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Giro d'Italia 2012: Stage 7


Stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia, 202km from Recanati to Rocca di Cambio.

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As we pick up the action just over 50km into the stage, there is a four-man group up the road with a lead of almost nine minutes over the peloton. Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM), Fumiyuku Beppu (Orica-GreenEdge) and Reto Hollenstein (Team NetApp) went clear as soon as the flag dropped and the peloton gladly left them to it.

Within 5 kilometres, the quartet already had 2:30 on the bunch, and 10 kilometres later, that lead had stretched out to over seven minutes.

Since cresting the summit of the uncategorised climb near the monastery at Abbadia di Fiastra (27.5km), the break's lead has stabilised at around the nine-minute mark.

The start this morning was from the evocative town of Recanati, birthplace of the poet Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837). Leopardi's lines have passed into the collective consciousness in Italy  and it's a safe bet that the reports in tomorrow's Gazzetta dello Sport will allude to his work. Among his most famous poems is La sera del dì di festa, where he describes his melancholy as the local festival day draws to a close. A scene not unlike the feeling in Recanati today, perhaps, as the Giro carnival moves away southwards.

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Reto Hollenstein (NetApp) is the best-placed rider overall in this break (52nd at 1:21), and of course he is currently the virtual maglia rosa. You can read his blog on his experiences during the Giro's opening days in Denmark here.

The maglia rosa is currently on the shoulders of Adriano Malori and his Lampre-ISD team are keeping an eye on proceedings at the front end of the peloton. A very strong rouleur, Malori was world time trial champion as an espoir in 2008 and is currently the Italian champion in the discipline, but he'll be doing well to hold on to the pink jersey this evening.

There are only two categorised climbs on the agenda today, although there is scarcely a metre of flat on the route. First up is the Colle Galluccio after 101km. 5.6km in length with an average gradient of 5.4%, it's by no means the toughest of climbs, but it must be remembered that like yesterday, the road goes up and down throughout the stage.

The stage ends with the climb to Rocca di Cambio (19.1km at 3.9%), the first summit finish of this Giro, 1392m above sea level. It's a long, shallow ascent, and one would anticipate that the selection will come from the back. Like the stage to Montevergine twelve months ago, it doesn't seem as though the final climb will be tough enough to cause significant gaps among the overall contenders but its low average gradient is in part due to two downhill sections near the top. There are a couple of steeper ramps between 7 and 5km from the line that may cause some ripples.

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The break are now in the environs of the Monti Sibillini, which straddle the borders of the Marche and Umbria, the "green heart" of Italy. According to the myth, the mountains housed the infernal cave of the Sibilla Appenninica, the local sibyl or prophetess.

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The high temperatures and rolling roads caused their share of problems yesterday, as the race broke to pieces on the winding road to Porto Sant'Elpidio. Bernhard Eisel, Mark Cavendish and Taylor Phinney were among the riders who just about made it inside the time limit at the end of a deceptively difficult day. Alasdair Fotheringham's interview with Eisel this morning gives a fascinating insight into just how difficult stage 6 was. There is no such thing as an easy day at the Giro d'Italia.

Of course, it wouldn't be the Giro if there weren't murmurs of discontent Mark Cavendish and the time cut. As ever, Tuttobici wasn't going to shy away from the potential for polemica. In a piece with the delightfully restrained title of "Cavendish, the helicopter and those 15 kilometres of scandal", Pier Augusto Stagi claims the Cavendish group covered the final 15km in just 16 minutes.

Of course, it wouldn't be the Giro if there weren't murmurs of discontent about how Mark Cavendish avoided elimination. As ever, Tuttobici wasn't going to shy away from the potential for polemica. In a piece with the delightfully restrained title of "Cavendish, the helicopter and those 15 kilometres of scandal", Pier Augusto Stagi claims the Cavendish group covered the final 15km in just 16 minutes.

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Yesterday's stage saw some high-profile abandons, including crash victims Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), Pablo Lastras (Movistar) and Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM). Thor Hushovd (BMC) was another man to pull out on the road to Porto Sant'Elpidio, as the Norwegian suffered from the effects of the heat.

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After a surprisingly strong showing by his Katusha team, Joaquim Rodriguez's credentials as a possible Giro winner have been quickly highlighted by all and sundry. The punchy Catalan might be tempted to land another blow on the race's first summit finish this afternoon, but he noted that his teammate Dani Moreno could also go on the offensive. "At the Vuelta last year at Sierra Nevada, on a stage just like today, everybody was watching me and Dani won," Rodriguez said at the start.

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Overall, Malori has 15 seconds in hand on Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and 17 on Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda). Yesterday's stage winner Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni-Venezuela) lies 4th at 30 seconds, while Christian Vande Velde, Peter Stetina (Garmin-Barracuda), Rodriguez, Moreno and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) are all within 40 seconds of Malori's maglia rosa.

In short, depending on how the bunch approaches the final climb, Malori might have his work cut out to hang on that pink jersey tonight, especially with time bonuses on offer at the summit of Rocca di Cambio.

Although it's the first summit finish of this Giro, there is a 20-second time bonus on offer to the winner at Rocca di Cambio, at least according to the

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The four escapees are still together on the climb and tapping out a steady rhythm, although their advantage has dropped to a shade over 7 minutes.

Lampre-ISD are still setting tempo in the bunch, but it's interesting to note a phalanx of Liquigas-Cannondale jerseys lining up behind them. Ivan Basso's teammates have been strikingly prominent in this opening week of the Giro, taking responsibility for pace-setting at a number of key junctures, not least on yesterday's treacherous day to Porto Sant'Elpidio.

Reto Hollenstein was a generous member of the break on stage 2, and the Swiss rider is dutifully leading his companions towards the summit of the Colle Galluccio.

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Meanwhile the peloton is two kilometres from the summit, and is still being led by Lampre-ISD.

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It's been a lumpy day so far, and the average speed for the first 100km of racing is 32kph.

Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) is tucked in near the front end of the peloton. The Luxembourger was a late call-up to this Giro, but with the toughest stages all to come in the final week, he has hopes of riding into form as the race progresses.

Schleck does not believe the final to Rocca di Cambio will prove decisive: "It's going to be the first test in the climbs. It’s a long climb but I don’t think there are going to be any decisions," Schleck told Gazzetta dello Sport. "As for yesterday, well if it was terrible on paper, then I can tell you that out there it was even worse. It was a very hard day, it was a tough day."

The Lampre-led peloton crests the summit of the Colle Galluccio 7:49 down on the four escapees.

For this writer, it seems sacrilegious to think about races other than the Giro or the

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There was some disagreement in the peloton yesterday over whose responsibility it was to chase, and in the event, the break stayed clear. Liquigas-Cannondale worked on the front to protect Ivan Basso's interests in the GC, and Farnese Vini-Selle Italia lent a hand with Filippo Pozzato in mind, but at the finish Pozzato was clearly frustrated that no other teams had contributed to the pursuit.

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Ivan Basso has spent the first week of this Giro near the front end of the peloton, and the man for Varese is again keeping a watchful eye on proceedings today.

Rabottini has his jersey opened as he tackles this rather false flat with his breakaway companions. The quartet are still collaborating well. Hollenstein seems to be the man most eager to push on the pace, but Beppu is certainly pedalling very smoothly.

Today is the Giro's fourth visit to Rocca di Cambio. The Abruzzo climb enjoyed a brief purple patch of popularity in the 1960s, as it featured three times in four years. In 1966, Luciano Galbo won atop the climb, Belgium's Ernest Thyssen triumphed in 1966, while Luis Pedro Santamarina was victorious in 1968, the year of Eddy Merckx's first Giro win.

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Roman Kreuziger is ensconced in a group of Astana riders near the front, but so far there is no sign of any urgency in the peloton.

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The break are still on the uncategorised climb towards Piano Palasone, and Brutt's efforts behind are making a significant impact on their lead. The gap from the break to the peloton is now 6:40.

The pace in the peloton has lifted since Brutt went to the front, and things are becoming a little more stretched.

In the break, Beppu takes some water from a spectator at the roadside. The temperatures aren't quite as warm as yesterday, but it's been a long day out in front for the escapees.

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Hollenstein is once again the man forcing the pace in the four-man break as they descent towards Marana.

After four and a half hours of racing, the average speed is 34.421kph.

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The peloton is snaked out into one long line now under the impetus of Pavel Brutt's work on the front.

The maglia rosa of Adriano Malori is visible near the head of the field, which is now being led by Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Katusha) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda).

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Garmin-Barracuda have now opted to put their weight behind the pursuit of the day's break, with Ryder Hesjedal or Christian Vande Velde poised to move into pink should Malori and Golas falter.

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We're around 13km from the foot of the final climb to Rocca di Cambio, and the gap between the break and the bunch is dropping quickly.

Beppu comes to the front of the break once again and injects some pace but they know that the peloton has cranked into action behind.

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The break reaches L'Aquila, but unfortunately the race is unable to climb all the way to the historical centre of the town. L'Aquila is still feeling the effects of the tragic earthquake which struck on April 6, 2009 and killed 308 residents.

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Rabottini, Beppu, Selvaggi and Hollenstein's cohesion has utterly dissolved since they came through L'Aquila. The escapees are taking it in turns to attack one another now.

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The pace is very, very high in the peloton now, as Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas-Cannondale) takes up the reins in support of Ivan Basso. All of the overall contenders are jockeying position behind, as we're just a couple of kilometres from the foot of the final climb.

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Navardauskas sits up and is off the back of the peloton now, swigging from a can of Coke. His work for the day is done as the climb begins.

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Stefano Locatelli and Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF) go across to Clement, and interestingly, it's Roman Kreuziger (Astana) who goes with them, followed by Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale).

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Such is the pace that a number of riders have been jettisoned out the back of the bunch, including Matt Goss, Mark Cavendish and Filippo Pozzato. Adriano Malor's pink jersey is also falling back towards the rear of the bunch.

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Herrada duly blows past Agnoli and heads off in lone pursuit of Pirazzi and Rabottini.

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The front end of the peloton is continuing to fragment and reform, but as yet, none of the overall contenders has done anything other than observe.

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Rabottini sits up and is caught by the peloton. Androni-Venezuela have been hugely aggressive on the climb, with Jose Ochoa the next man to force the issue for Gianni Savio's squad.

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Angel Vicioso sets the pace at the head of the bunch for Katusha. All the while, Ryder Hesjedal is currently in the virtual overall lead.

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All of the overall contenders are still present and correct in the chasing peloton, which seems to contain around 60 riders or so.

Both Ivan Basso and Roman Kreuziger have plenty of bodies around them from their Liquigas and Astana teams near the head of the peloton.

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Androni-Venezuela can sense a stage victory for Rujano or perhaps the pink jersey for Rubiano today. They are again forcing the issue on the front, with Carlos Jose Ochoa putting in a monstruous turn.

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Pirazzi tries to rid himself of Herrada once again, but the Spaniard cannot be dislodged.

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Niemic leads the chase behind, and a group of 12 has moved clear in the finale.

Herrada is caught with 600 metres to go.

Scarponi accelerates with 400 metres to go, and brings Paolo Tiralongo with him.

The two Italians do battle through the final kick to the line. Scarponi leads all the way...

But Tiralongo comes past him on the final 100 metres to take the stage win, the second of his career.

Frank Schleck comes across in third place. Rodriguez was up there too, and Ryder Hesjedal, who looks to have done enough to move into pink this evening.

An exhausted Paolo Tiralongo lies flat on the ground after crossing the line, but now he's back on his feet walking towards the podium. Meanwhile, Michele Scarponi is explaining how it all happened to Italian television.

Ryder Hesjedal is the new maglia rosa of the Giro d'Italia after crossing the line in 5th place, just behind Joaquim Rodriguez.

When Scarponi ripped clear with 400 metres to go, he must have thought he had done enough to get the win, but try as he might he never succeeded in shaking off Tiralongo, and the Sicilian came around him inside the final 100 metres to take the win.

Overall, Hesjedal is 15 seconds clear of Tiralongo, while Rodriguez is in third at 17 seconds.


Some small gaps opened in those final 500 metres, but most of the overall contenders seemed to be there or thereabouts. Frank Schleck will probably have surprised even himself with his 3rd place finish. Ivan Basso is never the most explosive of riders, but he has lost 21 seconds to Scarponi today thanks to the time bonus. Roman Kreuziger and Damiano Cunego both coughed up a couple of seconds to Basso, and more to Rodriguez and Scarponi.

General classification:

Thanks for joining us for today's live coverage of the Giro d'Italia. We'll back for more on the road to Lago Laceno tomorrow, but in the meantime stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a full report, results and pictures of today's stage as well as all the news from Rocca di Cambio.

General classification:

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