Ben Healy claims first Grand Tour win with impressive ride on stage eight of the 2023 Giro d'Italia
Ben Healy (EF Education EasyPost) won stage eight of the Giro d'Italia 2023 thanks to a long range attack on a climb that suited a man who'd excelled in the hilly Classics just a few weeks ago.
With around 50km left to the finish, Healy left his breakaway companions behind and rode strongly to gain a gap. The Irish rider was further aided by the discord in the group, which meant the chase was never particularly coordinated.
That's not to take anything away form Healy's ride, he was clearly the strongest breakaway rider on the day and took the chance when it presented itself.
By the time he crossed the finish line, he was almost two minutes ahead of the next rider.
Behind them the GC race was getting lively thanks to Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) attacking and dropping Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step). Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) sat on Roglic for a while before pulling in the final few hundred metres.
Arguably, they could have come through sooner to gain more time on Evenepoel, who will be expected to better them all on tomorrow's time-trial.
Giro d'Italia 2023 stage eight: how it happened
A frenetic start saw the peloton averaging almost 50km/h despite an early climb. This was due to the scrap to get in the day's breakaway, as several different group iterations went up the road only to be brought back soon after.
For a time early on, live footage lingered on Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) speaking to a race official through the window of their car. The tone and content of the conversation was hard to gauge from the motorcycle view.
Eventually a group did form and built a gap. That gap was allowed to grow soon after Remco Evenepoel's Soudal Quick-Step teammates rode up and had a conversation with race leader Andreas Leknessund (DSM). Perhaps they were discussing their favourite pasta shapes, but most likely it was suggested to Leknessund that a group containing no one of threat to the pink jersey could be allowed a bit more leeway, which in turn would have allowed an increased level of calm in the bunch.
Dropping under 100km to go and with the advantage above 4:25, the breakaway was made up of 13 riders: Valentin Paret-Peintre, Oscar Riesebeek, Samuele Battistella, François Bidard, Ben Healy, Mattia Bais, Alessandro Tonelli, Derek Gee, Carlos Verona, Warren Barguil, Alessandro Iacchi, Filippo Zana and Toms Skujins.
The most credit, early on at least, should go to Riesebeek for the huge solo effort he put in to join the group.
On the climb of I Cappuccini, which wouldn't have looked out of place in an Ardennes Classic, Healy – a man who had excelled at those races a few weeks ago – attacked and went clear to ride through the finish line alone. At this point he had a lap of the circuit to go but would have been hoping he could hold the chase off for remaining 45km and ride through the line first and solo again – and so it was.
While Healy's advantage grew, thanks both to his efforts but also due to discord in the group he was riding away from, Roglic put his Jumbo-Visma team to work to whittle down the pink jersey group.
Jumbo were replaced by a Pavel Sivakov-led Ineos train over the slopes until flatter terrain calmed things down a bit.
Evenepoel's day brightened a bit when four of his teammates were able to regroup in front of him, all the while Roglic's domestiques kept the pressure on hoping to wear everyone else down on a day-to-daybasis.
Bora-Hansgrohe fancied a go on the front, which Roglic and Evenepoel were both alive to. Also present was the pink jersey of Leknessund. Roglic went hard and took Lennard Kamna and Leknessund with him.
For a couple of hairpins, Evenepoel looked to have been dropped. He had to round a slowing Kamna and get out of the saddle to try and close to the pink jersey. The wearer of that was doing all he could to stay with Roglic, but the Slovenian gained a gap just as Remco joined and passed the overall race leader.
Several riders, including Thomas, caught Evenepoel as he looked to be in trouble. Teammates Thomas and Geoghegan Hart made it across to Roglic, chased by a group led by Evenepoel. By now, Leknessund was out of the shot but just clung on to the pink jersey.
Giro d'Italia 2023 stage eight results: Terni to Fossombrone (207km)
1. Ben Healy (Ire), EF Education EasyPost, in 4:44:24
2. Derek Gee (Can), Israel-Premier Teck, at 1:49
3. Filippo Zana (Ita), Jayco AlUla, at same time
4. Warren Barguil (Fra), Arkéa Samsic, at same time
5. Carlos Verona (Esp), Movistar, at 2:12
6. Mattia Bais (Ita), EOLO-Kometa, at 2:37
7. Tom Skujins (Lat), Trek-Segafredo, at 3:51
8. Alessandro Tonelli (Ita), Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè, at 3:56
9. Oscar Riesebeek (Ned), Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 4:00
10. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr), Ineos Grenadiers, at 4:34
General classification after stage eight
Andreas Leknessund (Nor) DSM, in 33:52:10
Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Soudal-Quick Step, at 00:08
Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 00:38
João Almeida (Por) UAE-Team Emirates, at 00:40
Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 00:52
Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 00:56
Aurelien Paret-Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroen, at 00:58
Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-hansgrohe, at 1:26
Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1:39
Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1:54