FOSSOMBORONE, Italy (AP) — Primoz Roglic launched the first significant attack of the Giro d’Italia in Saturday’s undulating eighth stage and gained 14 seconds on overall rival Remco Evenepoel.
Ineos teammates Tao Geoghegan Hart and Geraint Thomas also rode strongly.
Irish rider Ben Healy won the stage with a solo breakaway, while Norway’s Andreas Leknessund held onto the pink jersey despite losing a big chunk of time.
Healy got into an early breakaway and surged ahead in the finale on the first of two ascents up the short but steep Muro dei Cappuccini climb, which featured gradients of up to 19%.
The Cappuccini climb was also where Roglic burst into action on the second ascent with six kilometers to go.
By the top of the climb, only Geoghegan Hart and Thomas were with Roglic, while Evenepoel was left behind, and Leknessund even further back.
Leknessund’s overall lead ahead of Evenepoel was reduced to eight seconds, with Roglic surging up to third, 38 seconds back.
“It’s a relief to retain the maglia rosa (pink jersey) after such a strong effort at the end,” Leknessund said. “It was the fight I expected in the last climb. I probably wouldn’t have raced like that if I wasn’t wearing the maglia rosa.”
Joao Almeida is fourth overall, while Thomas and Geoghegan Hart moved up to fifth and sixth, respectively.
Roglic is a three-time Spanish Vuelta champion, Geoghegan Hart won the Giro in 2020 and Thomas won the 2018 Tour de France. Evenepoel won the Vuelta last year and is also the reigning world champion.
Healy, who rides for the EF Education-EasyPost team, finished 1 minutes, 49 seconds ahead of Derek Gee and Filippo Zanna.
“I went from far out but I thought this was the right move,” Healy said. “I didn’t want to lose my chance to win. I had good legs all along.”
The 207-kilometer (129-mile) leg began in Terni and concluded in Fossombrone.
Before the stage, the Ineos team announced that time trial specialist Filippo Ganna had withdrawn from the race after testing positive for the coronavirus and “displaying mild flu-like symptoms.”
It was unfortunate timing for Ganna, since Stage 9 on Sunday is the longest of the race’s three individual time trials, following an almost entirely flat 35-kilometer (22-mile) route from Savignano Sul Rubicone to Cesena near the Adriatic coast.
The race ends in Rome on May 28.
AP sports coverage from Europe: https://apnews.com/hub/sports-europe and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.