After this first summit finish of this year’s Giro, there are a lot of teams going back to the drawing board. We saw an awesome display of grace, authority and power that kind of reminded you of a certain American who won the Tour de France a few times. Today’s winner is cementing his place as the new ‘patron’ of cycling.
This afternoon’s adventures really kicked off as the main field chased a sizable break up the lower slopes of the final climb, the Passo Lanciano. The escape was obviously a ‘safety-in-numbers’ tactic, as this region is well known for it’s wildlife (bears and wolves) and they got up to about 3’ 45” ahead of the bunch. Saunier-Duval (for Simoni) and Liuigas (for Di Luca) were stringing things out in the main field under the 20kms to go banner.
Marzio Bruseghin attacked the breakaway group, almost overcooking a corner going uphill (!) and was the last escapee to survive as the main field hammered towards the final climb.
In the ‘Gruppo Maglia Rosa’ Carlos Sastre hit the front for CSC, with Di Luca sitting glued to Basso’s wheel, and Savoldelli and Cunego in close attendance. Leonardo Piepoli took over for Saunier Duval, at great speed.
Suddenly, a gap appeared with about 15 guys moving away. No attacks, just a winding up of the pace. Savoldelli was dropping back and hanging on to the tail of the leading group. Then he was gone, overtaken by Jose Rujano, who’d missed the first split.
Di Luca had a bad Saturday due to a stomach upset, and although he’d been glued to Basso’s wheel earlier in the climb, he gradually lost contact, too.
Rujano attacked 5kms from the summit, having a fight with his bike – he was all over the frame trying to get away. Ivan Basso, as inscrutable as the Sphinx, wasn’t worried, and Sastre’s pace clawed Rujano back.
4kms to go – Cunego attacked as soon as Rujano was caught. Basso just accelerated up to Cunego, then gave him a look as he drew alongside, Armstrong-style.
Then, he was gone. An acceleration and Basso just cruised away, looking hugely impressive.
Savoldelli was in big trouble further back, but Danielson, dropped earlier, came up to give him a hand. Simoni was grimacing like he’d been hit with a kidney punch, out of the saddle looking for any sort of speed he could find.
Inside the last kilometre and a half, even Basso was gritting his teeth, but he still had enough power to take one hand off the bars to swat away an annoying tifoso that was trying to give him a ‘helping’ push.
It was like a minimalist Noah’s Ark, with the contenders coming in one-by-one. Over the line, Basso looked great, emerging out of the mist and giving a very casual two-arm salute. Behind him it was carnage.
Simoni was shaking his head as he crossed the line, paced by Piepoli. Di Luca produced another really gutsy ride to limit his losses to 90 seconds. Savoldelli lost almost two-and-a-half minutes, and looked shell-shocked.
They’ll be too sporting to say so, but they’re going to be relying on a similar illness-induced meltdown to last year to rein Basso in. There’s still a fortnight to go, but already Basso doesn’t need to attack.
For those of us watching, that hopefully means fireworks to come because Simoni, Cunego, Savoldelli and the rest have just got to burn all their matches if they want to be in pink in Milan.
Giro d’Italia Stage 8 Civitanova Marche – Passo Lanciano 171 km
1 Ivan Basso (CSC) Italy 4hrs 04’ 19”
2 Damiano Cunego (Lampre) Italy + 30”
3 Jose E Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak same
4 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty + 45”
5 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Ceramica Panaria + 1’ 09”
6 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval + 1’ 15”
7 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier-Duval same
8 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas + 1’32”
9 Jose Rujano (Ven) Selle Italia + 1’ 50”
10 Julio Perez Cuapio (Mex) Ceramica Panaria + 1’ 52”
Giro d’Italia Overall GC After Stage 8
1 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC 31hrs 41’ 17”
2 Jose E Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak + 1’ 34”
3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre + 1’ 48”
4 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel + 2’ 35”
5 Sergui Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile + 2’ 43”
6 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas + 2’ 48”
7 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier-Duval + 3’ 20”
8 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty + 3’ 23”
9 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel + 3’ 33”