The legendary Gavia – a 17-km (10-mi) climb all the way to 2.621 meters (8,599 ft) with an 8% average with steep pitches of 15%. The Gavia was the final challenge on the Queen Stage of the GiroBio aka the Baby Giro that awaited the field, but first they still had to climb the Passo del Ballino, the Durone Pass, the Campo Carlo Magno and the Passo del Tonale on the 168-km stage.
Seventh on GC at three minutes and three seconds down, American Joe Dombrowski knew that today was the day to put it on the line to reclaim for the leader’s jersey.
“Today we finish on the top of the Gavia, obviously it’s going to be the most decisive day and I think that even though the Russian still has a little bit of a gap I think it’s still possible to win the Giro.” Dombrowski said at the stage 8 sign-in in Lombardia. He added that he felt really good.
Dombrowski had already worn the leader’s pink jersey after wining the stage four days on another mountain-top finish up Monte Terminillo. But he lost it the next day with an ill-timed flat. Then he waited for the Gavia.
An early break of 14 riders escaped early in the stage while Dombrowski stayed in the field supported by his USA National Team. The break was down to one lone rider as the roads started to go up on the Gavia climb when Dombrowski attacked.
“It ended up being a really good day for me. I knew that if I wanted to win the overall and take the jersey back, I’d have to really put in some hard attacks on the climb. The Russian [Ilnur Zakarin] had quite an advantage coming into today. I had my teammate Larry Warbasse start to ride the front with 14 km to go or so. Then, I attacked, there were still 12 km and it was a long to go but I managed to get a gap and keep it. Now I’m back in the pink jersey.” Dombrowski said after the stage.
A small chase group was formed but Dombrowski held on for the victory and the maglia rosa. Fabio Aru (Team Palazzago) was second at 43 seconds and Matteo Serafino (Pref Montappone Vega) third at 2:55. Leader into the stage, Ilnur Zakarin of Russia finished more than five minutes down.
Soon after the stage, Dombrowski tweeted a thank you to his teammates.
With one stage to go, Dombrowski has a 25-second lead on Aru. Pierre Paul Penasa (Zalf Euromobil Fior) is in third at 1:10 down. The 123-km stage in Asiago is raced on a fairly flat 12-km circuit repeated 10 times.