Canadian Derek Gee, in his first Grand Tour, finishes runner-up in Stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia

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FOSSOMBORONE, Italy (CP-AP) — Canadian Derek Gee, competing in his first Grand Tour, finished runner-up to Irish rider Ben Healy in Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday.

The 25-year-old from Ottawa was part of a four-man breakaway, staying near the front despite a string of punishing climbs.

“It feels like a win. I’m over the moon," said Gee, who rides for the Israel-Premier Tech team. "Coming into this Giro, I thought I had no chance, I was just trying to survive and get experience so this is amazing. It’s really confidence inspiring to have the team believe in me and put me in a calendar like this so I’m really happy that I can validate that.”

After Healey pulled ahead, Gee led the three-man chase group out on the finish straight, launching his sprint with 200 metres to go.

"I don’t think even he realizes how a big a ride he did today and it won’t be the last time we see him ride like this,” said Sam Bewley, Israel-Premier Tech's sports director.

In the general classification competition, Primoz Roglic launched the first significant attack of the race and gained 14 seconds on overall rival Remco Evenepoel. Ineos teammates Tao Geoghegan Hart and Geraint Thomas also rode strongly.

Norway's Andreas Leknessund held onto the pink jersey despite losing a big chunk of time.

Roglic is a three-time Spanish Vuelta champion, GeogheganHart won the Giro in 2020 and Thomas won the 2018 Tour de France. Evenepoel won the Vuelta last year and is also the reigning world champion.

Healy got into an early breakaway and surged ahead in the finale on the first of two ascents up the short but steep Muro dei Cappuccini climb, which featured gradients of up to 19 percent. The Cappuccini climb was also where Roglic burst into action on the second ascent with six kilometres to go.

By the top of the climb, only Geoghegan Hart and Thomas were with Roglic, while Evenepoel was left behind, and Leknessund even further back. Leknessund’s overall lead ahead of Evenepoel was reduced to eight seconds, with Roglic surging up to third, 38 seconds back.

“It’s a relief to retain the maglia rosa (pink jersey) after such a strong effort at the end,” Leknessund said. “It was the fight I expected in the last climb. I probably wouldn’t have raced like that if I wasn’t wearing the maglia rosa.”

Joao Almeida is fourth overall, while Thomas and Geoghegan Hart moved up to fifth and sixth, respectively.

Canadians have made headlines at the Giro in the past.

Ryder Hesjedal won the race in 2012 and Svein Tuft wore the pink leader's jersey in 2014 after his Orica-GreenEdge squad won the opening team time trial. Including this year, a Canadian has taken part in the last 17 editions of the Giro.

Israel-Premier Tech's partners include Canadian-Israeli entrepreneur Sylvan Adams and fellow Canadians Jean Belanger and Kevin Ham.

Former Canadian cycling star Steve Bauer is one of the team's sports directors. Other Canadians involved include performance director Paulo Saldanha, coach Christopher Rozdilsky, soigneur (support staffer) Jon Adams and head mechanic Andreas Back Watt.

Saturday's 207-kilometre (129-mile) leg began in Terni and concluded in Fossombrone.

Healy, who rides for the EF Education-EasyPost team, finished one minutes 49 seconds ahead of Gee and Filippo Zanna.

“I went from far out but I thought this was the right move,” Healy said. “I didn’t want to lose my chance to win. I had good legs all along.”

Before the stage, the Ineos team announced that time trial specialist Filippo Ganna had withdrawn from the race after testing positive for the coronavirus and “displaying mild flu-like symptoms.”

It was unfortunate timing for Ganna, since Stage 9 on Sunday is the longest of the race’s three individual time trials, following an almost entirely flat 35-kilometre (22-mile) route from Savignano Sul Rubicone to Cesena near the Adriatic coast.

The race ends in Rome on May 28.


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