A difficult day to predict, Stage 8 is another intermediate challenge for the peloton ahead of their arrival upon the footsteps of this year’s first serious mountaintop battles. Totalling 189km as it makes its way from Molfetta to Peschici, the route features both a Category 2 and Category 4 ascent to punctuate the racing, though some of the most intense riding is expected during the opening 85km as the breakaway attempts to form. With a punchy finale which would normally suit the classics specialists, in their absence, it will be somewhat of a lottery as to who will be in contention as the race comes down to the final kilometres.
Omar Fraile may prove to be the best bet for Team Dimension Data now Nathan Haas looks to have become ill in the last day or so. Fraile arrives here off the back of an extremely strong performance at the Tour of Yorkshire, suiting this rolling run into the finish line at Peschici. Strong enough to attack solo from a breakaway, he will be a dangerous rider if allowed to open up too great a gap upon his rivals.
Dario Cataldo could be given the chance to throw his hat in the ring on Stage 8, his explosive finishing abilities being hard to match on the uphill drag to the line. Astana are certainly on the hunt to secure a stage victory as soon as possible, with the profile of today an appealing prospect for Cataldo to potentially perform upon.
José Gonçalves would normally have been a regular face in the breakaways by now, but his recent move to Team Katusha – Alpecin has clearly reduced his freedom to animate contests like today. Regardless, this might not even prove a tough enough challenge to catch his eye, though he remains a strong contender if able to join the breakaway.
Enrico Battaglin once possessed a strong reputation for competing convincingly on parcours such as these, but at this year’s Giro d’Italia, the native rider appears to be happy to focus upon contesting the reduced sprint finishes when possible. Should he manage to feature as part of a racing deciding move, then Battaglin certainly has the experience to convert his presence into a stage win.
Michael Woods shall be fired up to join the move today, especially as Cannondale – Drapac were surprisingly absent from the move on Stage 6 which eventually decided the day’s winner. The Canadian rider has a developing talent for the steep gradients which feature late on in the race and could prove unmatchable if at the fore during the final moments of Stage 8.
Other riders who could feature in this lottery are Adam Yates, Luis Leon Sanchez, Rui Costa, Pello Bilbao and Adam Hansen.
1st Omar Fraile 2nd Michael Woods 3rd Enrico Battaglin
Outsider: Fernando Gaviria