Giro d'Italia - Ulissi wins thriller as Evans takes pink jersey

Diego Ulissi won a thrilling stage eight of the Giro d’Italia as Cadel Evans took the overall race lead.

Giro d'Italia - Ulissi wins thriller as Evans takes pink jersey

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Italian rider Diego Ulissi, team Lampre Merida crosses the finish line to win the 8th stage of the 97th Giro d'Italia (AFP)

The Italian rider for the Lampre team took the victory ahead of Croat Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) in the final metres of the 174km stage from Foligno to Montecopiolo, the first mountain stage of the season-opening Grand Tour.

A thrilling finale on the category one climb of the Montecopiolo saw long-time Colombian leader Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) caught by Frenchman Pierre Rolland, only for the Europcar team leader to surrender the stage in the final 350 metres.

"I hung in there all day to stay in the leading group. Then I did a super sprint," said a delighted Ulissi.

Australian Evans, the 2011 Tour de France champion, had gained ground on his main rivals after dodging Thursday's crashes and further boosted his chances of a first Maglia Rosa by taking the jersey from compatriot Michael Matthews.

He finished six seconds back in fifth place, just behind Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands / Belkin) and Nairo Quintana (Colombia / Movistar) to take a 57 second lead on GC over Rigoberto Uran (Colombia / Omega Pharma - Quick-Step). Poland's Rafal Majka is third, 1:10 off the pace.

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Sunday's 172-km ninth stage is from Lugo to Testola.

TEN-MAN GROUP: Arredondo plus Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli), Julien Bérard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida), Mauro Finetto (Neri Sottoli), Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani CSF), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Carlos Quintero (Colombia) and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) were allowed to escape and built up a maximum lead of eight minutes and 30 seconds.

Pirazzi, Arredondo and Quemeneur went clear on the first category one climb of the Cippo di Carpegna with the Colombian, who would have been a GC contender had it not been for crashes earlier in the race, crossing the summit - with 35km remaining - alone.

Rolland attacked from the whittled down chase group ahead of the 9.3km long cat-2 Villaggio del Lago and caught the South American with 2.5km remaining as the Montecopiolo took its’ toll.

The Frenchman went under the Flamme Rouge ahead but the chase group had timed its’ chase to perfection with Ulissi joining Marcel Kittel and Nacer Bouhanni as a double stage winner in this year’s Giro with a perfectly timed burst.

BIG WINNER OF THE DAY: Cadel Evans ensured the race lead was maintained by an Australian.

BIG LOSER OF THE DAY: Michele Scarponi lost nine minutes, after suffering from a crash on Friday, and Fabio Aru will now lead Astana.

KEY MOMENT: The burst by Daniel Moreno in the final kilometre saw Rolland caught before a flurry of counter-attacks.

TALKING POINT: Ivan Basso keeping pace with Quintana, Evans, Domenico Pozzovivo at the front of the stage until almost the end.

COMING UP: Ulissi is a punchy rider like a young Damiano Cunego and Sunday’s stage could suit him again with a second category climb to the finish at Sestola.

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