Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) suffered badly in the heat of the opening week of the Giro d'Italia but the Spanish allrounder bounced back on the rainier stage 8 to claim his second career victory in the race.
Although he has performed much more unevenly in other Grand Tours in his nine-year career and he lost nearly nine minutes and all gc options in this year's Giro d'Italia on the stage to La Spezia, Intxausti has also regularly brought home solid results fro the Italian Grand Tour.
In 2013, he led the Giro d'Italia for a day in the first week - again, after an exceptionally rainy and difficult stage, won by Australia's Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) - finished eighth overall and claimed a spectacular stage win in Ivrea, Movistar's fourth of the race, in the third week, too.
Saturday's victory was no less impressive, with Intxausti forming part of the daylong break through the Abruzzi mountains behind Steven Kruiswijk (Lotto-Jumbo NL). He then joined up with IAM Cycling's Sébastien Reichenbach on the final climb in chasing down Kruiswijk, and dropped the Swiss rider with four kilometres to go.
Basque Mikel Landa (Astana) looked to be closing fast on Intxausti, but the Movistar rider fought strongly to finish 20 seconds ahead and alone at the line.
"I had to judge things quite carefully, but I knew that Kruiswijk would be tired after spending so long off the front," Intxausti said afterwards. "So I left my final attack as late as possible to try and have as much energy. It was all about being as cold-blooded as possible."
"In the last kilometre, I knew that I had some time on Landa, but that it might be close. Finally, though, I could start celebrating before I reached the line."
"Two years ago, I won from a four man break and it was a very tricky situation to win, but it was great because this was my first Grand Tour stage victory. This time I could savour the victory, it was a summit finish, I crossed the line alone and I liked that, too."
Intxausti said that the heat of the first week had dealt his gc chances a serious blow, "but I had to trust myself. I switched to focussing on stage wins, taking things on the day by day. I knew I had worked hard and that my underlying form was good."
The Spaniard says he will now seriously consider going for the King of the Mountains title, where he now has a 20 point advantage over Landa. However, he recognised there are a lot of mountain stages remaining and "the battle for the overall could easily affect that classification, because the general contenders are still very close together. I'll just have to see how and when I can pick up points."
Intxausti's victory and lead in the King of the Mountains jersey completed an excellent day for the Movistar team following their stage win and overall lead in the Bayern Rundfahrt race in Germany.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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