Sunday, July 23, 2017

They came tremendously close to their first stage win on Friday with Juanjo Lobato's second place in Fiuggi and Saturday finally brought the Movistar Team another prize to add to their permanent love story with the Giro d'Italia, thanks to Beñat Intxausti, The Basque rider rose his arms to the firmament in Campitello Matese to crown a really fought break from the very start of the 186km stage eight, the first real mountains of this edition.

A group of almost fifty riders leaving the peloton later left room to a more serious attack of twelve men, which rode broken into two echelons within a minute's distance. At the second one, Intxausti continued taking turns to keep the break's chances alive, the bunch letting them go to more than eight minutes before coming closer to less than 5' on the foot of the ascent (-13km) and dramatically approaching with the final attacks by Fabio Aru (AST), bravely resisted by a brilliant Ion Izagirre (11th), Visconti (12th) and Amador (13th) -the latter two still into the GC's top ten, 7th and 10th respectively-.

Intxausti broke the pursuit group together with Switzerland's Sébastien Reichenbach (IAM) and profited from Steven Kruijswijk's (TLJ) sinking at the front to take the lead and later attack his break companion with 3.5km to go. A supreme effort, with all race favourites just behind, led him to a solo victory dedicated to the late Xavi Tondo. Intxausti's win is the Movistar Team's 11th in the 'Corsa Rosa' since Telefónica took over as title sponsor. Beñat also wears the 'maglia azzurra' as King of the Mountains as of today's stage.

REACTION / Beñat Intxausti: For me, the most important thing in this Giro was winning stages, but I had that hope inside to fight for the GC, going day-by-day. Unfortunately, that all went ruined during the stage to La Spezia, and we started focusing purely on the stage wins. Happily, it all went well today. We knew the breakaway would stand a chance and that was visible at the start of the stage: we rode incredibly fast on a hard terrain, always up and down, and the peloton got shrunk to only 50 riders ahead. When we started the first long climb (Forca d'Acero), a ten-man group where I was got a gap and Tinkoff didn't have as many riders to control. It was a good break for us, but there were some serious rivals and we were doubtful if we could make it to the finish, also because there were some riders who could win time for the overall classification.

"We knew our gaps at all times, as well the ones to Kruijswijk and Betancur as the ones to the peloton behind, with the Astana riders pushing hard. We were thinking about where we should jump, and how to get rid of our rivals. I saw Reichenbach was riding strong from the foot of Campitello, since he was the only one who could follow me when I first attacked. He started to take less turns at the front and I changed my initial strategy: ride on his wheel and let him take bigger responsibility. With 4.5k to go, I saw he was struggling a bit and decided to jump away, because the GC riders were approaching really much. They got close, but I gave everything I had until the finish.

"I think the team did things perfectly up to this point of the race, even without a victory. Already in La Spezia, with Visconti y Amador; yesterday, with Lobato coming close; and today, practically the same - but the difference was that we won. Taking a stage in such an important event as the Giro is always difficult. We've already got it, which makes us calm for the rest of the Giro, but the guys are doing really well and I'm sure we'll get at least one more before the end of the Race. This one is a tribute to Xavi Tondo and my late grandpa, always looking after us from high above; my team, my family, friends and girlfriend. It's all easier thanks to them.

Now we're going day by day. I've got another personal goal I really like: the KOM jersey. I got the lead today and it'd be beautiful to snatch it at the end of the race. I'm conscious this will take a lot of energy, all the way to Milan. There's still a long race ahead."

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