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Giro d'Italia 2019: Caleb Ewan wins sprint at the end of a nervy Stage 8

Pete Muir
18 May 2019

Lotto-Soudal's Australian sprinter denies Elia Viviani once again. Image: Eurosport

Lotto-Soudal's Australian sprinter, Caleb Ewan, managed to hold off Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in a fenzied sprint at the end of Stage 8 at the 2019 Giro d'Italia.

After the win, the 24-year-old declared his victory was down to ‘determination and a committed team, and I'm just so happy to repay them with the win'.

Meanwhile, despite a strong showing from his QuickStep team, Viviani had to once again settle for a disappointing loss.

Most of the GC contenders arrived together in the bunch, meaning that Valerio Conti (UAE Emirates) retains the pink jersey of race leader going into Stage 9.

Story of the stage

The first week of the 2019 Giro d’Italia proved to be an unpredictable and chaotic affair, and it soon became obvious that Stage 8 would do nothing to settle the riders’ nerves.

At 239km, the stage from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro would be the longest of the Giro, with a flat finish that earmarked it as one for the sprinters. However, it was never going to be an easy procession for the peloton.

The route was flat for the first 150km, but then the organisers had arranged for a difficult finish. A series of punchy climbs in the final 100km threatened to break up the pack, and the day would end with a fast, technical descent before a 3km flat dash for the line.

Many were comparing the route to Milan-San Remo, which famously ends with a hair-raising descent of the Poggio before the final sprint. As such, it was uncertain how it might pan out.

Would it be a mass sprint? Would it suit the Classics riders, or someone such as Vincenzo Nibali who could potentially escape on the tricky descents? Would the GC contenders be fighting for position as much as the sprinters?

This uncertainty was exacerbated when weather reports suggested that the sunny start to the day would change to rain towards the end.

With the prospect of wet roads for the final descent, rumours began to circulate around the peloton that the organisers might neutralise the stage for the GC contenders.

This would mean that the GC times would be taken at 3km before the finish line, thereby encouraging the team leaders to sit up and give the sprinters space to fight it out for the stage win at the actual finish.

However, that point 3km before the end would be on the descent, meaning that GC riders might have to push harder than they would like on a descent that included 10 hairpins in just a few kilometres.

It became clear that some teams would prefer a neutralised finish, while others relished the potential mayhem of a mad scramble for the line.

As the race progressed, no word came from the organisers as to the decision they would make, ensuring that no one could properly relax into the stage.

This ensured that only two riders were allowed to go up the road in a break – Marco Frapporti of Androni Giocattoli Sidermec and Damiano Cima of Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè – and they were never allowed to get more than a few minutes’ lead.

With around 40km to go they were swallowed up by the pack.

While the teams of the sprinters got themselves organised, Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) made the occasional dash off the front to sweep up extra points to hold onto the climber’s jersey.

After the final categorised climb, Ciccone was joined by François Bidard (AG2R) and Louis Vervaeke (Team Sunweb), and they managed to pull out a 40-second gap over the peloton.

With 15km to go, the rain started to come down, but still no word came from the organisers regarding a neutralised finish, meaning the GC contenders and sprinters would all be fighting for position on a dangerous descent.

The three breakaway riders managed to hold onto their lead to the bottom of the final climb, although by this point the pack was only 19 seconds behind.

By the top of the climb, the break had been caught, and a small pack of spinters, GC contenders and lead out men dived into the descent.

Fortunately the road proved to be drier than predicted, and all the riders made it safely off the climb, although they still had a brace of 90° bends to negotiate on their way to the line.

Bora-Hansgrohe led the pack into the final kilometre, followed closely by Deceuninck-QuickStep, but in the final sprint Caleb Ewan proved to be faster than his rivals to take his second win at the Giro and leave Elia Viviani wondering what he has to do to take a win.