Defending a Maglia Rosa takes a team

How Trek-Segafredo's concerted effort kept the pink jersey safe through a tricky Stage 8 at the Giro d'Italia

The coveted pink jersey is on the shoulders of Juan Pedro Lopez, but it is teamwork that is helping keep it there.

In Saturday’s Stage 8 in the Giro d’Italia, a strong breakaway ensured that Trek-Segafredo could never ease off the pace from the peloton. With almost every team happy with the representation in the front, Trek-Segafredo had little help in controlling the gap. If they wanted to keep pink, they had to do the work.

One rider in the leading group – Guillaume Martin – sat just over four minutes from Juanpe’s lead. The Team maintained the gap to the leading group of 21, which also had Mattias Skjelmose for company, to under three minutes.

“It took a while to get the numbers in the break, and it was not the plan to have Mattias there, but when he was there, he could stay,” explained director Greggy Rast. “When we saw Martin was there and only 4 minutes behind, we set the pace and tried to keep it under control, but it was not easy because all the teams were fighting for positioning because of the tricky parcours.”

Everything was good until the heavy punchers in the breakaway started hitting in the last 40 kilometers. When the gap grew to within seconds of making Martin the virtual leader, it was too close for comfort. The order from the team car was simple.

“I said to the team that was still there – Eddie (Theuns) and Jacopo (Mosca) had already done a lot of work and were dropped – to pull. So Otto (Vergaerde), Bauke (Mollema), and we called Mattias back from the breakaway, pulled, and when the gap came down to three and half minutes, and Martin was a bit dropped in the front, we knew we had it under control,” continued Rast.

The Team’s effort decreased the distance between the front and bunch, nullifying one threat, but Lennard Kamna – 38 seconds behind Juanpe – tried to play off the Trek-Segafredo effort, hoping to catch the Team on its back foot.

But the Maglia Rosa was ready.  “In the meeting in the morning, we spoke about if Kamna attacks, that I need to follow. I had good legs again today, and I had no problem to follow him,” said Juanpe.

Rast added: “When Kamna attacked, our guys dropped a bit, which was not so good for us. Then Cicco also had to work a little to keep control. We did not get a lot of help from other teams, which is normal as it was not their business. If we want to keep the jersey, we need to pull. In the end, it was all good.”

It was all good:  Trek-Segafredo managed to keep the pink firmly in the Team – at least for one more day.

“At one point, I was a little worried about keeping the jersey. But I have a really, really good Team – my teammates, my staff, everyone made my day,” praised Juanpe. “Again, my teammates gave 100%, and we were able to have another day in pink. This jersey is not just mine – it’s the whole Team’s.”

Stage 9 is the first mountain summit test, and it’s a doozy, tackling the fearsome Blockhaus climb twice. The race heads up its steepest side to the finish line, and it will be the first significant GC fight of the race. Blockhaus will test everything the young Spaniard has in his arsenal.

“We will see tomorrow, and for sure I will give 100% like every day, and tomorrow after the stage we will see. If I keep the jersey, I will be very happy, but if I lose it, I am also happy. But I do my 200% on the road,” answered Juanpe.

If Lopez is feeling the pressure, he’s not showing it.  And he shouldn’t. He has already succeeded beyond his dreams in the 2022 Giro after finishing second in Stage 4 and claiming the Maglia Rosa.

If he takes the pink into the rest day, it would be the cherry on top of an already delicious cake. And, as always, it will be because of a Team effort.

“It has been a huge success so far. It is thanks to my Team that I can live this dream,” he ended.