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Stage 7 - Friday, May 15: Innsbruck (Aut) - Chiavenna, 244km
Edvald Boasson Hagen uncorks the champagne after his Giro d'Italia stage win.
If you tried saying his name ten times over, you might find your tongue twisted. But if there's one rider to remember for the future, it's Friday's winner of the Giro's seventh stage to Chiavenna, Edvald Boasson Hagen.
The 21-year-old - who is two days short of his 22nd birthday - Norweigan's physical features and pathway to success bears an strong resemblance to that of his countryman, Thor Hushovd, 10 years his senior.
In height, they're within two centimetres of each other, though Hushovd has a few kilos on him. Both have been national road and time trial champions, their natural strength soon translating to field sprints and Belgian Classics-style road races. And while Hushovd's palmarès is littered with many more victories of note, Boasson Hagen's April victory in Gent-Wevelgem this season - coming seven years earlier than Hushovd - demonstrated he's got the goods to emulate - perhaps even surpass - "The God of Thunder".
On a freddo (cold) day and wet, winding, pericoloso (dangerous) descent, Boasson Hagen and four others took massive risks to bridge to lone leader Alessandro Bertolini of Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni, who had won this way before.
Out of the lead quintet, he was the least experienced and there were two other sprinters to speak of. But this 1.81 metre-tall blond played the last kilometres like a wily, seasoned pro, covering all the moves to ensure victory would come down to a sprint.
Regardless, he must have known he was the strongest - he won by a mile.
The five-man break
"I was quite far behind on the descent, but Mike Rogers got a flat tyre, so we had to go fast [to catch back up]. Then I kept going and got a gap," recalled Boasson Hagen.
"It was really dangerous in the descent. Lucky, we didn't crash. The sprint, I felt quite good… and then I won," he laughed, knowing how simple he made winning a stage of a Grand Tour sound. "I've learned not to open my sprint so early. It seems to work well."
Could he see himself one day surpassing Hushovd - or, despite the similarities, does he even consider himself to be like Hushovd?
"Many people did [compare me to Hushovd]," he told Cyclingnews, "but I didn't look up to anyone when I was young - I just did my own thing. Actually, right now, I think I'm somewhere in between [Kurt] Asle Arvesen and Hushovd. I'm not sure what sort of rider I'll become.
"It's my first time at a Grand Tour, so I hope to come through this race and see how I do. I also like I just want to do my best and see how I go. In a few years, I'll see how good I can be, whether it be a Classic rider or a stage racer," he said"
No problemo for maglia rosa
For the GC favourites, it was mostly a day for rest - as much as a 244 kilometre stage can be. Lance Armstrong, despite his team's well-publicised financial problems, was seen joking and laughing with maglia rosa Danilo Di Luca. Realistically, our contenders have nothing to fear till Stage 10, the Giro's 262km epic mountain journey from Cuneo to Pinerolo, and of course, the torturous Stage 12 time trial around Cinque Terre.
"I don't think there will be any attacks before the [Stage 12] time trial," Di Luca told Cyclingnews. "On the stage to Pinerolo, it's not possible to attack because Sestrière is too far from the finish.
"Because I won the Giro di Lombardia, I know the final of tomorrow because it finishes in Bergamo. But the Classics are very different from a stage in a Grand Tour, so let's see how the race goes - [my team] LPR isn't particularly interested in catching breakaways; if it's gruppo compatto at the bottom of the final climb, let's see."
But is it too early to have the maglia rosa?
"No, because when I won the Giro [in 2007], I had the maglia rosa for 13 days and my teammate Noè had it for four days. It's not a problem."
Fade to white in Innsbruck
Another long one at 244 clicks, Friday's stage began in Innsbruck, where the talk of the town was all about Astana and their jerseys and shorts that at first looked as if they'd been through the wash one too many times. Turns out that it was only the sponsors' logos that were faded; a gesture designed to prompt their primary sponsors into action and show the money, with team manager Johan Bruyneel claiming that only two months' worth of riders' salaries had been paid to date.
Lance Armstrong without a sponsor? That should send a rocket up a few people's bums…
Speaking of one's behind, 194 lycra-clad bottoms left Innsbruck shortly after 11:00 am, and it took all of nothing for a quartet to ignore any sort of go-slow - Bartosz Huzarski (ISD), Mauro Facci (Quick Step), Sergey Klimov (Katusha) and Vladimir Isaichev (Xacobeo Galicia) the men on the move - and after 24km, their ignorance for a piano beginning paid off, where they enjoyed a sizeable 9:14 advantage.
Unfortunately for our lead four, the stage's profile did little for their chances, resembling an awfully long, 207km uphill drag to the top of the Passo Maloja, before a near-40km descent into Chiavenna. 100km out from the finish and into Switzerland, their advantage was more than halved to around five minutes, and by the crest of the Maloja, there was almost no break to speak of, the peloton just 15 seconds behind.
Gruppo compatto before the nail-biting descent, the GC favourites smartly gathered at the front to avoid mishap. Alessandro Bertolini then decided to go alone in search of a second successive stage victory for the team with the longest name at the Giro, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli - thank God we've got rid of that "so-and-so presented by so-and-so" period.
12km out, Davide Viganò (Fuji-Servetto), Robert Hunter (Barloworld), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Columbia-Highroad) and Pavel Brutt (Katusha) joined Bertolini to make quite a famous five, and with three sprinters in the mix and a 26 second lead, it was game on.