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Giro d'Italia 2011: Stage 7


Welcome back to Cyclingnews' Live coverage of the 2011 Giro d'Italia. Today's stage seven from Maddaloni to Montevergine di Mercogliano is just 110 kilometres long but provides the first of the race's eight moutaintop finishes - be prepared for some fireworks!

The riders are currently rolling along the neutral route to the official start line. They'll be sent off at 2.25pm CET.

It's a short stage - the shortest of this Giro - but stage seven is rated "high mountain" and includes two Cat. 2 climbs, the second one leading to the finish line at the Sanctuary of Montevergine. Located in the hinterland of Naples and its Vesuvio volcano, today's route undulates through the Appenines of the Campania region.

107km remaining from 110km

100km remaining from 110km

100km remaining from 110km

It's a fine and warm day here in Italy. There's a light breeze but it shouldn't be a problem for the riders once they get into the hills.

We have a breakaway attempt. Four men have jumped out of the bunch but the peloton is still just behind them: Julien Berard (AG2R), Federico Canuti (Colnago), Jerome Pineau (Quickstep) and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha).

90km remaining from 110km

More riders bridged up and we have a ten-ish rider group. Not definite.

78km remaining from 110km

Montaguti from AG2R is the virtual maglia rosa now as they race through a small town lined with cheering spectators.

Today, two Cat. 2 climbs should provide a enough of a chance for in-form climbers and finish line punchers to show themselves. The GC contenders could also get into the mix and test their rivals, but will the overall favourites' teams really want a go at carrying the responsibility of the maglia rosa this soon in the race? We somehow doubt it.

70km remaining from 110km

Acqua and Sapone is leading the bunch out now. Good for Rabobank!

62km remaining from 110km

They are pacing down a descent right now before tackling the foot of the Serra. There are some hairpins already.

The gap is down to 2.40 minutes as they start the first categorised climb. It's 9.5 kilometres long at an average of 5.3 percent. Rabobank is sharing the chase workload with Acqua and Sapone.

Let's take a look at the favourites for this stage. One of them is more than obvious: Danilo Di Luca, who already won here twice in his career (2001 and 2007) and is eager for another victory since coming back from suspension. The 'Killer' will be highly motivated and is also in a good position on GC to jump away: he's already eight minutes down.

Di Luca is just getting some water from his team car. If he makes it up the final climb with the favourites - who will be watching each other - he'll definitely have a go in the final couple of clicks.

50km remaining from 110km

Sebastian Lang from Omega Pharma Lotto has just attcked out of the bunch! An Euskaltel rider wants to come, too...

It's Pierre Cazaux, who's now joined Lang. They're workign together to bridge up to the front group.

Three riders of the bunch just crashed in a curve inside a village. But all of them got back up and continued, nothing serious.

45km remaining from 110km

It's Johnny Hoogerland. He's actually caught Cazaux and Lang and passed them... Looking strong but suffering a lot right now!

Hoogerland is in search of his birthday present, he's turning 28 years today.

43km remaining from 110km

In front, Canuti tried to get away and has a little gap. He has an energy bar at the top of the climb as he starts the descent.

The descent is indeed narrow with some nasty bends. Canuti crashes in a hairpin, but he gets up on his bike right away.

35km remaining from 110km

Pineau got a wheel change. The Quick Step car is in front of him twing him back.

Hoogerland keeps his head down as he pushes his gears. He's doing a great job, now at 26 seconds from the leaders. But he'll pay for that effort we think.

The bunch keeps the gap to 2.20 at the moment. There's no relief though after the descent, the last climb starts immediately.

Hoogerland has the lead group in sight now. he's making his way through the team cars behind the five-man break...

... And now simply passes the break at an astonishing speed!!!

Cool move, got us all rubbing our eyes! He's settled now, in the back of the small group, getting a bottle.

Back in the bunch, Acqua and Sapone is still strung out leading the peloton. They are getting some help from Androni.

Hoogerland is still driving the break, can you believe it. He seems to have no limts today.

20km remaining from 110km

This is the foot of the last climb. The Montevergine di Mercogliano climb is 17.1km long, and the altitude difference from bottom to top is 856 meters. The climb's average gradient is 5.6 percent, with maximum slopes up to 10 percent. The sanctuary on top of the climb is located at 1260 meters above sea level.

Lampre's Danilo Hondo is the first man at the front of the bunch now as the field prepares for a good battle on the climb. The gap is 1.23 minutes.

The intermediate sprint won by Montaguti has no effect on the classification. Jan Balelants (Omega) continues to lead.

And Hoogerland attacks again! But the others follow him.

15km remaining from 110km

Garmin took a turn at setting the pace for the bunch, now its' Geox. Garmin will be looking to Christophe Le Mével to consolidate his good placing on GC - he's fourth at five seconds from Weening.

13km remaining from 110km

Gruppettos are forming. We can see one around Garmin's Murilo Fischer.

Pineau is also riding a human pace now in a small group out the back.

In the front, however, Bak has put on a big gear and is giving it a go as the peloton approaches. He looks back but there's nobody there anymore!

Pink jersey Weening is marking Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas). Looking okay until now. But his chances to hang onto his jersey today still look thin. Once the real fireworks start, he might have to give in to a faster pace.

De Greef from Lotto has a go out of the bunch. He's taking a few riders with him. Bak is still in front, he has 21 seconds advantage.

AG2R's Mickael Cherel is also trying to get some space, as his teammate Montaguti is back inside the bunch together with Hoogerland.

8km remaining from 110km

Another attack: Bart De Clerq from Lotto tries to get away. But the pace being held high, nobody's getting a decent gap.

6km remaining from 110km

4km remaining from 110km

Weening has no trouble staying put with the favourites.

With 2.5 kms to go, there are three men up the road as Pirazzi from Colnago joins and passes Ochoa.

Weening has no trouble staying put with the favourites.

Weening has no trouble staying put with the favourites.

Pirazzi is strong, he's really diggin deep. He might catch De Clerq, who's already almost under the flamme rouge.

Now the bunch is really racing. Pirazzi is caught.

De Clerq is inside the last kilometre as Lampre drives it hard behind.

De Clerq looks back and he can see them. He might make it, though.

hey are sprintin flat out. Scarponi, Nibali, Garzelli... but De Clerq gets the win, on the line by a few centimetres!!!

What an amazing victory - and Scarponi will be biting his fingers over it.

It's official: de Clerq wins, with Scarponi second, Kreuziger third, then Nibali.

Weening made it, he's defended the maglia rosa. Top three are unchanged.

Well, the expected fireworks did not really happen, but a brave move by a young rider in his first pro year paid off and Bart De Clerq will be celebrating tonight! Good thing it's still possible to play hide and seek with the big guns in the bunch...


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