Bob Jungels will wear the maglia rosa for the fifth straight day, after overcoming a crash and one of the race's toughest stages.
Saturday's Giro d'Italia stage (Molfetta – Peschici, 189 kilometers) was an energy-draining one, and the signs were there right from the start, the average speed of the first hour hitting a searing 55 km/h. As a result, no one could get away, and it was only after 65 kilometers from the start that a group slipped from the bunch and opened a two-minute gap. Iljo Keisse, a stage winner at the 2015 Giro d'Italia, was there to protect Fernando Gaviria's lead in the points standings and passed first through the intermediate sprint in Manfredonia.
On the Monte Sant'Angelo climb (10 km, 6% average gradient), the break split to pieces and a new group emerged, which managed to stretch out their advantage to five minutes. In the meantime, behind, Bob Jungels crashed on a downhill with 30 kilometers to go and hurt his left knee, but despite the bleeding cut, the 24-year-old Luxembourger remounted and returned to the peloton with the help of his teammates.
At that moment, Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) was virtual leader of the overall standings, but Quick-Step Floors quickly took the reins in the pack and the gap began to tumble fast before the 20-kilometer to go mark. The team's furious pace meant that Bob was back in control of the general classification, but stage 8 continued to be a frantic one and to produce further action, as Mikel Landa (Team Sky) decided to try his luck inside the last 15 kilometers. His attack stirred things up for a while, but in the end it was to no avail, as the Spaniard was caught by the chasers.
Another Spaniard, Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) took the spoils on Saturday from the original breakaway, ahead of Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), but the peloton wasn't too far behind, crossing the line 12 seconds later. Despite the crash, Jungels was right up there and finished the day in 10th place, retaining the iconic pink jersey.
Bob, who jumped to the top of the general classification after the Mount Etna stage, took us through this complicated stage, at the end of which he donned the maglia rosa for the eighth time in his career.
"The crash was my fault, because I didn't pay attention in the downhill, touched the back wheel of a teammate and went down. Fortunately, it wasn't bad and at the moment I don't have too much pain, but we have to wait until tomorrow to see how I will feel. Today's stage was very complicated and nervous, as everyone seemed to want to be in the breakaway, but we stayed calm and took back time in the final 30 kilometers, following a great ride of my teammates, to whom I want to say a big thank you", Jungels explained at the press conference.
"This year's stint in the maglia rosa is different from the one of 2016. I took over the lead much earlier than last year and the gaps are much smaller now, but thanks to the effort of this fantastic team I managed to keep it for five consecutive days. Tomorrow, we have the first important test of the race so far, I'd say even more important than Etna, because everything was tactical there due to the strong winds. I expect a very hard final, as many riders will want to gain time before Tuesday's time trial", concluded Bob ahead of stage 9, which will take the riders to Blockhaus (8.4% over 13.6 km), a climb that was last visited by the Giro d'Italia peloton eight years ago.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele