NAPLES, Italy – A decade after his first Giro d’Italia stage win, Belgian cyclist Thomas De Gendt claimed his second during Stage 8, as Juan Pedro Lopez kept the pink jersey.
De Gendt was helped by Lotto-Soudal teammate Harm Vanhoucke and edged out Davide Gabburo and Jorge Arcas in the sprint at the end of an undulating 153-kilometer (95-mile) route that started and finished in the seaside city of Naples.
The 35-year-old De Gendt sat up and pumped his fist in celebration as he crossed the line.
“I was working for Harm that he could attack on the climb but he said he didn’t have good legs anymore so I said the last three kilometers to him, `You ride full and I’m sure I will win the sprint, I’m sure.’ And he did it perfectly until 300 meters to go, so I have to thank Harm a lot,” De Gendt said.
“Today was one of those days that suits me . but if you’d asked me two weeks ago if I was able to win a stage in the Giro I would have said no because I was in so bad shape, and now the good legs are coming.”
All four riders were part of a 21-man breakaway that got away in a fast start, driven by Mathieu Van Der Poel, who was keen for the stage win.
The route took in four laps of a 19-kilometer (12-mile) circuit in the volcanic surrounding area.
It was on the penultimate lap that Van Der Poel tried to attack, but he was caught by other riders from the breakaway. Shortly after, the quartet that contested the final sprint managed to get clear with 40 kilometers remaining.
Most of the overall contenders crossed the line together, about 3 1/2 minutes behind De Gendt.
Lopez maintained his 38-second advantage over Lennard Kamna after moving into the overall lead on Tuesday. Rein Taaramae was third, 58 seconds behind Lopez.
Kamna tried to attack from the peloton but was swiftly reeled in by Lopez and his Trek-Segafredo teammates.
“In the team meeting in the morning we spoke about if Kamna attacks I try to follow. When he attacked I followed him, I stayed in his wheel, and nothing,” Lopez said.
“I have a really, really good team. My teammates, my staff, everybody made my day. My teammates they did the 100% and we stay another day in pink.”
Sunday’s ninth stage is one of the toughest in this year’s race. The 191-kilometer (119-mile) route from Isernia finishes atop the fearsome Blockhaus, with double-digit gradients along a series of hairpin bends leading to the line.
There are also three other categorised climbs on a day that includes 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) of climbing and a start that some team directors have called the toughest ever start to a grand tour stage.
The Giro finishes on May 29 in Verona.