Given the speed out on the road, it was perhaps fitting that Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) ran so quickly through the stages of his disappointment at the finish of stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia in L'Aquila. Formolo was, by own description, the strongest man in the breakaway, but that proved a burden when Pello Bilbao (Astana) escaped beneath the flamme rouge and he found few of his companions willing to help lead the chase.
As Formolo edged his way through the finish area on Viale Crispi, one television reporter thrust a microphone in his direction. "You’re angry," he said to Formolo. "Are you angry?"
If Formolo had been annoyed on crossing the line in third place, 5 seconds down on Bilbao, his dismay was perhaps already tempered by the knowledge that he had pegged back a minute on the GC favourites at the end of a breathless day on the Giro.
"I certainly can’t be happy," Formolo replied. "But the Giro is still long, and I want to win a big stage in the last week. It wasn’t my intention to get in the break today, but it ended up being a hard, fast stage. There was a group going up the road and I decided to have a go."
Stage 7 of the Giro brought the race north along the Adriatic coast from Vasto and then inland for a rugged finale ahead of an uphill finish in L'Aquila. It was the kind of day that lent itself to a breakaway, but it was only at the midway point that the decisive move of twelve riders eventually went clear.
Ordinarily, the presence of Formolo, tenth overall at each of the past two Giri, might have doomed the break from the outset. So too might the presence of José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar), who was just 2 minutes off Valerio Conti's maglia rosa. Instead, with a depleted UAE Team Emirates squad straining to close the gap and struggling to find allies, the escapees managed to build and then maintain a lead of close to two minutes for much of the final 90km.
It was only when Trek-Segafredo and Bardiani-CSF helped the chase in the finale that the gap began to drop towards the one-minute mark, but Formolo had teammate Jay McCarthy for company in the break, and the Australian's stint of pace-making on the approach to L'Aquila ensured their survival.
"Once I saw Rojas in the group, I thought they wouldn’t give us any space," Formolo said. "It would have been a disaster for us if we’d been caught before the last climb, but McCarthy gave me a great hand before the last climb, he did everything he could. He essentially did great time trial of 6km which helped us to keep our gap over the group.
"I'm sorry I couldn’t repay his efforts with a win. I think I'll have to buy him a crate of beer tonight."
Formolo tried to forge clear on the climb of Via della Poveriera with 9km remaining, but while he helped whittle the front group down to 6 riders, he was unable to go clear alone. "I was the strongest in the finale, but unfortunately the others realised it too," he said. "They obliged me to close down the attacks. When Bilbao went, I hoped somebody else would respond, but eventually I had to risk everything by making a steady acceleration. Unfortunately, he didn’t crack."
General classification gains
Formolo's day was not entirely without reward. He climbs to 13th place overall, 5:24 down on Conti and level on time with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), the best placed of the general classification contenders. A stage winner at the Volta a Catalunya and second on the podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Formolo has been in striking form so far in 2019, but he downplayed his prospects of making a sustained assault at the upper reaches of the overall standings here.
"I was only thinking about the stage win today," he said. "I'm living this Giro day by day. I’m still just hoping to have a great day in the final week if the gruppo gives me space, so we’ll see as we go on."
By the time Formolo appeared on RAI's Processo alla Tappa analysis show shortly afterwards, mind, he struck a more ebullient note about his overall prospects. In one fell swoop, after all, he had cancelled out the time he lost to Roglič in the opening time trial in Bologna.
"I'm happy to have gained a minute before the San Marino time trial, that will be important," Formolo said. The disappointment at missing out on the stage honours here was dissipating quickly. "The Giro is still long and there are a lot of climbs still ahead. This is still only the antipasto, no?"