MONTECOPIOLO, Italy (AP) — A final push from Diego Ulissi saw the Italian win a tough eighth stage as the Giro d'Italia took to the mountains on Saturday, while Cadel Evans ended Michael Matthews' grip on the overall lead.
Ulissi made his move inside the final 300 meters, bursting out of the peloton to edge Robert Kiserlovski for a second stage win in the race. Wilco Kelderman was third on the 179-kilometer (111-mile) leg from Foligno to Montecopiolo, which had two category one climbs, including the final ascent to the finish.
"It was a difficult race today, it was really too hard for my characteristics, but of course I am really happy," Ulissi said. Evans finished fifth to take the lead from fellow Australian Matthews, who had worn the pink jersey for six days.
Evans has a 57-second advantage over Rigoberto Uran, with Rafal Majka third. "We had hopes of what we could do," Evans said. "It's been a really difficult Giro for all sorts of reasons. We are in a good position at the moment. It was a hard stage with all the contenders there ... We still have huge mountains to go and the gaps there will be even more than today."
This year's Giro honors the 10th anniversary of Marco Pantani's death, and the eighth stage was one of three dedicated to him. There were many posters of Pantani along the route and a huge cutout of the Italian cyclist on the Carpegna climb, where he used to train.
Pantani won the Giro and Tour de France in 1998. He was found dead in a hotel room on Valentine's Day in 2004, and a coroner ruled he died from cocaine poisoning. Julian Arredondo led the race for most of the day as part of an early break of 10 riders who managed to build a lead of more than eight minutes.
That advantage diminished on the approach to the first climb. With an average gradient of 9.9 percent, and 14 percent at its steepest, the Carpegna was the first serious challenge of this year's Giro.
Arredondo jumped on the ascent with 36.6 kilometers (22.7 miles) remaining and had a 36-second advantage over Stefano Pirazzi at the summit, with a greatly reduced peloton crossing 1 minute, 57 seconds later.
Pierre Rolland attacked off the group on the descent but Arredondo still had an advantage of 1:10 over him at the start of the penultimate climb, with the peloton trailing by 2:40. Arredondo faded two kilometers from the finish, and Rolland continued on solo before being swept up by the peloton with 350 meters to go. Daniel Moreno jumped but he was passed by Kiserlovksi, who looked to take victory until Ulissi's attack from nowhere.
Sunday's ninth stage is a 172km leg from Lugo to Sestola, which ends in a category 2 climb to the finish.