Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 7 of the 2016 Giro d'Italia. It's a 211km trip from Salmon to Foligno today in what could well come down to a bunch sprint.
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Hello, good morning, and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia. After the GC action yesterday, today we have a 211km stage from Salmon to Foligno that could well come down to a bunch sprint.
The last of the riders are currently signing on and making their way to the start line, so we'll be underway shortly.
Here's a look at the stage profile
As you can see, it's a tricky start with an early second-category climb, and there is rolling terrain thereafter, though nothing unduly difficult. The key test will be the late fourth-cat climb and gentle downhill in to the finish. The sprinters teams will be looking to keep things firmly under control but we could see some opportunistic attacks.
And they're off. The riders have rolled out of Sulmona and, in contrast to yesterday, the sun is shining.
Race leader Tom Dumoulin received a pizza as he went to sign on. Unclear if he ate it there and then or folded it up and stuffed it into his jersey.
We have some early attacks and it looks like a small group has gone up the road. Nippo Vini Fantini, the Italian Pro Conti team for whom it is a major objective in this race to be present in the breaks, are pulling on the front of the peloton, so have clearly not made it in.
The three riders who have opened up a gap are Patrick Grestch (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Stefan Küng (BMC) and Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff).
Cristian Rodriguez was also part of that move initially but has since dropped back. Nippo still chasing, and the escapees have a lead of around 30 seconds as it stands.
The riders are on the early cat-2 climb of Le Svolte Di Popoli and the break have extended their lead towards the minute-mark.
Nippo, of course, are also defending the mountains classification jersey of Damiano Cunego. If they could have kept things together it would have been a good opportunity for the Italian to pick up more KOM points.
The pace is high in the bunch on this climb. Some riders are already being dropped, and the gap to the break is coming down.
Cunego attacks, in search of KOM points.
Cunego drags a few riders with him but they can't reach the leaders in time. Here's the order in which they crested the climb:
4. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal)
6. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar)
Everything has broken up on that climb to a greater extent than we had anticipated. The main group is down to about 40 riders, with several small groups on the road, and the break's advantage is slim.
I think Tim Wellens, who pipped Cunego to fourth over that climb, could have taken the KOM jersey off the Italian in the process. Wellens, of course, scored big by winning yesterday's stage on the second-category summit finish.
Here are the three early breakaway men, but it looks like they're about to be caught.
@Lotto_Soudal Fri, 13th May 2016 10:41:57
Our man Barry Ryan paid a visit to the Giant-Alpecin team bus this morning, and found the unusual sight of Nikias Arndt, Albert Timmer, and Tom Stamsnijder warming up ahead of the stage.
They were planning to work hard in the early part of the stage and it's paying off as race leader Tom Dumoulin is safely in the front group at the moment.
Stamsnijder was hopeful that Lotto Soudal and Etixx-QuickStep would help control things, but warned that it would be a complicated day: "It's a finish for sprinters but it's not an easy sprint stage."
So, the break has been caught, and there is a front group of around 50 riders, which includes Dumoulin. We might have expected things to calm down and come back together in the aftermath of the climb but the pace is still high and there is a group containing the main sprinters which is 1:30 in arrears. Groups in between, too.
173km remaining from 211km
The riders hit the 38-kilometre mark after one hour of racing.
This race is simply not settling down. More moves going off the front of the bunch. The rain has stopped for now.
We're still awaiting confirmation of who's in the group at the back, but we know that Marcel Kittel, and probably many other sprinters, are there. They find themselves 2 minutes behind now, and this is looking like a really complicated affair now for the fast men.
The second and third groups on the road have now merged, so we have one large chase group over two minutes down on the leading group of 50.
Dumoulin, along with all the main GC favourites are up at the head of the race.
Kung, who was in the early breakaway trio, goes on the offensive once more, attacking off the front of the lead group.
Foligno has hosted two Giro stage finishes in the past. The last one was two years ago, also on stage 7 curiously enough, and it was Nacer Bouhanni who took the spoils. It's not looking so sure for the sprinters today.
Kung has made this attack work for now, and has around half a minute on the pink jersey group. Chase group still trying to come back - we'll get a time check for you shortly.
More moves off the front of the bunch now as Axel Domont (Ag2r), Giolui Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF), Stefan Denifl (IAM), Ilya Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) and Daniel Martinez (Wilier-Triestina-Southeast) set off in pursuit of Kung.
Those five riders make the bridge, and the peloton are happy to let a proper breakaway form and duly ease up. Six riders out front, then.
Ciccone picked up maximum points at the intermediate sprint in L'Aquila, followed by Denifl and Kung.
Riders who were previously dropped are coming back up to the pink jersey, and the race looks to be settling back into a more normal format.
Alejandro Valverde has said that Tom Dumoulin was trying to mislead his rivals by insisting he's only at the Giro for the time trials, not the GC. The Spaniard is very wary of the threat carried by the Dutchman. You can read the full story here:
Here's what the new breakaway looks like
So, breakaway and a peloton. That wasn't hard, was it?!
121km remaining from 211km
90 kilometres covered in the race and the riders are heading downhill towards the feed zone at Terme di Cotilia. It's dry out there for now.
Today isn't going to be too significant in terms of the overall classification, but yesterday was, with the first summit finish of the Giro. Barry Ryan took a look at how the action has left the GC complexion:
The situation is stable with the breakaway men enjoying a three-minute buffer over the peloton.
The polemics continue in Italy after Nibali's failed attack during yesterday's stage.
“There’s not much to clear up but we did speak after the stage,” Nibali confirmed before the start today.
“It was a risk yesterday and perhaps we messed up in the heat of the moment. It was not an easy stage and not a steep climb but Domoulin went well. After his attack nobody wanted to help the chase.”
“There’s not much to clear up but we did speak after the stage,” Nibali confirmed before the start today. “It was a risk yesterday and perhaps we messed up in the heat of the moment. It was not an easy stage and not a steep climb but Domoulin went well. After his attack nobody wanted to help the chase.”
“We know that Dumoulin is very strong and so we’ll start focusing on him more and change our tactics. Now we now what we’ve got to deal with. We made a mistake yesterday but the Giro is still long. Today is a kind of transfer stage and we’ve got to focus on the important stages to come.”
The finish in Foligno is suited to a sprint finish but it will be interesting to see the effects of the aggressive racing will impact the finish.
The 211km stage is very similar to the one of 2014, when Nacer Bouhanni won the sprint, beating Giacomo Nizzolo and Luka Mezgec.
106km remaining from 211km
The six attackers still lead by 3:05.
Astana DS Beppe Martinelli was also questioned about the tactical mistakes of yesterday. He played down a suggestion that Nibali made a mistake by blaming his team car for ordering him to attack.
“Is there a problem? How many times does a football coach make a tactical decision during a match without any problems. If Vincenzo had closed the gap it’d have been a perfect tactic, he didn’t do it… so we made a mistake,” Martinelli said.
To read more about Astana's tactics, click here to see what Paolo Bettini said.
He suggested that "Letting Dumoulin gain seconds is like playing with fire"
The riders are currently passing through the feed zone, taking their musettes to enjoy their lunch at the mid-way point in the stage.
@giroditalia Fri, 13th May 2016 12:47:06
After rain during yesterday's stage, the weather is better today and improving all the time. The roads are damp in the race but the sun is out at the finish.
The early climbs of the stage caused some aggressive racing and splits in the peloton. At one point the peloton was split into three groups with 50 riders up front.
Things have since calmed down but it will be interesting to see who will chase the break today.
92km remaining from 211km
Weather forecasts predict more rain in the days to come, especially for Saturday's dirt road section before Arezzo and then during Sunday's 40km Chianti time trial.
Kung is riding aggressively today in the break. He has a tough relationship with the Giro. He crashed out last year and crashed during the opening time trial in Apeldoorn, after setting a fast intermediate time.
Behind Lotto Soudal and FDJ are leading the chase for Greipel and Demare respectively.
86km remaining from 211km
The riders are now on the valley road after Rieti. They will soon drop down to Terni and then face the final climb of the day: the Valico della somma.
After the steady climb it will be a downhill run virtually on the road to Foligno.
Valerio Agnoli is riding i support of Vincenzo Nibali at the Giro d'Italia but is also celebrating fatherhood today after his partner gave birth to a baby boy. According to reports they have opted to call him Luis Leon.
Crash. There's a Movistar rider down on the ground and this does not look good.
It's Javi Moreno and there are two doctors and one Movistar staff member tending to him as he lies flat on the ground. He's conscious and moving, but he has obviously taken a huge knock there.
Doctors are holding Moreno's neck in place and the rider points to his shoulder. Is this a collarbone injury? What's certain is that his Giro is over, and he's being put into an ambulance on a stretcher.
While Moreno heads to hospital, the race goes on, and Alejandro Valverde has lost a key support rider.
We'll bring you an update on Moreno's condition as soon as we know more.
We have confirmation that Moreno has fractured his collarbone. The race doctor tending to the Spaniard was certain of it, and told the moto cameraman.
70km remaining from 211km
Meanwhile, back in the race, we're approaching the 70km-to-go mark and the breakaway riders have a lead of three minutes.
FDJ currently lead the peloton, working for Arnaud Demare, who has finished second on two occasions so far at this Giro. Behind the white and blue jerseys are Lotto Soudal, looking to set Greipel up for a second stage win. Then it's Giant-Alpecin, keeping Dumoulin safe and sound.
We've just come through Marmore, with riders within reach of the spray coming off a huge, 165-metre manmade waterfall.
FDJ and Lotto continue to drive this. No sign of Etixx-QuickStep at this point - they'll just want Marcel Kittel to get over this upcoming climb before they think about working for the finale.
It won't be long before the riders hit the bottom of this cat-4 climb, so here's a reminder of the stage profile.
As the riders make their way up the lower slopes of the climb, the pac in the bunch has caused the breakaway's lead to come down to under the 2-minute mark.
Lotto and FDJ still at the front, GC teams not far behind. It's a steady pace at the moment, no attacks and no real pressure being applied at the moment.
1:20 is the gap now. The sprinters' teams will be happy to keep this steady now. They'll want to keep this break dangling out there so that the race doesn't come back together and encourage further attacks.
A nice shot of the Italian Apennines on the approach to this climb
Attack. Damiano Cunego goes, taking a Nippo teammate with him. The Italian wants to pick up the final KOM points on offer at the top of this climb. Tim Wellens moved ahead of him on the provisional standings earlier today on the second-category climb, so Cunego wants to make sure he stays in the blue jersey tomorrow.
Cunego has 30 seconds, while Dimension Data hit the front of the bunch.
With six men in the break, Cunego has to get over to the break to have any chance of getting a KOM point. We're ne