Giro d'Italia 2020 - Follow the ebb and flow of Stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia as Britain's Alex Dowsett made history for his Israel Start-Up Nation team with an emotional win from the breakaway.
Joao Almeida of Portugal and Team Deceuninck - Quick-Step Pink Leader Jersey / Iljo Keisse of Belgium and Team Deceuninck - Quick-Step / during the 103rd Giro d'Italia 2020, Stage Seven a 143km stage from Matera to Brindisi
It's Michael Matthews who beats Fernando Gaviria for seventh place when the peloton comes home around 14 minutes down. That was a contested sprint for the remaining points up for grabs - but neither Arnaud Demare nor Peter Sagan were in the mix.
So, no change in the maglia rosa standings with Portugal's Joao Almeida (Deceuninck Quick-Step) retaining his 43 seconds lead over Spain's Pello Bilbao (Bahrain McLaren) ahead of the return of the mountains tomorrow.
Here's how Alex Dowsett won
It's ironic that Dowsett, a renowned cat lover, took his victory thanks to a lead out from a dog...
‘They’ve finally arrived at the big time’ - Watch Dowsett make history at the Giro
The peloton still riding...
It's been 10 minutes since Dowsett took the stage but the peloton are still soft-pedalling along 3km in arrears. It's been a ceasefire for the race favourites ahead of tomorrow's second summit finish of the race.
History for Israel
It's fair to day that victory meant a lot for Alex Dowsett's team...
Puccio wins sprint for second
There's a shake of the head from Salvatore Puccio of Ineos Grenadiers as he crosses the line ahead of Britain's Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal) for second place. The winning gap was 1'15" in the end. Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team) was fourth.
Alex Dowsett wins Stage 8
It's an emotional victory for the British rider who looks stunned and emotional as he crosses the line for a sweet, sweet win. A first Grand Tour stage for Israel Start-Up Nation.
Just 1,000 metres now for Alex Dowsett and the victory is his... oh, and the dog is still there!
1.5km to go: Dog on the course!
There's a little pooch on the home straight... let's hope its swept up before Dowsett comes along...
3km to go: Yalla yalla yalla!
Isael Start-Up Nation on the brink of history. Dowsett said this morning he wanted to get in the break - and here he is, on the cusp of winning his team's first ever Grand Tour stage win. His lead is 43 seconds and behind they have no answer.
5km to go: Dowsett holds firm
Alex Dowsett is on his way to a second stage win on the Giro - seven years after the first. This will be his first victory in a road stage in nine years for the time trial specialist. His gap is still 35 seconds and the chasing trio look spent.
This will also be a first Grand Tour stage win for Israel Start-Up Nation...
9km to go: Over the top
Dowsett now has 27 seconds on the chasing trio of Puccio, Holmes and Rosskopf. If they work together they may have a chance - but Dowsett is now doing what he does best: riding an individual race of truth.
10.5km to go: Brandle dropped
Dowsett's teammate is dropped straight away on the climb as Puccio and Holmes ride clear to distance Ravenelli and then Rosskopf. Dowsett's gap is down to 35 seconds so it's touch and go.
11km to go: 40 seconds now
Dowsett continues adding time ahead of the climb - but is he going too deep? He's just started it so time will tell. Behind, it's all a bit of a mess for the chasers. Puccio resorts to dropping a bidon in the wheels of Rosskopf behind. Intentional? It's hard to say.
13km to go: Full gas from Dowsett
The peloton jostled for position ahead of the climb when they approached it for the first time, but there were no attacks on the way up. Dowsett now approaches the ramp with 30 seconds to play with. Behind it's a bit messy with no one wanting to show their hands. You'd expect everyone bar Brandle to have a go on the climb.
15km to go: Dowsett in TT mode
Alex Dowsett has his arms on the hoods as he powers down the home straight and through the finish zone. He has one lap to go with a lead of 25 seconds. He will lose time on the climb, but can gain time again on the approach to the finish - just like he did this lap.
Behind, Brandle is sitting on and monitoring the situation for his teammate. Could Israel Start-Up Nation pull it off?
18km to go: Dowsett attacks!
Moments after the two leading groups came back together, Alex Dowsett does what he has to do and rides clear. He needs to built up a lead before the climb otherwise he won't stand a chance to win today. There's no reaction and the gap quickly grows to 10 seconds.
20km to go: Trio closing in
Teammates Brandle and Dowsett are using their TT'ing ability to close the gap on the leaders - but you just know that they'll blow up once the road heads uphill again on that steep climb.
Thankfully the peloton has entered Vieste in time to not come in the way of the battle for stage spoils. That would have been a bit of an organisational hash had the two races merged...
24km to go: Three ahead
Rosskoph has managed to bridge over to Puccio and Holmes so we have a trio out ahead. Behind it's Dowsett and Ravanelli in pursuit, with Brandle further back. Actually, they're back together now so we have three in pursuit, 15 seconds down.
26km to go: Leaders enter Vieste
The break have entered the finish town and started on the finishing circuit. As they start the ramp - which peaks out at 17 per cent - it's Holmes who puts in the first attack. Puccio goes with him with Roskopf and Ravanelli in pursuit. But the Israel Start-Up Nation duo have been distanced...
30km to go: Dowsett attacks!
The first move comes from Alex Dowsett who puts in a big dig on an uphill stretch. Holmes is the first to react but then drops back, letting Puccio take up the reins. The Italian closes the gap and reels in the Brit as Ravanelli - who changed his bike a few kilometres ago - bridges over. It comes to nothing and the six leaders are back together - but that goes to show what's at stake. A taster of things to come...
36km to go: Pack goes over the top
The deficit for the peloton as they crest the summit of the climb of La Guardiola is 10'45" - confirmation that they will not contest the win today. There could well still be some attacks though...
Here's a series of stats which is food for thought. Over 1,000 days since Fabio Aru's last win...
40km to go: Puccio to make it three for Ineos?
He's never won a professional bike race having spent most of his career in the service of others. Salvatore Puccio was meant to be riding this Giro as Geraint Thomas's mountain lieutenant but the Welshman's withdrawal has opened up some opportunities for him. He was on the attack the other day when teammate Ganna won; can the 31-year-old make it three wins from eight days for his Ineos Grenadiers team?
42km to go: British one-two
Alex Dowsett pips Matty Holmes over the summit to take 3pts in the blue jersey battle as the Lotto rider settles for the 2pts which puts him up to 20pts in the KOM standings, which Filippo Ganna still leads on 41pts.
45km to go: Cat.4 La Guardiola
The break is onto the next categorised climb, which is a real beauty. They're in the shades of the umbrella pines but every now and they they'll get a glipmse of the shimmering Adriatic. The helicopter camera man is having a field day today. It's frankly beautiful.
50km to go: 10 minutes again
The six escapees have over 10 minutes again so it's now official: one of them will win. The pack cannot close 2mins per 10km so, unless Dowsett wins, we'll have a new Giro stage winner on our hands. The question is whether or not they will start to attack each other ahead of he finishing circuit around Vieste.
55km to go: Holmes the favourite?
It's hard to pick a winner from this break. Holmes is probably the strongest climber but he's a largely unknown quantity in Grand Tours. Israel SU Nation have two guys here so could use that to their advantage - although both Dowsett and Brandle could struggle on that steep ramp with 10km to go. Rosskofh is solid but not an exceptional climber, while I must admit that I know nothing about Ravanelli. Perhaps Puccio will end his long wait for a maiden pro win?
60km to go: CRASH!
Three down in the peloton - and one of them is Gianluca Brambilla of Trek Segafredo. A rider from NTT and Bardiani-CSF, Benito Carbone I think, also went down. They're all getting checked out.
The NTT rider is on his way quickly, while Carbone is let go after doctors checked him for concussion. Brambilla is the last to go - he needs a new bike and helmet. He looks okay but that was a nasty knock and he'll struggle, perhaps, to return to the fold given the length of time he was stuck on the side of the road.
65km to go: Kruijswijk bike change
Dutch coathanger Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo Visma) takes advantage of the lull to stop for a bike change. Numerous riders are now dropping back to their team cars, including Fernando Gaviria. He won't be contesting the win today - in fact, no one from the peloton will be at this rate. With the gap back up to 9'10" it looks like one of our six escapees will be celebrating tonight.
68km to go: Trek knock it off
The pace has eased in the pack as Trek-Segafredo decide to slow down. Demare is actually not in the Fuglsang group but in a smaller one between the two factions of the peloton. But Sagan is in that distanced group and so that's why Bora did not fully commit to helping Trek.
So, it looks like the peloton will come back together - and with the tempo suddenly coming to a near stand-still, the pendulum swings back towards the breakaway. They have 8'20" and it's looking good for them - although these rolling roads will be a big test.
70km to go: Chasing pack forms
Following the climb there is now a large chase pack which includes Fuglsang and the maglia ciclamino Arnaud Demare. That's perhaps another reason why the pace is so high in the main pack, which is still being driven by Trek. Forty-five seconds split the two groups and Bora-Hansgrohe appear to have shown their hand now that they know Demare has been dropped too...
72km to go: Trek pushing the pace
With Fuglsang off the back and still over a minute in arrears, Nibali's Trek-Sagefredo team are really pushing things on the front. Unsportsmanlike? Perhaps. But this is a race and they're entitled to ride hard. Nibali, after all, was already putting the hammer down going over the summit before the Dane picked up his puncture...
75km to go: Break complete the descent
The six leaders have reached the bottom of the downhill with a gap of 8'35" over the pack. There have been big splits in the pack, which is all strung out on what is a beautiful stretch of road overlooking the Adriatic sea. Fuglsang is still a further minute back but has five teammates with him.
80km to go: Problem for Fuglsang
Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang needs a new bike or wheel after a mecanical on the descent. The Astana leader will need to chase back on now - and has a few teammates waiting for him. He's a minute down on the pack but has time to return to the fold.
Meanwhile, we're hearing that Ben Gastauer has withdrawn. So he becomes the 14th rider to retire from the Giro as the field reduces to 162 riders.
82km to go: Gastauer still down
Luxembourg's Ben Gastauer (Ag2R-La Mondiale) was one of the riders to go down in that crash and he's actually still on the road receiving treatment. Perhaps he snaffed his collarbone. That's another blow for his team, who lost Tony Gallopin yesterday.
A ride from Israel Start-Up Nation seemed to crash on one of the first bends of the descent - but it wasn't serious.
86km to go: CRASH!
A few riders in the pack have hit the deck after a touch of wheels near the summit of the climb. It's doesn't seem too serious - and they were going uphill - so they'll be on their way. It looks like Brandon McNulty was involved for UAE-Team Emirates.
Vincenzo Nibali comes to the front of the pack as they go over the summit, the Italian from Trek looking to get himself in the right place for the descent.
93km to go: Holmes takes KOM points
Matthew Holmes leads the break over the summit to take 18 points in the battle for the blue jersey. They start the descent with that 10-minute advantage over the peloton still intact. Deceuninck Quick-Step are still on front of the pack but there's very little action from the rest of the field.
100km to go: Holmes, Porte's slayer
Lotto Soudal's young Brit Matthew Holmes may not be a household name but he made headlines earlier in the season when ending Richie Porte's long reign on Willunga Hill in the Tour Down Under. I can't remember off the top of my head, but I think the Aussie veteran had won six consecutive stages on Willunga Hill before the 26-year-old did him in January.
Two riders in this break - Puccio and Ravanelli - are without a pro win in their careers, the Italian, like Holmes, riding his Giro and Grand Tour debut. Dowsett is the only rider in the break to have won a stage on the Giro before - a time trial in 2013.
They still have 10'20" as the peloton finally starts the climb of Monte Sant'Angelo. Let's see what the gap is once they're up and over.
103km to go: Demare extends lead
When the peloton passes through the intermediate sprint, the maglia ciclamino is launched by his Groupama-FDJ team to take the 2pts for seventh place with his nearest rival, Peter Sagan, settling for the final point for eighth. The Frenchman now leads the Slovakian by 56 points, with Australia's Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) 79 points down in third.
104km to go: Monte Sant'Angelo
The break are now approaching the foot of the Cat.2 Monte Sant'Angelo (9.6km at 6.1%) with a gap of 10'15" over the pack. None of the escapees are a factor in the blue jersey standings, currently being led by double stage winner Filippo Ganna of Ineos Grenadiers. The Italian has 41pts, one digit more than Ecuadorian Stage 3 winner Jonathan Caicedo of EF Pro Cycling.
108km to go: Holmes 'wins' sprint
Giro debutant Matty Holmes leads the break through the intermediate sprint ahead of the Italian Ravanelli. But there's no interest in the points or prizes, especially not from the two Israel Start-Up Nation riders, who stick to the back and ride through as if it's nothing. They're all focused on the task in hand - which is to preserve as much of their 10-minute advantage as they go over this forthcoming climb.
Dowsett before making the move
Britain's Alex Dowsett - one of two Israel Start-Up Nation time trial specialists in the break - told the Giro organisers that he was thinking about trying his luck today. He's there with teammate Matthias Brandle. Could they do what Ineos did the other day, use their numbers and pull off a surprise?
120km to go: Deceuninck to the front
Nine minutes for the six escapees has coaxed Quick-Step out of their slumber. The Belgian team of the Portuguese race leader have come to the front to set some tempo. None of the riders ahead are exactly a threat to Almeida on GC but Deceuninck Quick-Step do have Davide Ballerini, who has been knocking on the door of the sprint finishes, and Alvaro Hodeg, so they have scope for the stage victory today.
130km to go: Gap continues to grow
Eight and a half minutes now for the six leaders, who are probably enjoying the coastal views to their right. There's been an issue with the relay between the motorcycles and helicopters which means that currently there are no live images.
Two more non-starters
Eduardo Affini did not take to the start this morning after he bashed himself up in yesterday's stage. So, with Yates and Brent Bookwalter out, Mitchelton-Scott are down to just five riders. Sean Bennett of EF Pro Cycling is also out. So by my calculation the peloton is down to 163 riders.
141km to go: Over seven minutes
Our six leaders now have 7'30" on the pack and it remains to be seen who takes the initiative in chasing this one down. With the maglia rosa of Almeida not under threat, Deceuninck Quick-Step are not compelled to do anything. That's why they only have one man on the front for now - the Belgian Iljo Keisse.
Bahrain-McLaren are tucked in behind Keisse but that have no interest in the stage win. With Sagan finishing second on three occasions, his Bora team may not take the baton - especially given they have lost Gamper.
UAE Team Emirates could take the reins but their man Fernando Gaviria has been off the boil and could well be dropped on the steep climb 10km from the finish. Which leaves Israel Start-Up Nation, but they have two men in the break, or Groupama-FDJ, but they have no pressure having won three stages so far.
156km to go: Gap up to four minutes
The six escapees have four minutes now as they team time trial themselves along the Adriatic coast. The complexion of this race will change after the intermediate sprint with the climb and then those rolling roads where the teams of the sprinters will put Operation Drop Demare into action. Or they'll try...
160km to go: Puccio best placed
The Italian veteran from Ineos Grenadiers is the best placed rider on GC of these six escapees, currently 34'30" down on the pink jersey.
Fastest in history?
We're hearing that yesterday's stage was the fastest in Giro d'Italia history with the peloton covering 143km at an average speed of 51.23kph. In fact, no stage has ever broken the 50kph barrier before yesterday - the second fastest being stage 18 from 2012 which was 149km long and raced at 49.429kph.
Simon Yates update
Here's a bit more from the Mitchelton-Scott doctor on that positive Covid-19 test for Simon Yates, who had withdrawn from the race.
170km to go: Six ahead
The two trios came together so we have a sextet out ahead with around 30 seconds on the pack. The other three are British duo Alex Dowsett (Isreal Start-Up Nation) and Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal), and the Italian Salvatore Puccio (Ineos Grenadiers).
175km to go: Trio with small gap
Italy's Simone Ravanelli (Androni Giocattoli), America's Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team) and Austria's Matthias Brandle (Israel Start-Up Nation) have opened up a small gap on the pack and have anothet three in pursuit.
190km to go: No break as yet
After the stress of yesterday it's no huge surprise to see the riders taking it a little easy out there today. After the opening 10 klicks the peloton is still riding as one.
On that man Demare, his third victory begged the question of why he was overlooked by Groupama-FDJ in the Tour. They obviously went there with all eggs in Thibaut Pinot's basket, but that backfired immensely on day one and Demare's form here in Italy shows what they lacked in France.
Indeed, in the year that Peter Sagan's green jersey hegemony was ended by Sam Bennett, the one sprinter who has more wins than the Irishman this season was riding the Tour Poitou-Charentes and the Tour de Luxembourg. Judging by the way Démare has given Sagan the run around in Italy, it wouldn't be that fanciful to speculate that his purple jersey in the Giro could well have been a green jersey on the Tour...
Missed Stage 7? Well, you're in for a treat... After a thrilling opening half animated by crosswinds and splits, we had a series of crashes and some serious rough-and-tumble as the race headed into Brindisi, where the French champion made it three wins in four days.
Highlights: Irrepressible Demare canters to win to complete Giro hat-trick
200km to go: They're off!
That flag is waved and the stage is under way. Oddly, this is not accompanied by a sudden attack from Marco Frapporti from the gun. The Italian veteran must have not had his porridge for breakfast.
Gallopin also out; 165 riders remain
Frenchman Tony Gallopin finished yesterday's stage but did so with a broken wrist after coming down heavily in that pile-up 45km from the finish. The Ag2R-La Mondiale rider has pulled out of the race.
We're also hearing that Bora-Hansgrohe's Patrick Gamper is out after his involvement in the crash yesterday. It will be interesting to see how that affects Peter Sagan, for the Austrian was his lead-out man.
With Yates also gone, the peloton is down to 165 riders. They're currently in the neutral zone ahead of the start...
Simon Yates out of the Giro after Covid positive
The big news of the day is that Britain's Simon Yates has become the first rider to test positive for Covid-19 during a major bike race. Mitchelton-Scott announced the bombshell on their website and Twitter feed this morning. Here's our story, followed by the team's announcement:
Good morning cycling fans and welcome to live coverage of today's stage, the profile for which you can see below the previous holding comment. After a potentially run-of-the-mill flat opening half hugging the Adriatic coast, things spark into life with a tough Cat.2 climb followed by a rolling approach to the finish in Vieste.
Overnight pink and blue jerseys Almeida and Ganna are ready... are you?
Giro d’Italia 2020 – Stage 8 profile
Saturday October 10, Giovinazzo to Vieste (200 km)
The opening part of this stage could be a little quiet but the finish should be fantastic. That climb in the middle though...
Joao Almeida of Deceuninck Quick-Step is still the GC leader, with 43 seconds over Pello Bilbao. Wilco Kelderman is a further five seconds down, while Britain's Simon Yates as 3 mins 52 seconds to make up.
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