Aussie Ewan wins Giro bunch sprint

Caleb Ewan (AFP)
Caleb Ewan (AFP)

Pesaro - Australia's Caleb Ewan celebrated wildly after storming a bunch sprint to win stage eight of the Giro d'Italia on Saturday after coming close to victory three times already in the opening week.

Chief contenders for overall Giro victory, Britain's Simon Yates, form favourite Primoz Roglic, Italy's Vincenzo Nibali and Colombian climber Miguel Angel Lopez all finished in the bunch with the same time on the run from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro.

Italy's Valerio Conti, of the UAE Emirate Team, who took the pink jersey on stage six, remains in the overall lead for a third day.

The 24-year-old Ewan, of the Lotto-Soudal team, produced an astonishing burst of power to relegate Italy's Elia Viviani to second and Bora-hansgrohe's Pascal Ackermann, who has two wins on this Giro, to third.

"I have a lot of pressure to win races (since his move from Michelton-Scott) and to win here means the absolute world to me," said Ewan, who had finished in the top five on three occasions in the first seven stages of this year's Giro.

The day was marked by two powerful rollers launching a sustained long-range break from the opening minutes with Marco Frapporti and Damiano Cima spending 200km out in front.

The diminutive Ewan's new team had spent much of the day keeping tabs on their long range escape however, signalling their intent and the powerfully built Sydneysider was overcome with emotion after several near misses so far.

"We have been trying to win every day, and I'm happy to repay the team," said the visibly relieved Ewan, nicknamed the Pocket Rocket.

"I wasn't feeling that good, so I waited and had a good kick and came round them (Akermann and Viviani)."

This was Ewan's second stage win on the Giro, two years after his first and he also has a Vuelta win on 2015 but has yet to clinch a win on the Tour de France.

Ackerman admitted he was roundly beaten by a stronger man on the day.

"He looked really strong. You can see how strong he accelerated in the sprint. Caleb was the strongest today," he said after the race.

Sunday's stage could prove to be key with a 34.8km individual time-trial awaiting the riders with poor weather and undulating terrain expected on the road to San Marino.

Providing an extra twist Sunday will be a 6.5 percent incline over one of the final sections, a potential foretaste of the mountainous sections which have been packed in to the latter part of the Giro.

Team Ineos, formerly Team Sky, have two climb specialists in Tao Geoghegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov, both of whom recently impressed at the Tour of the Alps, primed for the latter stages of the Tour and both finished safely in the pack again today.

Overall leader Conti said he wanted to keep the home fans happy by keeping hold of the Pink Jersey.

"It was a hard finale today because of dangerous downhills. But I have a big team and I was well protected. I think I will keep the Maglia Rosa also tomorrow after the time trial," he predicted.

Results and standings after Saturday's eighth stage of the Giro d'Italia, a 239km run from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro:

Stage 8:

1. Caleb Ewan (AUS/Lotto) 5hrs 43min 32sec., 2. Elia Viviani (ITA/DEC) same time., 3. Pascal Ackermann (GER/BOR) s.t., 4. Fabio Sabatini (ITA/DEC) s.t., 5. Manuel Belletti (ITA/AND) s.t., 6. Arnaud Démare (FRA/FDJ) s.t., 7. Davide Cimolai (ITA/ICA) s.t., 8. Marco Canola (ITA/NIP) s.t., 9. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA/TRE) s.t., 10. Rudi Selig (GER/BOR) s.t.

Overall standings:

1. Valerio Conti (ITA/UAE Emirates) 35hrs 13min 06sec,  2. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) at 1:32, 3. Giovanni Carboni (ITA/BAR) 1:41, 4. Nans Peters (FRA/ALM) 2:09, 5. Valentin Madouas (FRA/FDJ) 2:17, 6. Amaro Antunes (POR/CCC) 2:45, 7. Fausto Masnada (ITA/AND) 3:14, 8. Pieter Serry (BEL/DEC) 3:25, 9. Audrey Amador (CRC/MOV) 3:27, 10. Sam Oomen (NED/SUN) 4:57,11, Pello Bilbao  (ESP/AST) 5:23, 12. Primoz Roglic (SLO/JUM) 5:24, 13. Davide Formolo (ITA/BOR) 5:24, 14. Tony Gallopin (FRA/ALM) 5:34, 15. Simon Yates (GBR/MIT) 5:59, 16. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH) 6:03, 17. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL/AST) 6:08, 18. Rafal Majka (POL/BOR) 6:13, 19. Mattia Cattaneo (ITA/AND) 6:16, 20. Bauke Mollema (NED/TRE) 6:19.

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