Alex Dowsett solos to superb stage win at Giro d’Italia while another Briton Matthew Holmes takes third

Britain’s Alex Dowsett soloed to victory on stage eight of the Giro d’Italia after Simon Yates withdrew from the race following a positive test for coronavirus.

Dowsett was part of a six-man breakaway, also including compatriot Matthew Holmes, that was allowed to go free on the 200-kilometre stage eight from Giovinazzo to Vieste.

And he rode away from his fellow escapees inside the final 20km as he used his time trialling skills to take victory by 75 seconds.

It gave the Israel Start-Up Nation rider his second career Giro stage win, seven years after his success on the stage eight time trial of the 2013 edition, and a first grand tour victory for his young team.

Israel Start-Up Nation may be signing Chris Froome next year, but Dowsett’s own future is uncertain in the final months of his contract, making this victory all the more significant.

“It’s been such a tough year,” said Dowsett, who is due to become a father in the coming months.

“Just all the uncertainty and trying to work out how I’m going to get to next year and still be racing, still be doing what I love, and still being able to put food on the table for three of us rather than two come January.

Holmes was beaten to second place by Salvatore Puccio, while the peloton eventually rolled home almost 14 minutes behind, with Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Joao Almeida retaining the pink jersey and his 43-second lead of Pello Bilbao of Bahrain-McLaren.

There was no change at the top of the overall classification, with the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Jakob Fuglsang and Steven Kruijswijk still bunched up closely behind.

Dowsett’s victory was a dose of British success hours after Mitchelton-Scott announced that Yates had tested positive for coronavirus after developing “very mild symptoms” following Friday’s stage seven.

Yates, who began the race among the overall favourites, was isolated in his hotel room and left the race in an ambulance to begin a period of quarantine, but his positive test leaves questions for the Giro itself after the virus penetrated a team bubble.

Mitchelton-Scott team doctor Matteo Beltemacchi said: “Simon displayed a very mild temperature on Friday evening during our routine temperature checks, which have been completed three times per day during the course of the Giro d’Italia.

“Following the team’s Racesafe Covid-19 policy, he was isolated in his room and we immediately requested a rapid test using the services offered by [race organiser] RCS, which has returned positive.”

A follow-up test confirmed the result and Dr Beltemacchi added: “Simon’s health remains our main concern and, thankfully, his symptoms remain very mild and he is otherwise in good health. We want to thank the RCS for their support in arranging the quick testing and his transport.”

Mitchelton-Scott said their other riders had all returned negative tests and would continue to race, but will be subject to additional testing.

Yates is the first rider to test positive in the Giro, which has not adopted the same “two strikes” rule that would have seen teams sent home from the Tour de France last month if more than one person within their camp tested positive.

Yates, the 2018 Vuelta a Espana winner, had entered the Giro as one of the pre-race favourites after his victory in Tirreno-Adriatico last month.

But he struggled on Monday’s stage three on Mount Etna, finishing more than four minutes after stage winner Jonathan Caicedo and more than three minutes down on the main group of overall contenders.

The Bury rider sat 21st overall, three minutes and 52 seconds down on Almeida, after Friday’s stage seven to Brindisi.

Yates’ exit means that both of Britain’s overall contenders in the race are out after Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas suffered a fractured pelvis in a freak accident with a stray drinks bottle in the neutralised zone of stage three, withdrawing from the race a day later.
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Michael Matthews (Sunweb) leads the peloton over the line, beating Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) in a bit of a half-hearted sprint to add a few points to his tally in the race of the maglia ciclamino, which was retained by Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ). 

Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick Step) keeps hold of the maglia rosa as overall leader and maglia bianca as the best young rider, while Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) will wear the maglia azzurra again on Sunday as the leader in the mountains classification.

02:34 PM

All calm in the peloton . . .

The bunch is easing its way towards the finish, nobody looks too keen on putting in any late attacks, presumably keeping their powder dry ahead of Sunday’s mountainous stage.

02:24 PM

Dowsett wins stage eight at the Giro!

He’s done it. Alex Dowsett, one of the nicest riders you could ever have the pleasure to meet, has won stage eight at the Giro d’Italia. The Israel Start-up Nation ​rider finished the stage 1min 15sec ahead of Salvatore Puccio (Ineos Grenadiers) who pipped another Briton, Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal), to the line to take second.

Speaking immediately afterwards Dowsett, who is out of contract at the end of the season and recently announced that he and his partner are expecting their first child, told Eurosport: “It’s such a tough year [with] all the uncertainty. Just trying to work out how I get to next year and still be racing, still doing what I love and still being able to put food on the table for three of us rather than two of us come January, so hopefully this will help secure something for next year. To win like that as well… As you get older, you wonder when your last win might be, your last grand tour, your last anything. So, you just learn to savour it and enjoy it.

“There were some strong guys in the break. The only unknown for us was the fella from Androni [Giocattoli-Sidermec]. Nikki Sorenson was on the radio telling us how each rider was: ‘very good, very good, very good and probably very good as well’. We knew we had our work cut out but with Matthias [Brändle] and myself both in the breakaway we knew we could use each other. Last time I was in the breakaway with Matthias, he won a stage of The Tour of Britain and I rode into the yellow jersey. Only good things happen when I’m in a break with Matthias.

“It’s still quite a new team [Israel Start-Up Nation] so it’s a bit unfair the commentators keep saying we’re the only team not to have won. I think it’s been a while for Cofidis… I think it’s going to be a big relief for the team to get that win under our belt. We’ve been close a few times; the boys in the Tour were fighting every day. I think the team can end this year feeling pretty content with how things have gone and we’ve still got the Tour of Flanders to go, La Vuelta and a few stages here.”

02:22 PM

1km to go

This one is in the bag. This will be the biggest win on the road of Alex Dowsett’s career. There’s a dog out on the course, but thankfully Dowsett has enough time in the bank and will be able to ease off the pedals a little and navigate his way around the uninvited guest.

02:21 PM

2km to go

Alex Dowsett is moments away from winning a famous stage. It will be the first grand tour stage win on the road — as opposed to the time trial he took in 2013 — for Dowsett and the first for his Israel Start-up Nation ​team who joined the WorldTour, the highest division of road cycling, at the beginning of this season. What a brilliantly executed victory this will be. Once the team manged to get two riders in the breakaway they held the advantage, but it still needed to be finished off, and that is what Dowsett is about to do. In style.

02:20 PM

3km to go

Alex Dowsett’s lead is still growing: 43sec.

02:18 PM

4km to go

Alex Dowsett leads the stage by 39sec. Unless he crashes or suffers a major mechanical issue, then this stage is his.

02:17 PM

5km to go

Alex Dowsett is around five minutes away from winning stage eight at the Giro d’Italia.

02:16 PM

7km to go

Alex Dowsett is flying at 60km/h and has increased his lead to 32sec. Surely he is going to hold on? Surely the boy from Essex is going to give British fans what they so desperately crave: something to cheer at the Giro following the premature departures of Geraint Thomas earlier in the week and Simon Yates this morning.

02:14 PM

8km to go

With the climbs having been tackled, Alex Dowsett is back on his preferred terrain. It is Dowsett vs a three-up time trial now. Alex Dowsett vs Salvatore Puccio, Matthew Holmes and Joey Rosskopf. My money is on the former world hour record holder.

Alex Dowsett  – GETTY IMAGES

02:13 PM

10km to go

Exactly the same as on the previous ascent of this climb, Salvatore Puccio and Matthew Holmes look the strongest. The pair have dropped Joey Rosskopf and have eaten into Alex Dowsett’s lead, but the Israel Start-up Nation rider is holding on with a 26sec advantage. 

02:11 PM

10.5km to go

Back onto this steep climb for the second time and Salvatore Puccio, Matthew Holmes and Joey Rosskopf have dropped Matthias Brändle and Simone Ravanelli, but can they rein in Alex Dowsett?

02:09 PM

11km to go

Alex Dowsett’s advantage is constantly growing. The Maldon rider now leads by 50sec. The peloton, by the way, trails by 12min 40sec.

02:08 PM

Picking up nicely, I’d say . . .

02:07 PM

11.5km to go

Alex Dowsett is gaining, the 32-year-old now leads by 40sec.

02:06 PM

14km to go

Alex Dowsett’s advantage increases to 31sec. Back in the chasing group, Matthias Brändle is making a nuisance of himself, constantly tucking in at second wheel forcing the third man in the group to ride around him and waste valuable energy. Canny manoeuvre.

02:04 PM

15km to go

Alex Dowsett has increased his lead to 24 seconds. Can the popular Essex boy — er, he turned 32 last Saturday — go all the way today? He has passed the bell and is one lap away from a quite superb stage win.

02:02 PM

16.5km to go

Alex Dowsett is hunched over his bars, assuming the best time trial position he can. Remember, he has team-mate Matthias Brändle in the chasing group, the Austrian could either counter-attack should Dowsett’s attempt flounder, or disrupt the chase. 

02:00 PM

17.9km to go

Alex Dowsett, the British time trial champion, has clipped off the front and has put a few seconds between himself and the quintet he has spent most of the day with. With the steep incoming climb , Dowsett probably needs to gain 20 or 30 seconds if he is to take the stage win.

01:59 PM

18km to go

The peloton is very much on the final circuit. Matthias Brändle, Alex Dowsett and Simone Ravanelli, meanwhile, have bridged over to the stage leaders.

01:57 PM

20km to go

Matthew Holmes, Salvatore Puccio and Joey Rosskopf are working well together, riding through-and-off. Holmes reaches into his rear pocket, taking a late hit of fuel ahead of what could be the biggest day of the 26-year-old Briton’s career.

01:55 PM

22.5km to go

Matthew Holmes, Salvatore Puccio and Joey Rosskopf lead the stage, team-mates Matthias Brändle and Alex Dowsett trail by 11sec and have Simone Ravanelli for company.

01:53 PM

24km to go

Joey Rosskopf has bridged over to Salvatore Puccio and Matthew Holmes. The leading trio now have a lap of Vieste to complete, but there’s a steep little dig that pitches up to over 15 per cent which may prove to be where the stage is won.

01:51 PM

25km to go

Salvatore Puccio and Matthew Holmes lead; Joey Rosskopf is fighting to chase the pair down. Simone Ravanelli has Alex Dowsett for company.

01:50 PM

25.5km to go

The breakaway is on the outskirts of Vieste and the road is pitching up. Salvatore Puccio and Matthew Holmes move to the front, Matthias Brändle is dropped as is team-mate Alex Dowsett.

01:46 PM

29km to go

All back as one on the front, the six-man group appears twitchy as the riders eye each other, waiting for the next attack. Will Israel Start-up Nation deliver attack-after-attack in an attempt to break the others, and can one of the newest teams in the WorldTour land their biggest win yet?

01:44 PM

29.5km to go

Alex Dowsett and Salvatore Puccio have a few bike lengths on Matthias Brändle, Matthew Holmes, Simone Ravanelli and Joey Rosskopf.

01:43 PM

30km to go — Dowsett attacks!

As the road kicks up, the Essex boy Alex Dowsett attacks, taking with his former team-mate Salvatore Puccio and Matthew Holmes.

Alex Dowsett – GETTY IMAGES

01:39 PM

35km to go 

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is spotted dropping back to his team car, but I don’t think there’s any real issue with him. Further up the road, Simone Ravanelli stops for a bike change. All calm at the moment, but you would have to assume that Israel Start-up Nation will soon be starting to think about launching an attack, possibly once within the final 15 or 20 kilometres of the stage.

01:29 PM

40km to go

Matthias Brändle, Alex Dowsett, Matthew Holmes, Salvatore Puccio, Simone Ravanelli or Joey Rosskopf? One of these riders will be winning this stage today, but who? With two riders in the breakaway you would expect that Israel Start-up Nation would be confident of winning their first ever stage in a grand tour, but can they pull it off? Equally, British fans will be hoping that either Dowsett or Holmes can give them a boost with the win. Puccio, Ravanelli and Rosskopf, however, will be in no mood to hand out any gifts.

01:25 PM

43km to go

Alex Dowsett goes over the second and final categorised climb of the day first to add to open his account in the mountains classification, while British compatriot Matthew Holmes is second. As a result, Holmes climbs up to third in the virtual standings. 

01:16 PM

The win will be coming from the breakaway . . .

 . . . it’s official . . .

01:12 PM

50km to go

The breakaway’s advantage increases to 10min 30sec.

01:03 PM

55km to go

Of the six riders in the breakaway, only one — Alex Dowsett — has won a stage at the Giro, a time trial back in 2013, while two of them — Matthew Holmes and Salvatore Puccio — have no professional victories to their name. Puccio , of course, has spent his entire career riding for Team Sky/Ineos Grenadiers and so has not really had the chance as he has, in general, been on duties as a gregario

12:55 PM

Brambilla crashes!

Another crash as the road veered slightly to the right. Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) went down, as did Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane).

Gianluca Brambilla – GETTY IMAGES

The race doctor spoke briefly with Carboni, while Brambilla ​was handed a new helmet from his team car after one of Vincenzo Nibali’s key helpers presumably damaged it it the fall. 

12:51 PM

60km to go

The breakaway has gained a few more seconds on the peloton and it is starting to look as if the stage winner may come from the sextet.

12:45 PM

Bella vista!

12:41 PM

68km to go

And breath. Trek-Segafredo ease off the pace a little, allowing Astana et al to get back on. However, that brief effort form the Astana boys will have caused a little bit of unwanted stress for Jakob Fuglsang ahead of tomorrow’s mountainous stage.

12:37 PM

70km to go

Canadian rider Alexander Cataford (Israel Start-Up Nation) is looking pretty bashed up, carrying cuts and bruises down his left arms and upper leg. Cataford is currently in the second group on the road along with Jakob Fuglsang and another 30 or so riders. However, they are trailing by 45sec on Trek-Segafredo.

12:34 PM

72km to go

Julien Bernard is riding hard on the front of the peloton for Trek-Segafredo and as a result the gap on the breakaway has closed to eight minutes. Unless Trek-Segafredo knock it off by a click or two, then Jakob Fuglsang will have to burn a few more matches to get back on.

12:30 PM

75km to go

The breakaway’s advantage has dropped very slightly as Trek-Segafredo push on at the front of the peloton. Coincidentally, the increase in pace from the wily old shark that is Vincenzo Nibali came at around the same time as Jakob Fuglsang’s puncture.

12:25 PM

Gastauer abandons the Giro

Less than 24 hours after Ag2r-La Mondiale lost Tony Gallopin, Ben Gastauer has been forced to abandon following that crash.

12:23 PM

Fuglsang punctures! 

Jakob Fuglsang punctured on the descent, but he manages to take a rapid wheel change. The Dane who had a disappointing opening weekend, but now stands a very good chances of winning his first grand tour after Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates abandoned, has Astana team-mate Fabio Felline for company as they chase back on.

12:17 PM

84km to go

Filippo Fiorelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) hits the deck after what appeared to be a touching of the wheels. Ben Gastauer (Ag2r-La Mondiale) also went down and the 32-year-old looks to be in pain.

Vincenzo Nibali and his Trek-Segafredo team-mates shift towards the front of the peloton on the descent. Does the Shark smell blood?

Vincenzo Nibali —   – GETTY IMAGES

12:15 PM

90km to go

The breakaway is descending over the Monte Sant’Angelo with the azzurri Adriatic Sea glistening in the distance. All six are working pretty well together. If a rider or team in the peloton wants to challenge for the stage win today, then they really need to start thinking about eating away at their 10-minute lead. 

The approach to Vieste (see above) is twisty, but not too technical.

Around 10km to go there is a sharp kicker, followed by a gradual descent before the road rises again.

12:04 PM

94.5km to go

Bang on cue, Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-up Nation) falls out of the back of the peloton as this climb starts to take its toll on the sprinter.

12:03 PM

95km to go

The breakaway is almost at the summit of the Monte Sant’Angelo. Although some of the sprinters are starting to drop back through the peloton, the gap between the two is holding at 10min 15sec.

11:49 AM

100km to go

The breakaway is edging its way up the category two category Monte Sant’Angelo. At around nine kilometres in length at an average gradient of 6.1 per cent it may not look the hardest ascent in the world, but after moving from the panflat road to these sort of climbs, the switch in gearing can occasionally bite.

The six-man breakaway’s lead has increased a little having nudged a little north of 10 minutes on this lovely looking climb with a handful of switchbacks, while Deceuninck-Quick Step, the team of Portuguese race leader Joao Almeida, are sat on the front of the peloton as they protect the maglia rosa.

11:41 AM

103km to go

Matthew Holmes took the lion’s share of the points at the intermediate sprint, before around 10 minutes later Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) rolled over ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) fairly easily to extend his lead in that particular competition.

11:30 AM

As it stands . . .

On what looks like a very pleasant afternoon for a bike ride down in Puglia, a six-man breakaway comprising Matthias Brändle (Israel Start-up Nation), Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-up Nation), Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal), Salvatore Puccio (Ineos Grenadiers), Simone Ravanelli (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Joey Rosskopf (CCC) lead the stage by almost 10 minutes.

Salvatore Puccio sits on the front of the breakaway, ahead of Matthias Brändle, Alex Dowsett and Joey Rosskopf – GETTY IMAGES

Incidentally, horse meat is often found in the area the riders are riding though today, and there is some serious horsepower in this sextet of riders that clipped off the front after around 25 kilometres. There are two former hour record holders, Israel Start-up Nation team-mates Brändle and Dowsett, while Rosskopf ​is a two-time US national time trial champion. Holmes, the 26-year-old Briton, is making his grand tour debut and won the queen stage at the Tour Down Under — on Willunga Hill — back in January.

Apparently, the last time Brändle and Dowsett got in a breakaway together — at the Tour of Britain in 2014 — the Austrian won the stage while Dowsett went into the leader’s jersey. In order for that to happen again today, Dowsett will have to finish 1hr 14min 32sec ahead of maglia rosa Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick Step). Somehow I don’t think that is going to happen. The highest placed rider in the breakaway is Puccio who stated the stage in 76th spot, 34min 30sec behind Almeida.

11:00 AM

Afternoon all

And welcome to our live rolling blog from stage eight at the Giro d’Italia, the 200km run that heads north from Giovinazzo up along the Adriatic coast before concluding in the hill-top town of Vieste.

Today’s stage is one of two halves: the opening 90km stretch is panflat, before the route cuts inland and towards the category two Monte Sant’Angelo where 18, 8, 6, 4, 2 and 1 point will be available to the first six over the summit in the race for the mountains jersey. The second climb — Guardiola — is significantly easier and so the leading trio over the top will take 3, 2 and 1 points respectively.

Giro d’Italia 2020, stage eight profile — Giro d’Italia 2020 route: How to watch live TV coverage and follow the race stages

Here are the leaders in the four main classifications, those that are awarded jerseys — the maglia rosa (pink), maglia ciclamino (cyclamen), maglia azzurra (blue) and maglia bianca (white).

Today’s stage got under way at 10.33am (BST) and, as it stands, there is a six-man breakaway leading. Our liveblog starts at 12.30pm. 

By the way, there were five non-starters after Edoardo Affini (Mitchelton-Scott), Sean Bennett (EF Pro Cycling), Tony Gallopin (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Patrick Gamper (Bora-Hansgrohe) all sustained injuries during Friday’s stage. The big news of the day, however, was the departure of Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) who was forced to abandon after testing positive for Covid-19.

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