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Buongiorno and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage seven of the Giro d'Italia. The 211km stage is from Frosinone, near Rome to Foligno in Umbria.
Hello from Italy. The riders are about to start the 211km in Frosinone. Many are battered and bruised after the crashes during stage six but are ready to race.
The sun is out as the peloton rolls out of Frosinone. However there is a risk of rain.
The Giro d'Italia has only finished in Foligno once before, in 1968, when Tuscan sprinter and Classics rider Franco Bitossi won the stage.
Bitossi was known as 'crazy heart' because he often suffered with a heart arrhythmia.
Several riders did not start the stage after crashing hard yesterday.
Overall favourite Joaquim Rodrigeuz (Katusha) finished the stage but didn't start after fracturing some ribs and a finger.
His teammate Giampaolo Caruso and Angel Vicioso also abandon after crashing hard. Vicioso suffered a threefold complex right femur fracture and will undergo an operation. Caruso was in pain as he lay in the road but was lucky not to suffer any fractures.
Read more about the Katusha's problems and Rodriguez's injuries here.
Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEdge) also did not start after fracturing his hand in the crash. However Flens, Kruijswijk, Amador, Tuft, Meyer and Roche all started despite minor fractures, abrasions, cuts, bruises and fevers.
There are officially 190 riders left in the Giro d'Italia. Eight riders have been forced to abandon the race during the opening six stages.
There have been several attempts to attack in the early kilometres but the peloton remains together as the riders tackle the climb of the Valico di Aricnazzo. It is 16km long and no doubt the riders will be hoping for a steady start to the stage after the pain and long day in the saddle on Thursday.
Sadly another rider has been forced to abandon. Frenchman Maxime Méderel (Europcar) has climbed off after 9km of the stage.
We have more attacks as riders look to get in the break of the day. Adam Hasen (Lotto Belisol) is trying to get in the action.
Today's stage is expected to end with a sprint finish.
The finish is the centre of Foligno, with a series of tight turns in the final two kilometres.
The sprint is likely to be a battle between Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Elia Viviani (Cannondale), Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) and plenty of other sprinters keen to land a stage victory.
The riders are close to the summit of the early climb and five riders have opened a gap.
The five are: Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), Jose Herrada (Movistar), Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida), Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) and Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF).
The five now have a lead of 1:10. Their adventure has begun.
The five riders have extended their lead on the descent of Arcinazzo after almost 50kmmof racing.
The peloton has let the breakaway go clear and the gap is now close to eight minutes.
We wrote about Winner Anaconda in one of our recent Giro Shorts sections.
He is riding his first Giro d'Italia and revealed that when he was born, his cycling-mad father wanted to name him after Dutch climber Peter Winnen, who was a Tour de France contender in the eighties and twice won on L'Alpe d'Huez.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Anacona's father thought Winnen was called Winner after hearing his name over the radio and registered Winner as his son's name.
Anaconda won a stage and finished second overall at the 2011 GiroBio stage race has yet to win a race as a professional.
Today could be his day.
With such a big time gap, José Herrada becomes the virtual maglia rosa of the Giro. He is 36th, 3:48 behind Matthews in the official overall classification.
It seems Herada has dropped back to the peloton on orders of his Movistar team. That leaves four riders in the break of the day.
The Orica-GreenEdge team of race leader Michael Matthews is leading the chase and setting the tempo at the front of the peloton.
Matthews extended his overall lead yesterday by winning stage six.
This is the current general classification, with Matthews now leading fellow Australian Cadel Evans.
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 24:18:14
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:21
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:01:18
4 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:25
5 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team
6 Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Neri Sottoli - Yellow Fluo
7 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge 0:01:47
8 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:51
9 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:01:52
10 Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale 0:02:06
At the 58km point, the gap has increased to almost nine minutes.
It seems that there were a change in the break before the gap opened, with Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) managing to get across.
With Haas in the move and not Herrada, it means there are five riders up front.
Sadly we're getting reports that Panama rider Ramón Carretero (Neri Sottoli) has abandoned. His Giro is over.
Today's stage cuts vertically through central Italy, with the road twisting through the forests and country roads of northern Lazio and Umbria.
The route passes to the east of Rome and then via Rieti, Spoleto and up to Foligno, which is close to the stunning hilltop town of Assisi.
The area is famous for its pasta and meat dishes, with the truffles that are found in the forests used to flavour home made pasta.
Foligno is know for its cakes, with the Rocciata a kind of strudel.
The gap has fallen to seven minutes as the break tackles a climb in Arsoli.
To learn more about today's stage. Check out our preview content here.
It includes maps, profiles and information on previous stages that have covered the same roads in the past.
Belgian TV commentator Renaat Schotte took this Twitter photo at the start. It shows who is wearing the four leaders today: Elia Viviani (Cannondale) is in the red points jersey, Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) is in leader's pink jersey, Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin) wears the blue climbers jersey because Matthews leads that competition, while Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo ) wers the white young rider's jersey for the same reason.
Cadel Evans (BMC) spoke to Italian television briefly before the start of the stage.
"We avoided the risk yesterday thanks to the great work of my teammates. It cost us a big effort but it was worth it. Things were risky because of the road traffic furniture and the roads," he said.
"Today is supposed to be a more relaxed day but the rain makes every day difficult. It'd be good to have an easier day because the weekend stages are important."
Unfortunately for the riders it has started to rain yet again during the stage.
The peloton is controlling the break but may be tempted to let them go today.
The break had a maximum lead of 9:00 but the gap is down to 6:00.
After three hours of racing, the average speed is 38km/h.
Chalapud won the intermediate sprint ahead of Boem but the break quickly reforms and works together.
Behind the Orica-GreenEdge team is leading the chase. Svein Tuft is working on the front despite crashing hard yesterday.
We're now into the finall 85km of racing and the gap to the leaders has gone below six minutes. 5'57 to be exact.
Eliva Viviani (Cannondale) got an excellent lead out in the sprint to take sixth place and so pick a few more points in the red jersey competition.
And it looks as though Viviani won the bunch sprint for sixth at the intermediate sprint.
Fortunately the roads are now dry but the skies are still grey and cloudy.
The peloton hits the brakes ans the road width passes from two lanes to a narrow section.
Boem has the team car back with him, and he's picking up on some information on the pace of the peloton.
As back in the bunch Orica, FDJ and Cannodale have posted a single rider on the front.
Viviani is coming back through the cars as it seems like the bunch have slowed up. A few riders change jackets and take comfort breaks as we move towards the final 70km of racing.
The gap drops to 4'12 so the leaders are steadily losing ground.
Orica and Cannondale are matching each other on the front, both team placing riders at head of the race with the odd FDJ rider breaking the pattern. Bouhanni, Matthews and Vivianni are the favourites for today but there are other riders to watch too. For example, Giacomo Nizzolo.
The bunch are coasting along, down a wide but twisty descent as the sprinters' teams dictate a pace that's comfortable for them. Right at the back, Eisel stretches his back and sits up in the saddle.
There are a few non-categorised climbs coming up. Will a few teams try and make the pure sprinters suffer? Matthews isn't taking any chances and remains near the front of the peloton. He's been really impressive in his debut Giro, just just for his form but also his mental toughness. He doesn't panic and he uses his team so well.
The gap has gone back out to 4'37 as Haas leads the pack of five down another short, tight descent.
The gap grows again, it's back out to almost five minutes with 53km to go.
Former race leader Tuft is setting the pace on the front of the peloton. He has a Cannondale rider on his wheel but then it's all Orica.
And it's now over five minutes and there's more urgency in the break as they realise that they really have a chance today.
The gap says 5'20 but race radio is telling us it's 4'30.
He's in the break but here's a video we shot with Nathan Haas in which he shows off his Cervelo race bike. Watch it here.
The break are near the foot of the fourth cat climb, the last major obstacle before the finish. The gap is still at five minutes.
Tuft, bandaged up, is still on the front. There just hasn't been much help for Orica here. You can understand that to some extent but the break hold five minutes with 40km to go.
The five leaders are around 1km from the summit of the climb and Thurau is taking a huge turn on the front as he rises out of the saddle and churns a big gear.
Faces in the peloton though suggest that there are a lot of riders suffering out there today. The GC men simply want an easy day but they have to stay near the front after what happened yesterday. There's no margin for error.
Haas takes three points on the top of the climb.
The peloton reaches the summit of the climb 4:18 behind the break.
There's a risk of rain with the cloudy skies but the forecasts and radar shows there's little chance of the riders getting wet in the finale.
The peloton has turned left and is passing the beautiful town of Spoleto.
The break has lead of just 3:40 now.
Eisel and Alafaci seem to have taken a tumble or been delayed in a turn.
Indeed they were caught out by some traffic furniture. Both got up and were quickly back chasing.
The crash has called a split in the peloton.
A flat for Garmin-Sharp. It seems to be Farrar, who gets a rear wheel from Dekker.
The peloton is flying at the moment as they try to catch the break on the fast run-in to Foligno.
The break still has 3:00 but there is only 20km to go.
Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing) has also flatted.
The peloton passes the 20km to mark only 2:18 behind the break.
Cannondale, FDJ.fr and Giant-Shimano are working together in the high-speed chase.
Farrar is trying to get back on. He's weaving through the team cars with help from Dylan van Baarle.
The peloton is hunting down the break. The gap is down to 1:40. Will they catch them?
The five breakaways are still working hard together but the peloton is coming to get them as the road rises slightly.
Haas as made an attack but that has only split the break. Now Boem and Thurau remain with him.
The others come back but the peloton is just 1:10 behind.
The five are very tired after yesterday's long stage and almost 200km in the break today.
The road is dead straight and so the peloton can see the break.
BMC is again close to the front to protect Cadel Evans.
Thurau makes one last attack but the break is running out of time and road.
The break reaches the 5km to go point but the peloton can almost touch them.
Hass makes one last attack and has a slight gap on the others.
Gruppo compatto. The peloton has caught the break.
Crash! Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) goes down at speed.
Up front Orica has taken charge of the lead out for Matthews.
FDJ and Giant-Shimano are trying to control the lead out now.
Final kilometre with Giant in charge.
The late corners are lining out the peloton.
Viviani is also there for Cannondale.
Bouhanni gets it!
Giant-Shimano lead out the sprint but they left the door open on the right side of the road and the Frenchman surged through the gap.
Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) was a close second, with Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) third.
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) was fourth and so kept the pink jersey for another day.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) recovered in time from his flat to finish sixth.
The overall classification remains unchanged before Saturday's 179km eighth stage from Foligno to Montecopiolo.
Thanks for following the Cyclingnews live coverage.
We'll have a full stage report, news, interviews, photo galleries and exclusive video content on Cyclingnews.com very soon.
Join us for live coverage of stage eight on Saturday.