Dowsett wins Stage 8 of Giro, Almeida stays in pink

Alex-Dowsett;-Movistar

Britain's Alex Dowsett. (Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP)

VIESTE, Italy — British rider Alex Dowsett claimed his first Giro d’Italia stage victory in seven years on Saturday, and João Almeida held onto the pink jersey.

Dowsett, who rides for the Israel Start-Up Nation team, attacked from a six-man breakaway group 17 kilometres (11 miles) from the end of Stage 8, a 200-kilometre (124-mile) route from Giovinazzo to Vieste.

The 32-year-old Dowsett put his hands to his head and shook it as if incredulous as he approached the finish line. His only previous stage win at the Giro was an individual time trial in 2013.

“I just cant believe it. I don’t win road races, every so often I might win a time trial but I don’t win road races. I can’t tell you how much I needed this with how this year’s gone,” said Dowsett, who broke down in tears during the post-race television interview.

“I don’t have a contract for next year right now and I have a baby on the way in January. So I can’t tell you how much I’ve been worrying this year, just what I’m going to do next year. And I just can’t believe that’s happened.”

Salvatore Puccio won a sprint for second, just ahead of Matthew Holmes and Joseph Rosskopf. They were one minute and 15 seconds behind Dowsett.

Michael Matthews led the peloton across, nearly 14 minutes behind Dowsett.

Almeida, a Portuguese rider with the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, remained 43 seconds ahead of Spanish rider Pello Bilbao overall.

Overall contender Simon Yates withdrew from the Giro before the stage after testing positive for the coronavirus. He is the second main contender to leave the race after Geraint Thomas withdrew after breaking his pelvis in a fall during Stage 3.

Saturday’s stage was mainly flat in the first half but there were two categorized climbs in the much more undulating second part.

The six riders escaped after 22 kilometres (14 miles). None of them apart from Dowsett had won an individual Giro stage.

The gap rose to more than nine minutes on the main climb, the second-category Monte Sant’ Angelo and the peloton was happy to let them go, with Puccio the best-placed rider in the breakaway but more than 34 minutes behind Almeida.

“We are focused on keeping the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey) but we took it easy today,” Almeida said. “Tomorrow it will be harder, we will see if I can keep it after the stage.”

Sunday’s ninth stage is a mountainous 207-kilometre (129-mile) leg from San Salvo to Roccaraso. The route features two second-category and two first-category climbs, including the summit finish.

The Giro was rescheduled from its usual May slot because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race ends on Oct. 25 with an individual time trial in Milan.

Founded in 2014 as the Israel Cycling Academy, Team Israel Start-Up Nation is co-owned by Canadian-born Sylvan Adams, a former Canadian Masters cycling champion who emigrated to Israel in 2015. Team performance manager Paulo Saldanha is from Montreal.

Their Giro squad includes Ottawa’s Alex Cataford.

Ottawa’s Michael Woods, who currently rides for the EF Education First team, is joining Israel start-up nation next year, as is British star Chris Froome.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.