Koldo King for a day, Di Luca best of the rest
On the steep climb of Sammomme with around 17 km to go in today's seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia, Lampre-Caffita showed that they mean business, as Gilberto Simoni and Damiano Cunego (with help from Selle Italia's now ex-mountains leader Jose Rujano) went to the front and ripped the peloton to shreds. Of the main GC riders, only Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) and new maglia rosa Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi, who wasn't supposed to be a main GC rider) were able to hang with Simoni and Cunego as they caught the remnants of the day's early break on the run into Pistoia.
All except one rider, that is. Liberty Seguros scored its first win in this year's Giro as Koldo Gil powered away from the break on the Sammomme climb to cross the summit with a 1'00 lead, of which he was able to conserve 20 seconds at the finish. After 179 km in the lead, Gil crossed the line to take the biggest victory of his career, and was a happy man afterwards.
"The Giro is my second tour of three weeks and I believe that this can help me to give a jump in my career," he said. "I have demonstrated that I can win in a big one and I hope that this helps me to raise one more step as cyclist."
Gil said he believed he would win at three kilometres to go, "because behind a very strong group was coming and we were away for many kilometres."
On the team's strategy today, Gil explained, "Manolo Saiz said to us that Abeja, Hruska, Andrle and Baranowski had to be in the greats and that I and Caruso had to watch if a big breakaway went. Because of that, Baranowski and I ended up in front."
Having Baranowski in the break helped Gil a lot, he said. "...because he was the one who did the most turns initially and I could save myself for the end. He has made it very easy for me." On the final climb, "Zampieri attacked me, but it was a very hard climb and I knew that he was not going anywhere. When he attacked me for the second time and I saw that was not getting away, I knew that I could go away alone, because I felt good and had good legs."
Along the way, Gil gained the mountains jersey from the "Incredible Hulk", Jose Rujano, but said that it would be difficult to defend. "It will be necessary to see how things go, but the mountain's jersey of the Giro is very hard and it will be difficult to contest it against those who are going for the general classification."
Gil hails from Pamplona, and lives quite close to the great Miguel Indurain, who he named as one of his heroes. "My reference always has been Indurain, because I am also from Navarra, but in the current peloton I like Erik Dekker and Stefano Garzelli a lot. I have a lot of respect for them as riders and as people."
In the other main story of the day, the see-saw battle between Paolo Bettini and Danilo Di Luca for the maglia rosa finally tipped in Di Luca's favour, with the ProTour leader hanging with the Cunego group to ride back into the jersey, while Bettini lost over two minutes. "It's a good climb for my characteristics and I wanted to get the maglia rosa back," explained Di Luca post-stage. "Tomorrow I'll give it my best in the time trial." Bettini was philosophical about losing the top spot on Giro GC. "My goal was to arrive in Pistoia with the maglia rosa and even though I lost it today, I'm happy. Maybe the other day I rode too hard (Stage 5), but now I want to do well on a mountain stage. That's my next goal."
Other favourites such as Dario Cioni and Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas), Ivan Basso (CSC), and Michele Scarponi (Liberty) all lost contact near the top of the climb and finished up 30 seconds behind the Cunego/Di Luca group at the end.