By Ben Atkins in Montevecchia
Fabiana Luperini (Menikini-Selle Italia-Master Colors) won the seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia in a similar fashion to the way she won the fourth, and assured barring accident her fifth Giro d'Italia victory. The Italian champion attacked breakaway companion Amber Neben (Flexpoint) with two kilometres of the final climb remaining to finish alone at Montevecchia high above the plains of Lombardia.
"It was hard after yesterday," said la Lupa (Italian for Wolf) after the finish, "but I felt good today. Amber made me work hard for the win."
"Yesterday was a difficult day and I had a bit of a stomach problem," she continued. "There were some brutal descents, but the stage today was better for me."
"I am very happy, we dreamed it was possible. Today I have given everything; for me and all of the team. I would like to than everybody that has been around me this week.
"To [win while] wearing the tricolore is beautiful; to represent my country in cycling."
Luperini and Neben escaped on the second climb of the day, at Giovenzana, the American started the day in fifth place and was keen to move up in the classification. The two worked together Luperini occasionally escaping on the climbs and Neben using her time trialling power on the flat until they arrived together at the foot of the steep climb to Motevecchia.
"It was a good day again," the American told Cyclingnews. "It felt good felt good to ride like I should be riding, the form's starting to come around and, yeah, it just felt good; I had a good day. I was trying to get on the podium. I was riding for the podium I didn't have anything to lose, so I went for it on that second climb with Luperini. She was just super-good today on the climbs, so I knew she was better on the climbs and I was riding for GC so I kind of just towed her in between climbs, which was fine it kind of helped me I moved up which was what I wanted to do.
"I don't know if I had enough, but hopefully I had enough to get into the top three and get onto the podium," said Neben. In fact the American had successfully gained enough time on the three riders ahead of her Tatiana Guderzo (Gauss RDZ Ormu), Nicole Brändli (Bigla) and Claudia Hausler (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) to move up into second place overall.
As Luperini attacked at the base of the climb to Montevecchio, Neben was thinking of nothing but her position compared to those behind her, not wanting to overstretch herself in pursuit of the Italian climbing specialist. "I'd been riding hard the whole time in between," she explained. "I was just committed to try and move up on GC versus going for the stage.
"I didn't [try to follow her], I just tried to ride my own temp, I'd been time trialling in between the climbs there and she was sitting in really there was no chance I was going to be able to follow. I was trying to just maximise my gap by keeping a steady effort all the way up."
After losing a lot of time on stage four's final climb to Monte Serra, Neben was pleased to have regained so much time on the rest of the field. "It's good," she nodded. "It's awesome to be on the podium again the top three of the Giro it's a big race and my form's coming around, I'm happy with things. It just feels good to ride well and just go out and take a risk and ride hard all day; it's fun when that goes well."
Claudia Hausler finished the stage in third place and, although she lost her second place to Neben, the young German was pleased with the way her race had gone overall. "It was so hard and I was so dead, because yesterday I gave everything and today it was really hard," she told Cyclingnews.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Women's Giro d'Italia stage seven.