Diego Ulissi won Stage Eight of the Giro d’Italia, the first real climbing stage and his second of this year’s Giro. The 24-year-old Lampre-Merida rider also won on a summit finish in Stage Five.
The win moves Ulissi into sixth in the General Classification, 1:43 behind race leader Cadel Evans.
Ulissi stayed in the peloton over the first climbs of the Day, a tough Cat 1 followed by a Cat 2, and most of the way up the Cat 1 summit finish. The final climb averaged only 6.3 percent, but it alternated with short downhill sections and much higher pitches; right before the finish it hit a peak of 13 percent gradient before flattening out to the line.
Ulissi followed Robert Kiselrovski when the Trek rider attacked 250 meters from the finish, then passed Kiverloski 100 meters out and motored home to the win.
Ulissi told Cycklingnews.com that he was surprised at his success as the route didn’t suit his riding style. “I really didn’t expect the win,” he said. “Of course, it was a difficult race today, too difficult, but I’m really, really happy.”
BMC’s Cadel Evans finished fifth, taking over the Maglia Rosa with a 57-second edge on Rigoberto Uran of Omega Pharma-Quick-Step and Rafal Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo. BMC’s Steve Morabito in fourth is a further 34 seconds back. The top ten in GC are within two minutes, which considering that the real climbing is yet to come, means that many of them have a chance at the overall.
The road was lumpy from the start, but all three categorized climbs were packed together in the final 40 km of the 174 -km stage. A breakaway of ten riders formed after about 30 km of racing, including Julian Arredondo (Omega Pharma-QuickStep,) Marco Bandiera (Androni,) Julien Bérard (AG2R,) Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky,) Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida,) Mauro Finetto (Neri Sottoli,) Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani,) Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar,) Carlos Quintero (Colombia,) and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha.)
This group exploded on the first Cat 1 climb, the Cippo di Carpegna, where the legendary Marco Pantani used to train. This climb was only six km long but had an average grade of 10 percent and ramps up to 14 percent—steep enough to sort out the breakaway riders.
Julian Arredondo, Marco Pirazzi and Perrig Quemeneur led the way up the first climb with Edvald Boasson Hagen and Carlos Quintero in pursuit. Areredondo dropped the others befroe the summit, and crested with 40 seconds on Pirazzi and 48 on Quemeneur, 1:30 to Quintera, and 1:39 to Boasson Hagen.
On the descent Pierre Rolland of Europcar attacked from the peloton, now two minutes behind Arredondo. Meanwhile Edvald Boasson Hagen used the combination of his greater weight and extreme descending skills to overtake the two riders immediately ahead of him and chase after the leader.
Once the road tilted up again Boasson Hagen’s advantage disappeared, and teammates Pierre Roland and Perrig Quemeneur took over the chase. Rolland dropped his teammate near the top of the second climb, and with only 13 km left to ride, set out after Arredondo.
Arredondo, who had been in the break from the beginning, started to show serious distress in the final five km, and Rolland reeled him in steadily until he overtook the Omega rider 2.7 km from the line.
At this point it looked like Rolland, with 30 seconds on the peloton, might survive to the end, but when he hit the 13 percent section, his legs failed. He had a gap of 150 meters entering the last kilometer, at 450 meters Katusha’s Daniel Moreno attacked, and at 250 meters, Moreno, and Rolland both were swarmed by the peloton.
At the catch Kiserlovski and Ulissi jumped off the front and Ulissi took the win.
Stage Nine also ends atop a mountain, this one the slightly less challenging Cat 2 climb to Sestola. There are two other climbs, a Cat Three and Four, again group in the final third of the 174-km stage. Monday will be a rest day.