.
That came ahead of a tricky final that included a tricky descent, and with organisers declining to neutralise the final kilometres despite the weather, the overall contenders came to the front to try and stay out of trouble before the sprinters came through to contest the stage win on the shortest finishing straight of this year’s race, a right-hand corner coming just 200 metres from the line.
Tomorrow is an important day for the overall contenders, with a 34.8-kilometre individual time trial that starts in Riccione, near Rimini on the Adriatic coast, and finishes in the Republic of San Marino – the race’s only excursion outside its home country this year – with the final third of the stage seeing the riders climb to the finish, which comes at 648 metres above sea level.
Stage winner Caleb Ewan
“When I looked at the layout of the finish before the start, I planned to take the last corner first but I wasn’t feeling so good today, because we had a harder race than I thought.
"In the last 20km, I had to use all my guys to chase attackers down, including my lead out man, therefore, sprinting from 300 metres to go would have been too much.
"So I took the wheel of Ackermann who had a guy in front of him. I knew I could pass him in the last 150 metres.
"It means a lot to me being back winning a Grand Tour stage and this is obviously my biggest win so far for Lotto-Soudal.”
Maglia Rosa Valerio Conti
“I’m having the happiest days of my life. I don’t want to put any limit as to when I’ll lose the Maglia Rosa.
"The time trial will be very difficult tomorrow but I’ll give my best to retain the jersey. There are stronger people than me, I admit it, but my advantage on GC over the time trial specialists is quite large.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.