(Reuters) - Home favourite Gianluca Brambilla seized the Giro d’Italia leader’s jersey from a struggling Tom Dumoulin after a brilliant ride on stage eight in Umbria on Saturday.
One minute and 56 seconds behind Dutchman Dumoulin at the start of the 186km stage from Foligno to Arezzo, Etixx Quick Step rider Brambilla was rewarded for an audacious attack on the dirt road leading up the Alpe di Monti climb.
Part of an 11-man break, the Italian surged away and stayed comfortably ahead of compatriot Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale) to cross the line one minute and six seconds ahead.
On a day of searing pace (averaging 43.9km/h), Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) had a torrid time and suffered badly on the day’s final dusty climb where spectators had cleared nails thrown down on the course earlier in the day.
He lost touch with a chasing group that included pre-race favourites Vincenzo Nibali, Michel Landa and Alejandro Valverde and struggled home nearly three minutes behind Brambilla.
It was Brambilla’s first Grand Tour stage win and he now leads by 23 seconds from Russian Ilnur Zakarin going into Sunday’s ninth stage, a 40.5km individual time trial from Radda to Greve.
“It’s difficult to believe what happened. I don’t know how long it will last but I’ll enjoy this,” Brambilla, who was well-supported in the break by team mate Matteo Trentin, said.
“This win is for my girlfriend and my baby girl, who was born last month!”
Dumoulin, who said he had no energy during the stage, dropped out of the top 10 overall and said he would have to improve significantly if he is to repair some of the damage in the time trial.
“If you look at the situation right now, we are going back to plan A and that was winning the time trials,” he said.
“Maybe tomorrow I am back in pink and we will think differently about the situation. It is difficult to say at this moment.
“It wasn’t the plan before to go for the general classification and now at least 20 riders were better than me on the climb today.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ian Chadband