By Paul Osborne
Cadel Evans today snatched the overall Giro d’Italia lead from fellow Australian Michael Matthews as Italy’s Diego Ulissi won the eighth leg to capture his second stage victory of this year’s race.
“I really didn’t expect the win,” he said.
“Of course, it was a difficult race today, too difficult, but I’m really, really happy.”
Trek Factory Racing’s Colombian climber Julián Arredondo led the race for most of the day as part of an early break away of 10 riders who managed to build a lead of more than eight minutes.
As the chasing peloton began to reign in the breakaways, Arredondo jumped on the ascent of the tough Cippo di Carpegna with 36.6km remaining and had a 36 seconds advantage over Stefano Pirazzi of Italy at the summit.
But the Colombian was finally reigned in on the day’s final climb, the Montecopiolo, as some of the favourites for overall victory showed their hand for the first time since Belfast.
Arredondo was caught by Frenchman Pierre Rolland 3km from the line and the pair were eventually swallowed up by the peloton in the closing kilometre of the brutal climb.
Spain’s Daniel Moreno then tried his hand, but he was passed by Arredondo’s Trek teammate Robert Kišerlovski of Croatia, who looked certain to take the win until Ulissi’s attack from nowhere in the closing 50m.
Former pink jersey wearer Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge was dropped on the day’s first climb, but he had never expected to be up in the mix on this stage.
In his stead came BMC rider Evans who finished fifth to cement a 57-second lead over Colombian Omega Pharma-Quick Step cyclist Rigoberto Urán, with Poland’s Rafał Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo in third.
“It has been a difficult Giro so far,” Evans said.
“There were a lot of tired legs in the group today.
“But we are in a good position at the moment and now we head further into the mountains we will see a different kind of race.”