Michele Scarponi gave a clear answer to those who doubted his state of form on stage 7 of the Giro d’Italia to Rocca di Cambio by finishing second behind Paolo Tiralongo (Astana). The Lampre-ISD team has lost the lead as Adriano Malori was unable to hold the speed on the final climb, but they have gained serenity with Scarponi showing that he’s the most incisive of the favorites in an uphill finish. The official defending champion has also justified his leadership over Damiano Cunego.
“I didn’t think I’d go for something in this stage but I found myself at the front of the bunch with [Przemyslaw] Niemec,” Scarponi explained. “It gave me the idea to try and win the stage. I didn’t make it but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything. The important thing is that Lampre has ridden well.”
Scarponi was reassured of the hierarchy within the blue-fuchsia team. Following stage 6, La Gazzetta dello Sport suggested that Cunego was racing for GC. “He never went away from Scarponi’s wheel, he was racing like a team captain,” wrote leading journalist Luca Gialanella, who had expected the winner of the 2004 Giro d’Italia to ride for the stage victory, as requested by Italian national selector Paolo Bettini.
Malori took a lot of attention away from the two stars of his team. “At the start, I’ve had the feeling that it was the first race of my career,” the wearer of the pink jersey told Cyclingnews on the finishing line. “I was well aware that the final uphill was hard, therefore it wasn’t a terrain for me to defend the lead. I felt very tired after all the efforts I made yesterday. However, I’ve had a beautiful day. To ride one stage in pink was just a dream, not something I believed I could do. It was my day of glory. I’ve savored it.”
Malori downplayed suggestions that his next goal should be the closing time trial of the Giro d’Italia in Milan on May 27. “This is not part of my preoccupations at the moment,” he answered. “My first goal is to win the maglia rosa with Scarponi. He followed what I did yesterday by coming second on the stage, I couldn’t hope for a better outcome today. His physical condition was unknown. The fact that he was in the front today is a good sign for the coming stages. Everybody knows Michele’s skills.”