Giro 2013 stage 8: Dowsett wins time trial

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Alex Dowsett (Movistar) proved his time trial prowess by winning the long individual time trial at the Giro d’Italia, as Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali moved into the overall lead. Dowsett beat out Bradley Wiggins (Sky) by 10 seconds and Tanel Kangert (Astana) by 14 seconds for the win.

Bradley Wiggins did his best to make the stage more exciting. He started out slowly, and changed bikes early on having suffered a flat tire, losing time. He was further back than expected at the first intermediate time check, but picked up both speed and confidence on the second half of the course, and came in only 10 seconds behind Dowsett.

Nibali rode a very strong time trial, claiming the best time at the first time check, but slowed down enough on the second half to drop to fourth on the stage, but it was enough to give him the coveted maglia rosa, his main goal.

The overall rankings tumbled around, with Nibali now ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC) by 29 seconds, with Robert Gesink (Blanco) third at 1:15. Wiggins made another huge jump to fourth place, one second behind Gesink, with Michele Scarponi (Lampre) fifth at 1:24, and Garmin-Sharp’s Ryder Hesjedal dropping to sixth at 2:05.

Yesterday’s maglia rosa winner Benat Intxausti (Movistar) fought valiantly, but this was not his discipline, and he dropped out of the top ten, losing over four minutes on the day.

How it happened

Australian Jack Bobridge (Blanco) was the first to take to the difficult course.

Best times changed regularly in the first part of the race, until Movistar’s Alex Dowsett, British time trial champion, hit the course. He set a new best time at the 26 km intermediate time check, and then blistered his way on the second half of the course, hitting the finish line in a time of 1:16:27.

The weather has been a major factor in recent days – specifically, the rain – but fortunately the predicted rain did not appear and the riders were again treated to sunshine.

The first two-thirds of the parcours were rolling, giving way to about 20km of flat. The last five kilometres went up a steep climb with gradients of up to 13 percent.

Dowsett’s early time looked good, but little by little the coming riders nibbled at his lead.

All eyes turned to the start house at 15:08, as Bradley Wiggins (Sky) took off. After his crash the day before, many observers had questions as to his mental state at the moment. He looked to be riding more cautiously than normal, even on the dry and smooth roads.

Wiggins soon caught his one-minute man, Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini). But his run of bad luck continued, as he punctured some 18 minutes into the day. He causally threw the bike off the side of the road, but at the last second remembering to grab his water bottle, and then jumped on to a new bike, losing several precious seconds along the way.

The first indication of how things would go came as Wiggins crossed under the first intermediate time check. He had only the sixth fastest time, at 37:12, which was 52 seconds behind Dowsett, who still had the best time. Ominously, both of his Colombian teammates, Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran had better times at that checkpoint.

Dowsett’s first moment of nervousness came with Astana’s Tanel Kangert, who threatened the best time. The Estonian missed out by 14 seconds, though.

Wiggins seemed to settle down and rode significantly better on the second half of the stage, making up a lot of time on the flat section and charging up the hill. Dowsett heaved a sigh of relief as his countryman crossed the line in 1:16:37, putting Wiggins 10 seconds down in second place.

While it looked like Dowsett had the stage win in his pocket, the real waiting had just begun. Wiggins’ rivals for the ultimate overall title had started much later, and were all still on the road, and it remained to be seen how much time who would lose and who would make up.

That question was soon answered, as Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) surprisingly set a new best time at the first time check, topping Dowsett by 8 seconds (and Wiggins by a whole minute). And Michele Scarponi put in a massive effort to finish only 53 seconds down on Dowsett.

Cadel Evans (BMC), too put on a strong show, finishing only 39 seconds down on Dowsett to move into the virtual overall lead. But defending champion Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Sharp surprisingly finished over two minutes down, 18th on the stage.

Nibali lost time on the second half of the course, and Dowsett watched the happenings nervously from the hot seat which he had occupied for so long. The Italian made it close, but was unable to hit the best time at the end. He finished fourth, 21 seconds down.

By then Dowsett finally could realize his success, as pink jersey Benat Intxausti was never a threat and came in 41st, some four minutes down.