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Sunday, May 14, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

Les Woodland's book Tour of Flanders: The Inside Story - The rocky roads of the Ronde van Vlaanderen is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Giro d'Italia stage eight team race reports

We posted the report from GC leader Andreas Leknessund's Team DSM with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Ben Healy's Team EF Education-EasyPost:

Ben Healy said he was coming to the Giro to try to win a stage.

Eight stages in, he made good on his word.

To win his first with a 50-kilometer solo attack is the stuff of dreams, and thanks to his daring attack, Ben had all of the time he could have wished for to celebrate his first grand tour stage win. The 22-year-old Irish racer rode away from his breakmates the first time up the Cappuccini climb and put over two minutes into them by the end. His rivals knew his attack was coming but could only watch him time trial away.

Ben Healy has left the others behind. Sirotti photo

The long, lone break has become Ben’s signature move.

“If you can go solo, it is always better,” Ben said after the finish. “I know in big groups like this, group dynamics can play a pretty big role, so I backed myself for a long move. I didn’t want to take any chances today, so I went solo. I knew I had good legs and managed to hold it to the finish. It’s a really good day.”

Ben had stage eight marked in his copy of the Giro’s race book — the Garibaldi — from the moment he knew he was going to Italy to make his grand tour debut this spring. The 207-kilometer stage from Terni to Fossombre seemed made for a break to go to the line. After an uphill start on the Valico della Somma, it rolled for 150 kilometers in the direction of the old city of Fossombre, where it would hit a succession of hilly finishing circuits. The climbs started on the Cappuccini, a short, punchy hill with 10 percent ramps, followed by the Monte delle Cesane, a 7.8-km climb with pitches over 18 percent, before heading back up the Cappuccini a final time, before the downhill run in to the line.

Ben put on his Rapha aero suit this morning determined to make it into the day’s early move. A few kilometers after the start, he and 12 other riders got away. As the GC favorites marked each other behind, Ben’s break soon gained over five minutes. It was clear that they were going to make it to the finish as planned, but no one expected Ben to attack so far from the line.

“That was my best day in the car,” said Ben’s sports director Tejay van Garderen. “I was coming up with a tactic with him, and he was like, you know what, I am going to make up my own. Before the circuit started, I was thinking Barguil was there for GC and he can maybe play with that, maybe get away with him, have him do the majority of the work, because he would move up. But then in the end, Ben just threw all of the tactics away and went on the first climb. As soon as I got behind him, I was just like the road is going to pitch up here; let’s push the pace. Let’s recover here. I was telling him the corners. It was like I was doing a time trial with him. But I can’t take any credit. Today was all Ben.”

This Giro stage win crowns a superb spring for Ben. After winning the GP Industria & Artigianato and a stage at Coppi e Bartali earlier this year, he electrified the cycling world with his gritty performances in the Ardennes. Second at the Brabantse Pijl, second at the Amstel Gold Race, and fourth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège proved that he is one of the most exciting bike racers of his generation. Now, he has got his first grand tour stage win.

“Ben has really broken out of his shell this year,” Tejay says. “We always knew he was a big talent, but this year he has shown his class. Ben Healy is going to be a name you are going to be listening to for a long time. First grand tour and a stage victory in that fashion, that is the stuff of legend.”

Right now, Ben is just trying to enjoy the moment and take it all in.

“These past couple of months have been an absolute whirlwind and to top it off with this is just insane really,” he says.

We’re only eight stages in, and Ben has still got a few more pages folded in his copy of the Garibaldi.

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Here's the Giro report from second-place Derek Gee's Team Israel-Premier Tech:

Derek Gee is having a season a first year neo pro can only dream of. His 35 race days to date have all been at WorldTour races, he made the breakaway at Paris – Roubaix and was the first rider to enter the Arenberg Forest and today, he sprinted to second place on Giro d’Italia stage eight.

Derek Gee takes second place. Sirotti photo

For a guy who came to his debut Grand Tour with the goal of “just surviving”, Gee is thriving. His smile at the finish line after he won the three-man sprint for second place, after spending the day in the breakaway, said it all.

“It feels like a win. I’m over the moon. Coming into this Giro, I thought I had no chance, I was just trying to survive and get experience so this is amazing. It’s really confidence inspiring to have the team believe in me and put me in a calendar like this so I’m really happy that I can validate that,” said Gee.

When the flag dropped on the outskirts of Terni, the battle for the breakaway was on. IPT had multiple cards to play and Gee, Mads Würtz Schmidt, and Stevie Williams were all present in moves that were brought back. Eventually, Gee made it into a four-rider breakaway but with the peloton not content, the gap remained at 20 seconds and the battle raged for more than 60 kilometers.

Eventually, nine riders bridged across to Gee’s group and when the peloton sat up, the gap extended to more than five minutes. With known climbers in the breakaway, and more than 2500 meters of climbing on the cards, IPT´s 25-year-old Canadian track cyclist had to be smart.

“It hurt so bad and I thought maybe we would be caught but at the same time, I wanted to stay away. The four of us went away really early at the top of that first climb and we were just dangling there forever but I heard on the radio that the guys were doing a really good job of covering moves so I thought we would have a good chance of staying away. When the other guys came across I just started counting guys that were big names and I was thinking if this goes to the line, I’m going to have a tough time cracking the top-ten.”

When Ben Healy attacked on the first ascent of the Cappuccini, Gee continued to tackle the steep gradient at his own pace and crossed the summit around 30 seconds behind. On the next climb, an attack from Barguil and Verona split the group and Gee dug deep to find himself in the first chase group.

The chase group forged on, around two minutes behind Healy, and on the second ascent of the Cappuccino, Gee was fighting for the podium. Dropped slightly on the early slopes, Gee clawed his way back and crossed the KOM in third position on the road before chasing back on the descent and run into the finish.

“Kudos to Ben. When he went on that first climb he just disappeared so I was just really hoping to get on the podium. The climb was brutal but it flattened out over the top and I could see Zana just a few meters in front of me and I knew I had to make it to him before it flattened out or it would be way harder to catch him on the descent. So that was my motivation and I knew Barguil was behind and he was a good descender and he had been flying all day so I wanted to at least get a gap on him before the really technical descent.”

Although he led the three-man chase group out on the finish straight, Gee launched his sprint with 200 meters to go and didn’t look back.

“I was really hoping for a podium so when Barguil came back, it was guaranteed anymore so it was a little stressful. I think my pride as the heaviest guy in that group was on the line and when I opened up my sprint, I just hoped I could hold them off.”

Sports Director Sam Bewley was in the race car behind Gee and had nothing but praise for the Canadian’s performance.

“We wanted to get a rider in the breakaway and we had half the team on the attack so we were really happy when Derek made it into the group. We wanted to reduce the 13 riders to a smaller group before the climb to give Derek the option to back himself on the climb and he backed himself. It was a strong breakaway with quite a few riders typically better suited to the stage profile so what we saw today is just how strong and gutsy Derek is. I don’t think even he realises how a big a ride he did today and it won’t be the last time we see him ride like this,” Bewley added.

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Here's the report from GC second-place Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Remco Evenepoel will go into the last stage of the race’s first week just eight seconds from the maglia rosa following Saturday’s journey to Fossombrone, a city that Tirreno-Adriatico visited a couple of years ago. While at the front the breakaway prevailed, the World Champion was a protagonist on the final climb of the day, I Cappuccini.

Remco Evenpoel is just 8 seconds behind GC leader Andreas Leknessund. Sirotti photo

Despite being short, the hill ended up opening bigger gaps between the overall contenders than the Campo Imperatore summit finish, and that was thanks to its narrow roads and steep gradients, which hit a gruelling 19% in some parts.

Cappuccini featured twice on the route, the last time in the final ten kilometers, and it was there that the fireworks came. One kilometer from the top, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) attacked, and only Remco Evenepoel and the pink jersey responded to that acceleration. Remco didn’t immediately make the catch, but instead kept the margin in check, around three seconds at all times. Then, just as he increased the speed a notch and was about to link up with the Slovenian, another change of pace from the latter increased the gap to ten seconds.

On the descent, the rainbow jersey found himself trailing three men, as two Ineos riders had in the meantime joined Roglic, and he produced an incredible effort in his attempt to limit the losses. Evenepoel left everything out there and even made up some ground, by the time he crossed the line only 14 seconds separating him from the trio.

“It just wasn’t my best day. I tried to follow Roglic and made a mistake by pushing too hard instead of riding at my own pace. The legs didn’t quite feel like on the other days, but there is no need to panic, I just have to remain calm and focused. The Giro is still long. Today was just another valuable lesson that I learned. Fortunately, I still have an advantage of half a minute on the general classification and hopefully on Sunday I will manage to gain more time on the others”, said Remco after the finish.

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And here's the Giro report from Primoz Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Primoz Roglic has put pressure on his rivals in the eighth stage of the Giro d'Italia. In a stage characterised by several steep climbs, the Slovenian broke away on the final climb. His attack got him 14 seconds on the likes of Remco Evenepoel.

Thirteen riders were in the breakaway during the fast early stages. The group's lead grew to several minutes, signalling that the peloton had little interest in the day's victory. Irishman Ben Healy proved to be the strongest rider in the breakaway.

Behind the lead group, Team Jumbo-Visma took the initiative. Michel Hessmann, making his grand tour debut, got to the front of the peloton on one of the climbs and accelerated. Then it was up to Koen Bouwman. The Dutchman ensured the peloton was thinned out and made the move that enabled Roglic to execute his plans. With Sepp Kuss among the better riders, the Slovenian felt at his best on the gradients of up to 15 per cent.

Primoz Roglic is now 38 seconds behind GC leader Leknessund. Sirotti photo

Moments later, Roglic caused a stir. The 33-year-old rider attacked from the group of favourites and initially only had Rosette riders Andreas Leknessund and Lennard Kämna on his wheel, with Evenepoel not far behind. After the duo was dropped, Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart joined Roglic just before the summit of the final climb. The trio rode to the finish at Fossombrone. There, the gap to Evenepoel and the others was 14 seconds.

"It was a good day”, Roglic said of the eighth stage. "I had good legs today. Luckily I was able to use those good legs to gain some time on some of my rivals. I have to take the opportunities that come my way. As soon as I get the chance, I want to make the race hard. I think I did that today. My focus is good, and I am happy with my shape. The competition is also strong. They showed that today. They say the time trial tomorrow will be flat. That will be good for the legs”, Roglic said with a wink.

Sports director Marc Reef: "We already had the feeling that Primoz was in good shape for several days. But in the last two mountain stages, he didn’t get any good opportunities, so his good form was not directly reflected in the results. But today, it did. We wanted to take the initiative and put pressure on the competition. We are happy we managed to do that. Thanks to a strong riding by Michel and the presence of Koen and Sepp, Primoz made the difference on the final climb. He is one of the best on a course like this”, the sports director said.

"For tomorrow's time trial, we will concentrate on ourselves”, Reef said. "We have no influence on the competition’s performance. Today Primoz confirmed his excellent shape. So we look forward to tomorrow with confidence. It is good that we were able to gain time on some strong riders. Today's stage showed that many riders are in good shape. It promises to be a good battle over the next two weeks.”

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