Thomas De Gendt won stage eight of the Giro d’Italia as Guillaume Martin used a breakaway to vault his way up to fourth in the overall standings.
De Gendt accelerated past Davide Gabburo and Jorge Arcas with 200 metres to go on the seafront in Napoli to get his reward for splitting up the break and carrying clear a four-man group which also included his Lotto-Soudal team-mate Harm Vanhoucke.
Cofidis’ Martin followed the pre-stage favourites Mathieu van der Poel and Biniam Girmay 33 seconds down, three minutes ahead of the chasing peloton to move up from 14th in the general classification to fourth, now 66 seconds behind Trek-Segafredo’s Juan Pedro Lopez who held on to pink going into Sunday’s stage on Blockhaus.
This short, punchy 153km stage on a circuit around Napoli was always expected to produce attacking racing, and Van der Poel and Girmay were quick to get themselves in the early breakaway.
Stage one winner Van der Poel tried to go solo with 46km still to go, but De Gendt led a counter which successfully got clear, and would stay away despite a furious attempt from Van der Poel and Girmay to get back inside the last 10km.
“Mathieu attacked on the steep part on the second to last lap and went really hard but we made it back and made an attack,” De Gendt said. “We knew everyone would look to Van der Poel and Girmay to close the gap so we took the advantage and they stayed at 30 seconds back.
“I was working for Harm to attack on the last climb but he said he did not have good legs so I said to him, ‘Ride to the last 3km and I’m sure I will win the sprint’ and he did it perfectly. I’m happy we could pull this off as a team.”
Lopez’s Trek-Segafredo did their best to control the gap to the peloton given Martin’s presence, and just did enough to keep him in pink before Sunday’s stage, when a major shake-up to the general classification is expected. Britain’s Simon Yates is the best placed of the main favourites, fifth, one minute and 42 seconds off pink.
This was De Gendt’s second career Giro stage, 10 years after he took his first on very different terrain on the Stelvio.
“If you had asked me two weeks ago if I would be able to win a stage in the Giro I would say no, I was in such terrible shape,” he said. “But now the good legs are coming.”