Ups and downs mark Giro stage

The eighth stage of the Giro d'Italia was a mixed bag for the race favourites. The sun seemed to shine just for Saunier Duval's brash young star Riccardo Riccò, who took his second stage of this year's race. He graciously gave credit for the win to his team-mate Leonardo Piepoli, but took a dig at his competitors in the same breath.

"The team did a wonderful job and Piepoli helped me a lot also today," Riccò declared. "Piepoli is just great! I'm extremely happy. These two stage wins make me feel secure, and I'm looking forward to the mountains. That is where my Giro starts. And then again, unlike all my rivals, I have invaluable help: Piepoli's."

Clouds seemed to hover over other contenders, however. Danilo Di Luca nearly lost time in the sprint when he could not hold the wheel of his helper, Daniele Pietropolli. The LPR Brakes rider and 2007 Giro champion received the good graces of the race jury and was awarded the same time as Riccò, and led home a group which contained a somewhat bruised Alberto Contador.

The Astana rider suffered a mid-race crash which resulted in bruised tendons and muscles in his right elbow, according to his team's web site. Contador also lost one of his helpers. Steve Morabito fell victim to a separate crash, injured the same shoulder he separated on stage two and had to abandon.

The incidents added to the bad luck of the Astana team, which found out Friday that Levi Leipheimer would not be given the same time as the winners on stage six. According to, the American met with the head of the race jury for 20 minutes on Saturday, but was unable to convince him that the police motorcycle which blocked the paths of some riders on the final kilometre of Thursday's stage was responsible for the time gap at the finish. The race jury reportedly reviewed the videotape and determined that the crashed motorcycle was not the cause.

Leipheimer lost 23 seconds to the peloton with Di Luca, Riccó, and his team-mates Contador and Andreas Klöden, while a group with Slipstream's former pink jersey Christian Vande Velde and Colombian climber Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) lost 14 seconds.

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