British time-trial champion Alex Dowsett claimed stage eight of the Giro D’Italia yesterday as Sir Bradley Wiggins closed the gap on his general classification rivals.
The Olympic champion was expected to claw some time back on the 54.8-kilometre time trial from Gabicce Mare to Saltara following Friday’s fall but could only finish ten seconds behind Movistar rider Dowsett in second.
Wiggins suffered an early puncture which saw him lose time but the Team Sky man was strong in the second half of his ride and moved up to fourth in the GC, one minute and 16 seconds behind leader Vincenzo Nibali.
Astana’s Nibali claimed the pink jersey as he finished the stage 21 seconds behind Dowsett in fourth after a sensational ride and Wiggins will have been disappointed to only gain 11 seconds on one of his major rivals.
Nibali’s Astana team-mate Tanel Kangert completed the top three on stage eight, with Cadel Evans (BMC) making big strides as he finished seventh.
The Australian, who won the Tour de France in 2011, moved up to second in the GC and sits 29 seconds behind Nibali with Blanco’s Robert Gesink a further 46 seconds behind in third place, one second ahead of Wiggins.
“It was bloody hard, it was real difficult to get into the rhythm,” Dowsett told Cycling Weekly website. “I had to throw my usual riding watts out the window, it was the case of putting power down when I could and taking rests when I could. It was so technical, so bloody hilly, I’ve never ridden a time trial like that.”
Tour de France champion Wiggins admitted he was disappointed not to have won the stage in his favourite discipline, but has not given up hope of claiming the maglia rosa.
“The second part of the course was really suited to me and I took back a lot of time on people there,” he said. “It’s put us right back up there now. It’s going to be a hell of a race for the next two weeks.”
He added: “There are two weeks to go. The last week’s going to be very difficult and the time gaps are relatively small still. A minute and 16 to Nibali still with all the problems yesterday isn’t that bad, it’s all to play for. It’s not easy to defend a Grand Tour lead so it’s not a bad position to be in. We’re still here and we’ve got three guys [from Sky] in the top ten now. We’ve got a few cards to play.”