The first summit finish of the Giro d'Italia witnessed a hungry Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) as he attacked his breakaway companions on the ascent to Campitello Matese, sensing the stage victory was waiting for him at the top of the 13km climb. Kruijswijk, who won the Arctic Race of Norway last year, was riding solo to victory until the final two kilomtres as he was reined in by Sébastien Reichenbach (IAM Cycling) and eventual stage winner Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) as the Dutchman begun to pay for his efforts and eventually crossed the line in 25th place, 2:03 minutes later.
"I decided to attack on the first long climb of the day," Kruijswijk explained. "I was planning to try something today and I was feeling good. Behind me, a chasing group full of good climbers arose, but they didn't work together so well. That's why I chose to hold my own pace."
"I had to push as hard as I could to have a chance," Kruijswijk added. "I was hoping that they were going to fall apart behind me, but I broke! That's a pity, but I thought that this was the way for me to win a stage. And I wasn't far off in the end. I know that reaching the top ten in the general classification is almost impossible and that's why I want to attack and try to grab a stage victory. I feel that I'm good enough for that and I'm going to try it another time, next week, for sure."
LottoNL-Jumbo's sport director Jan Boven explained that he was offering Kruijswijk as much encouragement as possible from the team car, hoping to will the 26-year-old on to a maiden grand tour stage win.
"It was restless behind Steven," Boven said. "We chose to wait for a chasing group on the descent. He hoped that together they would get more space, but they didn't, unfortunately. At that moment, we knew that Steven had to ride an uphill time trial to the finish on Capitello Matese. He gave his maximum."
Boven added that today's ninth stage would be too soon for Kruijswijk to repeat his efforts but nominated his team to infiltrate the breakaway and look for a second win of the season.
"Martijn Keizer can do it this time, possibly," Boven said. "It's going to be a hard stage again. Don't underestimate the mountains on Sunday's profile. The main overall riders will decide if a breakaway has a chance to make it or not. Today they rode very aggressively. It's unpredictable, but we are going to try it another time, anyway."