THE pride of the Australian contingent at the Giro d’Italia has to call it quits with unfinished business, writes JOHN TREVORROW:
AUSTRALIAN pocket rocket Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) is out of the Giro d’Italia after winning Friday’s stage 7 in dominating style but then abandoning on stage 8 with knee pain.
Ewan had already made a huge impact on the event with two stage wins and was always going to withdraw early but probably not until after stage 13 which would have given him a realistic opportunity for two more.
However, his brilliant form should ensure that Australian fans have something exciting to look forward to come the Tour d France in July..
Stage 8 didn’t produce the fireworks many predicted. A nine man break finally got clear after 60 kms of constant attacking and an average speed of just under 50 kph. With no one in the break within 15 minutes of leader Hungarian Attila Valter, his Groupama-FDJ team let the leaders go to a maximum of seven minutes. With none of the GC teams in the main peloton looking to close it down the stage win was again going to go to the breakaway.
The 25-year-old Frenchman Victor Lafay (Cofidis) was the strongest of nine escapees on the final climb, chasing down the late attack from Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) two kms from the finish and then withstanding the late chase from Italian Francesco Gavazzi (Eolo-Kometa).
The 170 km stage from Foggia to Guardia Sanframondi contained a long but not so steep 20 km climb in the middle and a five kilometre short sharp finale where Ineos Grenadiers finally put the hammer down along with Israel Start-Up Nation. But tour leader Valter comfortably withstood the pressure to keep his pink jersey.
The only GC names that looked in trouble were Aussie Jai Hindley (Team DSM), who lost eleven seconds, and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious), who finished thirty seconds back. Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix) dropped from fifth to tenth.
Meanwhile at the Tour of Hungary Damien Howson (Team BikeExchange) had an emphatic solo win in stage four and looks set to keep the leaders jersey in the final stage in Budapest.