In the early break after 31 kilometres Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) powered away solo on the final climb and descended into the Arezzo finish one minute and six seconds clear of Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale). 

Brambilla finished two minutes and 51 seconds ahead of maglia rosa Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), who was dropped on the final climb. It was enough for Brambilla to grab the race lead.  

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Extended highlights: Giro d'Italia Stage 8
Kittel leaves the Giro on a high
Having won two sprint stages and a stint in the maglia rosa leader’s jersey, Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) made an early exit from the 2016 Giro d’Italia after Stage 8 to focus on other goals later in the year.

The winning Italian's attack came at the start of the white Tuscan gravel and countered Montaguti's at 26 kilometres to go, the foot of the climb. He bridged the gap to Montaguti and the soon to be dropped Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini). Montaguti was later joined by third-placed Moreno Moser (Cannondale) and fifth finisher Alessandro de Marchi (BMC). 

These five were part of a 13 rider breakaway which held the lead until Montaguti's attack, their advantage three minutes and 36 seconds.

Brambilla, who finished third in February's Strade Bianche, had his sights set on the white roads. 

"My idea at the beginning of the Giro was to focus on today's stage and I've made it but I cannot believe that I've done it.

"I have to thank Matteo Trentin...I was the rider who initiated the breakaway but he did most of the work until I rode away in the steep part of the climb.

"Everything is going well for me this year. The birth of my daughter Asia twenty days ago has also changed my life. It's beautiful," he said. 

It was an emotional podium for Brambilla, becoming the first Italian leader of this year's race and marking the third major victory of his professional career.

“The Maglia Rosa is new to me but I’m not new among the top contenders," said the 28-year-old.

"This year, I’m more confident in my capacities. I want to do a good Giro. The Maglia Rosa wasn’t part of the plan but that’s always hard to plan, although it has always been my dream."

Brambilla will do his best to hold on to the leader's jersey in tonight's 40.5km individual time trial, but he is realistic about his chances.

"Being 58kg, I’m not exactly a time trial specialist but I did well at Barolo two years ago and tomorrow’s course is a facsimile of that one. I’ll ride flat out and if I lose the Maglia Rosa, it won’t be a drama. There’ll still be two more weeks of racing to come, and some very hard stages”. - Gianluca Brambilla

Sunday 15 May 2016

The top 10 significantly changed on Stage 8 after many overall classification hopefuls threw caution to the wind descending aggressively into Arezzo. 

While Tom Dumoulin finished two minutes and 51 seconds behind Brambilla on the stage, the time-trial specialist is likely to reduce his one minute and five seconds overall deficit in the Stage 9 40.5km ITT. 

“If you look at the situation right now, we are going back to plan A and that was winning the time trials. But right now I am just disappointed and I don’t want to think about it," said Dumoulin.

“Concerning the general classification, 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. Maybe it makes no sense to go for the overall classification but we will see."

Dumoulin has been clear from the beginning of the race that winning the Giro d'Italia was not in the original game plan and that he and his team will take battle for the maglia rosa day by day.

The days, however, have been taking their toll on the 25-year-old from the Netherlands, with Stage 8 being the most challenging so far.

“It was just a bad day for me today. I am already having a little saddle sore, since a few days. Yesterday I didn’t feel too good, but it wasn’t really a problem. Today it wasn’t like a big problem, but I just had no energy during the race.

“For tomorrow, if I have the same power that I had today, for sure I won’t be winning the time trial. I hope to recover well and I have a good performance.”

Further back in the field, but also with sights set firmly on the general classification, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked his fellow overall contenders and maglia rosa Dumoulin around the same mark as Brambilla's advance. 

“Having two team-mates into the breakaway, I thought it was worth to try it from the foot of the climb and going on full steam until the top… And it went well: they did a nice job and the whole squad's performance was phenomenal," said Valverde.

“Most GC rivals into the group were doing well, but Dumoulin was struggling, and my intention was to put as much time on him as possible, because he's the strongest of the GC field for the time trial. The rest looked pretty much at the same energy; Fuglsang also suffered a bit... it's pretty equal at the moment."

Valverde was happy to pull time on Dumoulin but knows that the tables can turn back around just as quickly.

"Even though he had a 'so-so' day, I still think Dumoulin can win the Giro. I didn't expect I could put such a gap into him, but I felt strong and didn't hesitate for a moment to try it. I'm happy with this result," he said.

"Tomorrow's TT will be really demanding. It's a route that suits me well; it's a technical, demanding one. I hope I can limit my losses and maybe gain some more time. I just hope I can find these good legs again tomorrow. I don't feel as the number one favourite in this Giro, not at all; many riders will be in the fight, and it will be a hard one."

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Mikel Landa (Sky) Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) held Valverde's wheel to the finish where they fought it out for line honours. 

The move saw Kruijswijk rise to third in the general classification behind Ilnur Zakarin (Katashua). Valverde now sits in fourth, with Nibali in fifth and Chaves moving up five places to sixth.

"I'm fine, and have always been in the top group. The condition is growing, and every day I'm getting better thinking also at the great mountains that we will found in the next two weeks.

"The time trial tomorrow is very challenging and difficult. I've already tried in March and is a constant up and down. We will have to fight until the end.” - Vincenzo Nibali

Tonight's 40.5km individual time trial features two climbs and a descent toward the finish line. With less than a minute separating the top ten the overall contenders will be working hard for every second they gain or lose on the road.

Esteban Chaves showed he is well in the mix for the overall general classification, sticking with the main contenders. While this wasn't a serious move cresting the Alpe di Pointi before his colleagues, it displayed his aggression.