George Bennett has moved up to 7th overall in the Giro d’Italia. Bennett’s good performances in the last two mountain stages, saw him climb three places up the general classification as a number of riders found the going tough in stage 9; while Mitchelton-Scott continued to thrive.
Carapaz makes history for Ecuador
It was hard to say how stage 8 would go from Praia a Mare to Montevergine di Mercogliano. The 209km stage was both long and challenging, with a summit finish to come, however, the final climb was only rated a category 2 ascent despite being some 17km in length. That may have been due to the lower gradients on the climb, only a small section of the climb went over 6%.
A breakaway group of eight riders featuring Matteo Montaguti of AG2R La Mondiale, Rodolfo Torres of Androni-Sidermec, Davide Villella of Astana, Tosh Van Der Sande of Lotto Fix All, Koen Bouwman of LottoNL-Jumbo, Matej Mohoric of Bahrain-Merida and Jan Polanc of UAE Team Emirates made up the break of the day.
Mitchelton-Scott led the way in the peloton, with Sam Bewley particularly prominent in the race. They were followed by Groupama-FDJ and Bahrain-Merida. What began as pleasant conditions for the riders, with warm sunshine, eventually gave way to a miserable final few kilometres; and among those to suffer in the final kilometres was Chris Froome who was disrupted by a crash with 5km to go.
The first major bid for victory on the climb was made by Bouwman with 3.8km to go. With the GC group at 24 seconds in arrears the talented Dutchman made his move, but when the best young rider – Richard Carapaz of Movistar – attacked, there was nothing that anyone could do about the acceleration. The white jersey on the shoulders of the Ecuadorian powered away from everyone to win Ecuador’s first ever grand tour stage; 7 seconds ahead of Davide Formolo of BORA-Hansgrohe.
Formolo was at the head of a large group that contained all the major contenders; including George Bennett. Despite finishing with the main contenders, Carapaz’s stage win meant that Bennett dropped a place to tenth overall behind Chris Froome and the best young rider.
Yates stamps authority on Gran Sasso d’Italia
Today’s stage was longer, 225km in length. It was also a much more threatening stage, with a big category 2 climb in the first half of the stage giving way to two category 1 climbs; including the summit finish. It was a day primed for a GC shuffle, and it didn’t disappoint.
The break of the day was a strong one with stage 4 victor Tim Wellens of Lotto Fix All in the move. Gianluca Brambilla and Laurent Didier of Trek-Segafredo, Hugh Carthy of EF Education-First Drapac, Alex Turrin of Wilier-Triestina-Selle Italia, Davide Ballerini and Fausto Masnada of Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec, Maxim Belkov of Katusha-Alpecin, Manuele Boaro of Bahrain-Merida, Natnael Berhane of Dimension Data, Simone Andreetta of Bardiani-CSF and Cesare Benedetti of BORA-Hansgrohe were all present.
With 90km covered the break’s lead was a sizeable 6.43mins over the peloton who were once again led by Mitchelton-Scott. As with stage 8, Sam Bewley was a consistent presence on the front of the race, with Groupama-FDJ again opting to sit on their wheels. Mitchelton-Scott appeared happy with the composition of the break, and were content to let the lead grow to over 7.30mins.
Over the first climb of the day, the category 2 climb of Roccaraso, an unusual event transpired. Heading towards maximum points, Fausto Masnada’s chain jammed and he was unable to pedal; which would have guaranteed that he lose contact with Davide Ballerini and Natnael Berhane who had gapped the rest of the break and were set to take second and third place across the climb. In a very sporting gesture Berhane pushed Masnada forward, with Ballerini eventually pushing his teammate over the line in first place to take the points. However, the race jury decided that the gesture was an illegal one; and they gave the points to Berhane in the end instead.
Approaching 100km to go the break’s advantage tipped over 8 minutes, while Mitchelton-Scott continued to tap out the pace; with the maglia rosa of Simon Yates perched on the wheel of Sam Bewley. With so much climbing to do in the final 50km of the race still to come it was unsurprising that Mitchelton-Scott didn’t feel too much pressure to bring back the move entirely on the run in to the first big category 1 climb.
On the climb of Calascio the break’s lead was still sitting at over 8 minutes as Laurent Didier made his way to the front of the group. Behind them Astana made a push towards the front of the race, as a number of other teams began to show interest in the goings on up ahead. Their move to the front quickly saw the break’s lead drop. With 38km to go the break’s lead dropped to below 6 minutes as Astana continued to push the tempo on the front of the race. Team Sky were on their wheels, with Mitchelton-Scott now the third team in attendance in the peloton.
The first part of the two-part climb peaked with 32km left to race. This time there was no such problem for Masnada as he’d suffered earlier on, and he took maximum points on the climb. After a momentary lull in the climb the road ramped up again, and the climb towards the finish commenced. Astana remained on the front, and with 20km to go the gap had dropped to 3.22mins. Masnada was not content just to notch up KOM points though, and he went on the attack.
Mitchelton-Scott weren’t done yet either, and they moved back towards the front of the peloton. At 15km to go their deficit to Masnada was at 2.39mins, dropping to 2.15mins at 10km to go. Behind Masnada the rest of the break were breaking up, with Manuele Boaro launching a solo bid to get across to Masnada. With 5km to go Masnada’s lead was just a minute to Boaro, while behind Boaro Hugh Carthy made a big push to get on board with the Italian and pass him. The peloton were closing fast though and were just 1.25mins in arrears and had Carthy and Boaro in his sights.
Tragically for Carthy and Boaro the peloton mercilessly brought them back into the fold, and then closed in on Masnada. With 3.4km to go the gap was 42 seconds as Jack Haig of Mitchelton-Scott set the tempo. In the GC group a number of rdiers were beginning to find the going tough. George Bennett was well positioned about midway in the group, but Fabio Aru was beginning to suffer towards the back of the group. At the head of the group though Domenico Pozzovivo and Tom Dumoulin were looking very confident.
3km from the finish Masnada was weaving over the climb, surely knowing his days were numbered. Louis Meintjes, Rohan Dennis, Jose Goncalves, all were suffering as Haig led the catch to Masnada with 2.7km left to race. Out of the GC group the first attack came from Giulio Ciccone of Bardiani-CSF. Haig continued to work for Chaves and Yates as Chris Froome also began to suffer towards the back of the group chasing.
At 2km to go Ciccone was still in the lead, but then Froome dropped off the pace along with Carlos Betancur of Movistar. Sergio Henao went back to support Froome, but the gap was opening up. Haig and co caught Ciccone with 1.7km to go; with Bennett still on board with the leaders.
Next to attack was Thibaut Pinot who went on the offensive, and this time a small gap opened up to Bennett. But gradually that gap closed and going under the kite for 1km to go. Pozzovivo tested the water next and was pursued by Pinot, with Yates and Chaves on his wheel and the white jersey of Carapaz present also. This time the gap that opened up to Bennett was just a little too much.
Pozzovivo led the small group towards the line until finally Simon Yates attacked with Pinot trying hard to keep pace with the Brit. Yates was too strong though and he charged away to the stage honours and tighter grip on the maglia rosa ahead of Pinot, with Esteban Chaves third. 12 seconds behind Yates came George Bennett, leading Tom Dumoulin and Miguel Angel Lopez across the line. 55 seconds after Bennett though came Chris Froome, just behind Rohan Dennis and Louis Meintjes.
The result meant that Bennett climbed up the general classification to 7th overall, 1.33mins behind Simon Yates. Bennett is the last of the top 7 riders to be inside of 2 minutes behind the maglia rosa as the race heads into its second rest day, ahead of Rohan Dennis who is at 2.05mins.