Domenico Pozzovivo won the eighth stage of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday after a strong ride on the tough uphill finish, while Ryder Hesjedal retained the overall lead.

Pozzovivo made the break just under 4.35 miles from the finish of the grueling 142.3 mile leg from Sulmona to Lago Laceno, to win in 6 hours, 6 minutes, 5 seconds.

The Italian Colnago-CSF Inox rider was 23 seconds ahead of Movistar's Benat Intxausti.

"It's not possible, I can't believe it," Pozzovivo said. "I've been dreaming of this since last autumn. And it happened how I wanted it to, with a clear victory. I rode beside (Movistar cyclist Giovanni) Visconti and I told him I'm going now and we'll see each other after the finish. Giovanni laughed at me and just said try not to bring anyone close to you ... that's what I did and I realized my dream."

Joaquin Rodriguez led the peloton over the line 27 seconds after Pozzovivo to close the gap on Hesjedal to nine seconds in the overall standings.

"Today again I felt in a good shape," Rodriguez said. "The uphill was hard and the group didn't face it full gas, because the attacks were not from riders in a good position in the overall standings. Since this competition is still long, nobody wanted to force the pace."

Defending champion Michele Scarponi moved up into 12th, 54 seconds behind Hesjedal, while two-time winner Ivan Basso is in sixth, 40 seconds behind the Garmin-Barracuda cyclist.

Andrey Amador, Julien Berard, Tomasz Marczynski and Miguel Minguez broke early and had an advantage of 11 minutes about 62.14 miles into the stage.

However, as expected, the stage was decided on the ascent of the category 2 Colle Molella climb to the finish. The 6.15 mile climb has an average gradient of 6.0 percent and includes several hairpin turns with gradients of between 10 percent and 12 percent.

Pozzovivo timed his attack to perfection, just under two miles from the top of the climb and powered ahead to claim the victory. Now he's looking forward to the other big climbs later in the race.

"I would like to do well at the Piani dei Resinelli (on stage 15) and the Stelvio (on stage 20)," he said. "The Stelvio Pass is a bit like home for me. Seeing as it's been a long while that I haven't raced it I know they are waiting for me and I don't want to disappoint them."

RadioShack's Daniele Bennati had a fever and did not start. Neither did Dennis van Winden, who had a knee problem. Eight riders have quit the Giro after Gianni Meersman pulled out on Saturday and Pablo Lastras Garcia, Tyler Farrar, Thor Hushovd and Romain Feillu retired on Friday.

The Giro continues Monday with a sprinter's stage, the 106.26 mile leg from San Giorgio del Sannio to Frosinone.

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