Lago Laceno, Italy – Italian Domenico Pozzovivo of the Colnago team capped a superb solo performance with victory on the hilly eighth stage of the Giro d'Italia Sunday.
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal, of Garmin, retained the race leader's pink jersey despite struggling to keep pace with the chasing bunch on the final climb of the 229 km ride from Sulmona to Lago Laceno.
Diminutive, but known for his climbing skills, Pozzovivo attacked 2km from the summit of the Colle Molella, whose summit was around 7km from the finish of the stage, to open up a gap of around 30secs on the chasing bunch.
As some riders struggled with the pace, Spaniard Benat Intxausti of the Movistar team counter-attacked, and despite doing well to open up a gap on the peloton he finished second at 23secs behind Pozzovivo.
It was 29-year-old Pozzovivo's maiden win on the Giro on what is his sixth participation and comes after a notable overall win at the Tour of Trentino last month.
Overall victory contender Joaquim Rodriguez led the peloton over the finish line a few seconds later, with Hesjedal Ä who struggled on the steepest pitches of the Molella climb Ä just saving the race lead.
The 31-year-old Hesjedal, who became the first Canadian to wear the race's pink jersey when he took the race lead Saturday, now holds a lead of just nine seconds on Katusha rider Rodriguez.
The race's ninth stage on Monday takes the peloton back to flatter terrain for a 166 km ride between San Giorgio nel Sannio and Frosinone, to the south of Rome.
It should entice sprinters like Britain's world champion Mark Cavendish, who has already claimed two stage wins for Team Sky on this edition. – Sapa-AFP