British time trial champion, Alex Dowsett (Movistar), delivered a superb ride to win the individual time trial on stage eight of the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
Dowsett, who left Team Sky at the end of 2012 to join the Spanish squad, finished some 10 seconds ahead of his former team leader, Bradley Wiggins, who suffered a mid-stage bike change after puncturing on the 54.8km test from Gabbice Mara to Saltara.
The Maldon rider, who appeared on the podium with a Union Jack draped around his shoulders, rode with his trademark control, a style that has brought him two consecutive national time trial titles.
While the first Grand Tour victory of his career will be a justifiably proud moment in the 24-year-old’s career, and the third stage victory for British riders in eight stages – Mark Cavendish won the first and sixth stages – the nation’s hopes for overall victory suffered another blow.
Wiggins, who inexplicably failed to contest the final sprint and its attendant time bonuses on stage three, and who was caught behind a crash on stage four before suffering a crash of his own on stage seven, today picked up a puncture.
The time lost to a bike change from his new Pinarello Bolide machine to the Graal may well have accounted for his 10 second deficit to Dowsett, but the Olympic time trial champion will take no consolation from what might have been.
Far more importantly for the Tour de France champion, his chief rival for overall victory, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), produced arguably the best time trial of his career to finish just seven seconds behind Wiggins on the day, and move into the maglia rosa with a lead of 1.16 over the Londoner.
Nibali, a supreme bike handler, began the stage at full gas, sweeping through a series of tight corners with aplomb, before quickly building a rhythm. Frequent, if minor, corrections to his position on the saddle did little to slow him.
Another of Wiggins chief rivals, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), exhibiting his best form since winning the 2011 Tour de France, produced a powerful and determined performance to finish seventh on the stage, 39″ behind Dowsett, but far more importantly, ceding less than half a minute to the Team Sky leader.
Riding with his usual commitment, Evans remained out of the saddle for the entire length of the final ramp, earning a warm reception from the thousands of fans lining the barriers.
Defending champion, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp), suffered a disappointing day, and falls to sixth overall, now 2.05 down on Nibali, with the mountain stages imminent.
The Sicilian should be congratulated on an almost perfect opening week, and will enter week two, and the mountains, filled with confidence.
Giro d’Italia 2013 – stage eight – result
1) Alex Dowsett (GBR) – Movistar – 1.16.27
2) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky +10″
3) Tanel Kangert (EST) – Astana +14″
4) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +21″
5) Stef Clement (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling +32″
6) Luke Durbridge (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE +35″
7) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing – 39″
8) Manuele Boaro (TST) – Saxo-Tinkoff
9) Sergio Henao – (COL) – Team Sky
10) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – 29.46.57
2) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing – 29″
3) Robert Gesink (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling – 1.15
4) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – 1.16
5) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – 1.24
6) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Sharp – 2.05
7) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky – 2.11
8) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – Vini Fantini – 2.43
9) Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL) – Lampre-ISD – 2.44
10) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky – 2.49