Veteran Australian Cadel Evans replaced compatriot Michael Matthews in the overall leader’s pink jersey following the 179km eighth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday from Foligno to Montecopiolo.
The 37-year-old Evans, Tour de France champion in 2011 and third in this race last year, came fifth in the stage, eight seconds adrift of Italian Diego Ulissi, who won his second stage of this year’s race.
“The stage went just as we had hoped even if we were a little tired from the previous days,” Evans said. “A two-second lead on a climber such as [Nairo] Quintana [who is 1.45 seconds behind in the classification]... I am very satisfied with the first week. It would have been hard to hope for better.”
“But the Giro is long. Who do I have to look out for? Again, it’s too early because there plenty of good riders within two minutes,” Evans said.
Evans also praised the work of Swiss teammate Steve Morabito, who is fourth overall.
“Steve was really the man of the day for us,” the Australian said. “The team was going all day and he was there all the way to the finish.”
Matthews, who had led for a week, was already a quarter-of-an-hour behind approaching the final climb, which was 6.4km long.
Evans, who saw one of his main rivals for overall victory Joaquim Rodriguez crash out on Thursday when he broke three ribs, holds a lead of 57 seconds over Colombian Rigoberto Uran, while Polish rider Rafal Majka is third, 1 minute, 10 seconds adrift.
Ulissi, who won the fifth stage on Wednesday, came home ahead of Croatian Robert Kiserlovski, with Wilko Kelderman of the Netherlands third.
It was the 24-year-old’s third career stage win in the race.
Frenchman Pierre Rolland had seen victory snatched from his hands 250m from the line after he had chased down and passed Colombian Julian Arredondo.
Arredondo had been part of a group that had escaped from the peloton early in the stage and he had gone clear on the first climb of the stage.