SALTARA, Italy (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) took over the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia on Saturday as Alex Dowsett (Movistar) won the stage-8 individual time trial.
“It will take a bit of time before I realized what I have done,” said Dowsett. “I still can’t believe myself.
“For me, the race was about doing what I do. I was catching a lot of riders: it was like a carrot on a stick for me, although I knew a lot of them were taking it easy.
“There were three standout moments: one, when [Tanel] Kangert came in very close to my time. Two, when I was up on [Bradley] Wiggins at the split, although I knew he’d improve. And three, with Nibali, when I knew the reverse would happen: I knew he’d be good in the twisty start, but I’d be better on the later, power sections, and that was how it went.”
Wiggins (Sky) had been expected to dominate the hilly, 54.8km leg-breaker from Gabicce Mare to Saltara, which concluded with a quad-shredding climb to the finish that boasted a maximum grade of 13 percent.
But after crashing on a rain-slick corner in Friday’s stage and switching bikes after a puncture on Saturday the Sky captain was only seventh at the first time check and had to settle for second at the finish, 10 seconds behind early leader Dowsett, who covered the course in 1:16:27. Kangert (Astana) rode to third on the day at 14 seconds down.
Neither could Nibali, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) nor defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) evict Dowsett from the hot seat. Nibali finished fourth at 21 seconds, Evans seventh at 39 seconds, and Hesjedal 18th at 2:23.
And Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Movistar), who started the day in pink? He finished 41st, 4:02 down on Dowsett, and saw Nibali move into the overall lead, 29 seconds ahead of Evans with Robert Gesink (Blanco) third at 1:15.
Nibali said he did not expect to take the maglia rosa but intends to defend it.
“I’m quite happy but the road is still long,” he said. “The first part [of the time trial] was in my favor, with lots of turns and climbs, descents. I suffered a little more in the second part than pure specialists … but I managed well and I kept enough strength for the final climb.”
Evans said he had been preparing diligently for the stage “because it was a time trial that tested every aspect of time trialing.”
“The weather wasn’t favorable for us, with the winds,” he said. “I think the earlier riders might have had a slight advantage with the wind conditions. But we did everything we could. The important thing was the classification and it was a very good day for us.”
Wiggins now sits fourth overall at 1:16, eight seconds better than fifth-placed Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida).
“It’s been a challenging few days, with the crash yesterday and then to come back up,” Wiggins told Agence France Presse. “It wasn’t an easy course. I’ve said all along that it wasn’t one of those ones where you could take three or four minutes out of people, because it was so technical at the start.
“Then obviously to have a puncture and have to change bikes and disrupt the rhythm is never going to help. But then the second part of the course was really suited to me and I took back a lot of time on people there. It is what it is and it’s put us right back up there now.
“It’s going to be a hell of a race for the next two weeks.”
Hesjedal, meanwhile, sits sixth overall at 2:05.
Asked if he was satisfied with his ride, Hesjedal told VeloNews: “Yes. I am. We still have a lot of racing to go.
“I felt good, I felt like I executed well, I was consistent, I finished strong. It was a tough end of the race. It was my first individual time trial of the year, that’s just the way this season has gone, and to race an hour and 20 minutes on the bike after the week we’ve had, I’m happy with the way I felt.
“I know I get better as these long races go on, so I’m looking forward to the last half of the race.”