Veteran Belgian rider Thomas De Gendt rolled back the years with victory in the Giro d’Italia eighth stage around Naples on Saturday with Spaniard Juan Pedro Lopez keeping the race leader’s pink jersey.
The 35-year-old Lotto rider won a sprint finish ten years after his first Giro stage win – which came on the top of the Stelvio when he finished third overall in the race through Italy.
On Saturday, De Gendt pipped three break-away rivals, Italian Davide Gabburo, Spaniard Jorge Arcas and compatriot Harm Vanhoucke after the 153km ride round the southern city of Naples.
“Some time ago, I didn’t think I would win a Grand Tour stage again but here we are,” said De Gendt who also has stage wins in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.
Trek rider Lopez retained the lead he grabbed last Tuesday on Mount Etna, with a 38-sec advantage on Germany’s Lennard Kamna, riding for Bora-Hansgrohe. Sunday’s 191km ninth stage ends with a summit finish at 1,665m altitude on Blockhaus, in the Abruzzo region.
“It was the plan that if Kamna attacked I had to follow him,” said Lopez.
“I retained the pink jersey thanks to the great work of my team-mates. I will need a lot of help tomorrow to stay in the lead. We’ll see.”
A breakaway group of 20 runners formed 14km into the race with Mathieu van der Poel accelerating heading into the last 50 km to split the group.
But the Dutchman, closely watched by Eritrean Biniam Girmay and the Swiss Mauro Schmid, had to let a counter-attack of Gabburo, De Gendt, Vanhoucke and Arcas develop a few moments later.
Under the impetus of De Gendt, the leading quartet maintained their lead until the final push to the finish line on the seafront in Naples.
De Gendt’s experience paid off against Gabburo and Arcas, both aged 29.
“I was working for Harm (Vanhoucke) so he could attack on the climb but, at the end, he said we should switch roles,” said the Belgian.
“I was sure I’d win the sprint of the four riders.”
The Belgian is one of 21 riders still on the circuit to have won a stage in all three Grand Tour races.
In 2016, he won a chaotic stage on Mont Ventoux in France when Britain’s Chris Froome crashed into a motorcyclist and had to run up the hill while awaiting a new bike.
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