Giro d’Italia: Victor Lafay takes stage eight as favourites keep powder dry
Dan Martin experienced some bike changes early on but moved up one place to eighth
Team Cofidis rider Victor Lafay celebrates on the podium after winning the eighth stage of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Dario Belingheri/AFP via Getty Images
Frenchman Victor Lafay emerged from the day’s breakaway to scoop victory on stage eight of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday, proving best of his group on the final climb up to Guardia Sanframondi. The Cofidis rider overhauled Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) with just over two kilometres to go and then soloed in, winning by 36 seconds ahead of Francesco Gavazzi (Eolo-Kometa) and a further second ahead of Nikias Arndt (Team DSM).
The move went clear after approximately 60 kilometres of racing, established a maximum lead of over seven minutes and still had more than five minutes of a buffer starting the final ramp. The race favourites were expected to battle things out behind but the attacks didn’t fire off, with the overall contenders keeping their powder dry in advance of Sunday’s tougher finish to the top of the first category Campo Felice climb. They crossed the line together four minutes 48 seconds behind Lafay.
Overnight race leader Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) looked under pressure in the final kilometre but hung on. Ireland’s Dan Martin rolled in as part of the same big group, having experienced some drama earlier on in the stage with mechanical issues and several bike changes.
He placed 26th and rises one place to eighth overall. The rider who had been fifth in the general classification, Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix) finished a further 25 seconds back and slipped to tenth. He had crashed earlier in the stage and was affected by pain in his hand, hip and back as a result.
Lafay’s victory is the first of his professional career. “It is incredible,” he said. “It was a very tough day. Today’s break was very difficult. But when it was gone [clear], the peloton allowed us seven minutes. That was good, we could recover a little. The finish was hard, but it was about 10 minutes’ effort and that is where I am best. I was focussed all day for this effort and I was confident with [the sensation of] my legs. I attacked with three kilometres to go and won.”
Early on, Friday’s sprint winner Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) left the race. It wasn’t initially clear why he quit the Giro but his team later said that he was experiencing knee pain. The Australian is targeting stage wins in each of cycling’s three Grand Tours this year and wasn’t expected to race until the conclusion of the Giro, but his departure on stage 8 was sooner than many expected. He won stages five and seven this year.
Attila said that his team played things perfectly on the stage to defend his leader’s jersey, allowing a break without any threatening riders to go clear and then riding tempo thereafter. “We could manage to stay out of trouble and stay in a good place in the front all day and arrive quite fresh to the final climb. I just had to survive that one. I am happy that happened, and I am of course really happy to have one more day in the Maglia Rosa.”
He took the race lead on stage six but knows that holding onto the lead on Sunday’s tough summit finish will be difficult. “Tomorrow will be even harder to defend, for sure.” Martin is better-suited to the climbs and will hope to continue his ongoing advance up the general classification.
Giro d’Italia, Italy (WorldTour)
Stage 8, Foggia to Guardia Sanframondi: 1, Victor Lafay (Cofidis) 170 kilometres in 4 hours 6 mins 47 secs; 2, F. Gavazzi (Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team) at 36 secs; 3, N. Arndt (Team DSM) at 37 secs; 4, N. Oliveira (Movistar Team) at 41 secs; 5, G. Carboni (Bardiani CSF Faizane) at 44 secs; 6, K. Goossens (Lotto Soudal) at 58 secs
Irish: 26, D. Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) at 4 mins 48 secs; 95, N. Roche (Team DSM) at 9 mins 40 secs
Overall standings after stage 8: 1, Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) 31 hours 10 mins 53 secs; 2, R. Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 11 secs; 3, E. Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) at 16 secs; 4, A. Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) at 24 secs; 5, H. Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) at 38 secs; 6, D. Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) at 39 secs
Irish: 8, D. Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) at 47 secs; 68, N. Roche (Team DSM) at 33 mins 51 secs
Points classification: 1, Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 83; 2, G. Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos) 76; 3, E. Viviani (Cofidis) 69
Mountains classification: 1, Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious) 26; 2, G. Bouchard (AG2R Citroën Team) 18; 3, K. Goossens (Lotto Soudal) 18
Young riders' classification: 1, Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) 31 hours 10 mins 53 secs; 2, R. Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 11 secs; 3, E. Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) 16 secs
Combativity classification: Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) Sprints classification: Pellaud Breakaway classification: Pellaud
Teams classification: 1, Ineos Grenadiers, 93 hours 35 mins 22 secs; 2, Bahrain Victorious, at 1 min 5 secs; 3, Team BikeExchange, at 2 mins 15 secs
Other: 6, Team DSM, at 8 mins 16 secs; 13, Israel Start-up Nation, at 40 mins 48 secs