Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal took the victory on stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia in Naples, beating Davide Gabburo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) and Movistar's Jorge Arcas after a long day in the breakaway group on an exceptionally attack-filled stage.
De Gendt rode with admirable aggression, finding himself in the initial breakaway from the stage outset and then breaking off into a leading group of five inside the final 40km.
He approached the final with a sprint from the back of the group at the 200-metre mark, helped by teammate Harm Vanhoucke setting pace at the front, and beat Gabburo and Arcas comfortably to the line. Gabburo managed only a fleeting chase behind him, and De Gendt was able to celebrate well in advance of the finish.
Behind them Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Biniam Girmay (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux) chased the leading group into the final kilometres, but were 15 seconds in arrears by the final sprint, Girmay placing fifth place. Mauro Schmid (Quickstep Alpha-Vinyl) managed to bridge back to the chasing group, and pipped Van der Poel to the line for sixth place.
“Today was one of those days that suits me,” De Gendt said following the stage win. “It looks a little bit like the Barcelona stage in Volta a Catalunya - always up and down. It's hard to recover. It's also hard to close the gap.”
“But 10 years after the Stelvio stage, I finally won a stage in the Giro again,” he added. “If you would have asked me two weeks ago, if I was able to win a stage in the Giro I would have said no because I was in such bad Shape. But now the good legs are coming.”
Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) continues in the leader's pink jersey for another day after he fended off an attack from second-placed Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the hilly stage finale. Elsewhere, Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) retained their points and mountains classification leads.
How it unfolded
There was no wasting time today, as attacks came thick and fast after the race departed from the Piazza del Plebiscito in bustling central Naples. The neutralised zone was only 2.4km, and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) peeled off the front from the gun, alongside Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates).
Expectations were high for Van der Poel, who was marked as the clear favourite for the stage win given its punchy profile. But despite the expectation, spectators and commentators were pleasantly surprised to see such an aggressive move from the outset.
Barely 10km had passed before Van der Poel broke away solo from a swelling group that bridged up to his initial attack. He was chased by De Gendt, Andrea Vendrame (Andrea Vendrame) and Biniam Girmay (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux), in a move that grew into a breakaway 21 riders in size with around 130km to go.
The breakaway proved to have staying power, and quickly extended out a gap of 1:40 with 125km to go.
A fairly orderly break was only mildly distrurbed by the first intermediate sprint at Lago Patria, where Girmay took the top spot.
After 48km, the race entered the 19km circuit around Bacoli, which consisted of four laps taking in the category 4 climb Monte di Procida (2.1km at 6.2%) alongside Lago Lucrino, a short but sharp ascent well-suited to attacks.
At only 153km in length, stage 8 would inevitably be animated, and so there was no surprise the peloton reached the 19km circuit with a blistering average speed of 47.1kph.
Trek-Segafredo were evidently unhappy with the composition of the break, placing their entire team at the front of the main peloton to drive the pace. They barely managed to make a dent in the breakaway’s lead, though, with other teams evidently happy to let the group drift away.
The break continued to work cohesively with only Jasha Sütterlin (Bahrain Victorious) being spat out at the 88km to go mark. With 60km to go the gap to the 20-man group extended to three minutes.
With 46km to go, Van der Poel made his most aggressive move on the Lago Lucrino, amid its 14% steepest ramps. It set fire to the lead group, which took off in pursuit to reel in Van der Poel’s attack, which they quickly did.
Shortly afterward, a number of riders bridged to Van der Poel, a counter-attack came from a group containing Gabburo, Jorge Arcas (Movistar), De Gendt, Simone Ravanelli (Drone Hopper - Androni Giocattoli) and Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal).
The five-man breakaway group stretched out to 30 seconds by the final ascent of the Monte di Procida, with the peloton stretching out to a full 3:40 deficit with 35km to go - where Vanhoucke took the second intermediate sprint.
The chasing group was trimmed down to Van der Poel, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), Mauro Schmid (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Girmay with Van der Poel. Girmay made a handful of aggressive but unsuccessful attacks.
Despite an aggressive chase from the pursuing group, the gap remained near 40 seconds with 20km remaining en route back to Naples city centre.
The Napoli finale
Sitting 10km from the finish came an uncategorised, unnamed, climb 5km in length, with some sharp 10% inclines.
It saw the gap between the lead group of five and the strong chasing group shrink down to 20 seconds, and suddenly a win from the leading group no longer seemed so assured.
Further back in the race, Lennard Kämna made an aggressive but ultimately unsuccessful move on race leader López.
With De Gendt’s group drifting into vision for the Van der Poel chasers at 5km to go, and Van der Poel and Girmay pulled away from the chasing group, largely thanks to their exceptional descending skills.
With 3km to go, it looked as though Van der Poel and Girmay would catch up to the lead group, but they held strong to a gap of 15 seconds.
At the very front, De Gendt made his attack from the front, with Gabburo able to hold on only briefly, and Arcas left in third position. Vanhoucke celebrated his fourth position alongside his teammate De Gendt.
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Peter Stuart has been editor of Cyclingnews since March 2022, overseeing editorial output across all of Cyclingnews' digital touchpoints.
Before joining Cyclingnews, Peter was the digital editor of Rouleur magazine. Starting life as a freelance feature writer, with bylines in The Times and The Telegraph, he first entered cycling journalism in 2012, joining Cyclist magazine as staff writer. Peter has a background as an international rower, representing Great Britain at Under-23 level and at the Junior Rowing World Championships.
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