Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia.
For the latest race updates, please refresh this page
As we kick off our full live coverage of the 159km stage, the riders are signing on and gathering for the start.
After the mountain finish, today's stage is largely flat and a day for the sprinters.
Elia Viviaani (Quick-Step Floors) won two sprint stages in Israel and is the natural favourite for todays finish in Praia a Mare.
The sun is out in Pizzo and at the finish in Praia a Mare. There is only a slight sea breeze.
The first fight of the day will be to get in the break of the day.
This year's Giro d'Italia travels north from Sicily via Calabria, Campania and then the Apennines and the Adriatic coast.
Today's stage is in the toe of the Italian peninsular. To better understand, this is the mp of the stage.
The riders have rolled out of Pizzo and are on the 2.5km neutralised section.
The flag will drop very soon.
Today's stage is so flat there are no categorised climbs and so no points awarded for the blue jersey mountains classification.
The only other stage without KOM points is the final circuit stage on Rome.
They're off! And we have the first attacks.
159km remaining from 159km
The only starter today is Eduardo Zardini (Wilier Triestina). He finished stage 6 but was diagnosed with a fractured collarbone after crashing while in the break.
We have four riders up the road in the first attack but Quick-Step is chasing hard.
Tony Martin (Katusha) is in the move and so perhaps that why they don't want the powerful German in the attack.
Wilier Triestina are also helping the chase as Mitchelton-Scott let them lead the chase.
153km remaining from 159km
The peloton is lined out, such is the high speed. And we have Gruppo Compatto.
It seems that Tony Martin was the problem.
Davide Ballerini and Markel Irizar go again, with Maxim Belkov joining them instead of Martin.
This time the peloton is letting them go.
This was the scene at the start in Pizzo, with big crowds and warm weather.
148km remaining from 159km
The peloton is free wheeling and feeding. They have given the break its freedom. The gap is already up to 1:30.
144km remaining from 159km
The peloton even has time to enjoy the stunning views across the Mediterranean and sandy beaches of Calabria.
The break is pushing on and lead by 3:00.
The trio lead by 4:30 as Mitchelton-Scott take up their place at the front of the peloton.
The unwritten rules of the peloton say it is up to the race leader's team to lead the chase of break for at least half of the stage distance.
Mitchelton-Scott will hope to get help from the sprinters' teams later on.
Davide Ballerini has been one of the most aggressive riders in this year's Giro d'Italia.
His Androni Giocattoli team car comes alongside him so that team manager Gianni Savio can have a chat and appear on television.
Simon Yates is happy to wear the maglia rosa today.
He is the fourth British rider in pink after David Millar, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins.
133km remaining from 159km
To read our full stage report and see our huge photo gallery from the stage to Mount Etna, click here.
Yates impressed everyone with his late attack to join Chaves and then by sportingly let him with the stage.
There have been some huge rivalries in teams in Grand Tours of the past but Yates and Chaves seem united, at least for now.
However the Briton was frank and to the point when asked to outline his principal goal on this Giro.
"To win, of course," Yates said.
"The overall?" his interviewer continued.
"Yes, of course," Yates shrugged.
"In the end, it was a really a perfect day," Yates said. "It wasn't really the plan for Esteban to go in the breakaway but it was very crazy in the start, a lot of guys went up the road, and he just happened to be there.
"I had good legs, and I felt really good. I didn't have to do anything because Esteban was up the road. I could sit in the wheels and save some energy. I just saw a bit of a moment where we'd been riding quite hard for a little bit, and I had a very small gap. I thought OK, this is my moment."
Click here to read our interview story with Simon Yates after he took the pink jersey.
125km remaining from 159km
The peloton has upped their speed and the chase of the trio. The gap is down to 2:30.
Today's stage will be an interesting game of cat and mouse along the coast. The break will try to save some strength for a final surge in the finale, in the hope the peloton miscalculates its chase.
This is the general classification after stage 6.
Three of the four leader jerseys changed owners yesterday.
Simon Yates took the pink jersey from Rohan Dennis, Esteban Chaves took the blue mountains jersey from Enrico Barbin and Richard Carapaz took the best young rider's white jersey from Max Schachmann.
Only Elia Viviani kept hold of a jersey and again wears the ciclamino points jersey.
118km remaining from 159km
The stage continues to roll along the Calabria coast.
Quick-Step Floors and Mitchelton-Scott have cut the gap down to 2:20 but they surely do not want to catch the break just yet.
With an hour raced, the average speed so far is 41.9km/h.
'Tranquillo' seems to be the word of the day.
113km remaining from 159km
The trio in the break do not seem worried about the peloton. They're keeping their heads down and ticked over the bars as they take long turns on the front to keep their pace as high as possible.
To keep up to date on the time gap check out the Situation window. It lists the riders in the break and constantly updates their lead on the peloton.
Post stage the Situation includes the stage results and the general classification.
The peloton is lined out along the coast road but the riders are relaxed as the kilometres tick down.
The speed will no doubt rise as the finish nears.
There are some grey clouds gathering on the hills but rain is not expected along the coast and at the finish.
Lets just hope the Cyclingnews blimp does not spark a downpour on the riders as they sprint to the line.
Yesterday the break did not form until after 50km of attacks, with 28 riders in the move.
Today the second attack proved to be successful, with Markel Irizar Aranburu (Trek-Segafredo), Maxim Belkov (Katusha-Alpecin)and Davide Ballerini (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) going away for a day of glory.
Cyclingnews always brings you all the most important news and interviews after each stage.
We also dig up other inside news each day, often putting them together in our special Giro shorts.
Today we report on how Chris Froome's struggle to provide a urine sample at anti-doping meant he missed Team Sky's helicopter ride to the hotel.
Click here to read the shorts.
Also in the Giro shorts today are stories about how Giovanni Visconti is 'happy to be alive' after being hit by a team car, how Richard Carapaz showed his potential and took the white jersey and how Wilier Triestina suffered but stay united after Zardini crashed, fractured is collarbone but managed to finish the stage.
98km remaining from 159km
After 60km of racing, the gap is 2:45.
We have this image of the three breakaway riders.
We can see that Markel Irizar (Trek-Segafredo) is riding on disc brakes.
All the Trek-Segafredo team are using disc this season, apart from key races in the cobbled Classics.
We saw the Trek-Segafredo riders testing disc brakes at their winter training camp in Sicily.
Trek's Matt Shriver, the technical director for Trek-Segafredo claimed that the Emonda Disc weighs 6.8kg is right on the UCI weight limit, meaning the benefits of disc brakes outweigh a loss in aerodynamics.
"Everyone who was on a Emonda rim-brake bike in 2017 will be on a disc-brake bike in 2018 in every race. That means all of the climbing guys," Shriver told Cyclingnews.
"Before the concerns were weight, wheel-changing and safety. Now with rounded edges, bikes at 6.8kg, it's just about having the wheel change as fast as or faster than caliper brakes.
91km remaining from 159km
Visconti is at the race doctors car getting treatment after his incident yesterday. He explained that he rode into a team car that suddenly hit the brakes.
Click here to read the story.
The race is approaching the feed zone near Paola.
For safety reasons the feed zone is always on a flat or rising road to make it as easy as possible to pass up he musettes.
85km remaining from 159km
Remi Cavagna is doing the hard lifting for Quick-Step and Viviani on the front of the peloton.
He is getting some help from a Wilier Triestina rider but seems strong enough to close the gap on his own if he wishes. He has brought the gap down to 1:10 now but will surely ease up to ensure the catch occurs close to the finish.
After the huge efforts during yesterday's mountain stage to Mount Etna, the overall contenders are enjoying a quiet day in the peloton.
They will be in the action during the weekend on the uphill finish to Montevergine on Saturday and then the big mountain stage and high finish at Gran Sasso on Sunday.
83km remaining from 159km
It seems we spoke too soon about a dry stage.
Some drops of rain are falling on the riders. Fortunately the hills that are attracting the clouds are more distant in the finale of the stage.
78km remaining from 159km
The riders are enjoying lunch on the road, eating rice cakes and small sandwiches.
We can see Ballerini drinking a small soda.
The peloton eases as they pass through the feed zone.
In Italy it is known as the rinfornimento.
Riders traditionally throw away any musettes, bidons and rubbish but races have now created specific 'green zones' where the trash is collected.
The Giro d'Italia has been underway for a week now.
In Europe the 4 Jours de Dunkerque is also underway, while this year's Tour of California gets underway on Sunday.
Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the TOC yet again, alongside our full coverage of the Giro.
To prepare for the TOC, click here to read our race preview.
Most teams have confirmed their line-ups for the Tour of California, including BMC, who have Tejay van Garderen as team leader.
Click here to read more.
67km remaining from 159km
A train cruises past the peloton and quickly catches the break up the coast.
The trio lead by 1:50 now.
63km remaining from 159km
Ballerini leads the break through the first intermediate sprint of the day with 63km to go.
Behind Viviani wins the sprint for fourth place and so takes six points.
Thanks to his stage wins and other points, Viviani has a total of 137 points. He is dominating the race-long competition for now. Sacha Modolo is second with 55 points.
Today's race route hugs the coast all the way to Praia a Mare, switching from the main road to smaller roads through the coastal holiday resorts.
The finish includes a loop above the finish town and so the finish is from the north.
The climb starts in Scalea with 19km to go. It last 4km but is followed by a false flat until 5km to go.
The descent to Praia a Mare is fast but includes few corners.
A left and right turn throws the riders onto the sea front, with the finishing straight 1.9km long. A lead out train will be vital today.
52km remaining from 159km
EF has sent a rider up to the front of the peloton to help the chase of the break.
Hugh Carthy is a climber but is on chase duty today in the hope that Sacha Modolo can win the sprint.
46km remaining from 159km
The Tv helicopter chases a train loaded with cars. We can expected Quick-Step Floors to be as well organised later.
The Belgian team does not have a GC contenders, with most of the team selected to help Viviani win stages and the points jerseys.
Were deep into the Grand Tour and stage race now but it was a great Classics season.
To look back and savour the Cobbled classics over the weekend, why not buy or rent our first ever film.
Click here to find out more and see the trailer.
The Cyclingnews film crew were granted exclusive access to the biggest teams. We followed reconnaissance rides, were allowed into the inner sanctum of team buses, on the massage table, and invited to post-race celebration parties and rider debriefs to create this near fifty-minute film.
Along with coverage of Sagan, Terpstra and Greg Van Avermaet, we interview their teammates and find out what makes the Classics stars tick and what drives them over some of the most brutal yet beautiful terrain in the sport. There are cameos from Daniel Oss, Matteo Trentin, Luke Rowe, Taylor Phinney, Patrick Lefevere and former Paris-Roubaix winner Mat Hayman, all with unique takes on a special week.
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39km remaining from 159km
Roux of Groupama slips out on a curve as the peloton descends back to the coast.
He's quickly up and away but it is a sign the speed and tension is rising.
35km remaining from 159km
The trio up front is working hard but they have little chance of staying away today.
However Androni Gicattoli team manager loves his riders going on the attack.
"The break’s success depends on them the peloton," he told RAI television recently.
"They should catch them but Androni Giocattoli believes in always going on the attack. Cycling is beautiful because anything can happen. We always try to get in the breaks, not only to honour the Giro, but because one day the break will stay away and we have to be there to play our cards.”
31km remaining from 159km
At the back of the peloton Wout Poels of Sky calls for his team car. He has a rear flat.
The final intermediate sprint of the day is coming up in Santa Maria del Cendro.
This area of Calabria is famous for its chilly peppers but also for the Cedro or citron fruit.
The best are often bought for religious ceremonies, especially the Jewish Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles, or to display in Buddhist temples.
Belkov leads through the sprint. The trio lead the peloton by 1:50 but have upped their pace.
This will be a fascinating pursuit match.
Yet again Viviani wins the sprint at the head of the peloton to hoover up a few more points.
Cavagna is quickly back on the front to lead the chase.
The Wilier Triestina team has hit the front to lead the chase. The Italian team has promised to bounce back after a tough day yesterday.
17km remaining from 159km
The break starts the 4km climb. The Israel Cycling Academy is trying to make the pure sprinters hurt in favour of Kristian Sbaragli.
Bonifazio of Bahrain is also a threat today but has just flatted and taken a wheel from Mohoric.
This rolling finale could suit Sacha Modolo of EF and DS Fabrizio Guidi likes the Italian's chances.
"Sacha is feeling good, especially after a week of racing," he told Italian television.
"We’re going ‘all-in’ for him today. We’ve got riders to help him and they’ve worked well together in the past and I’m sure they’ll do well today."
15km remaining from 159km
The climb has split the break. Ballerini is pushing on but Belkov and Irizar have been swept up.
14km remaining from 159km
Gruppo compatto. Ballerini has been caught.
We immediately have another attack as Bonifazio gets back into the team cars.
The shot of adrenaline could give something extra for the sprint.
Alex Dowsett goes off the front. Ulissi has also tried his hand.
10km remaining from 159km
Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) won in Praia a Mare in 2016 but today’s finale is very different.
“Two years ago there were several kilometres in land in the hills and the final was harder too. Today’s its for the sprinters,” he said this morning.
“Viviani has showed he’s the fastest sprinter in this year’s Giro. His team is strong and for him too, so it’s difficult to see who can beat him.”
“I’m focusing on stages that suit me. I went in the break yesterday and my form is growing. I hope to do something later on.”
The sprint trains and G protection trains re forming now for the fast run-in to the finish.
It looks almost certain to be a sprint finish today.
7km remaining from 159km
The road descends until 5km to go. The speed is high now.
They're flying at 70km/h as teams fight for wheels.
The riders are passing through several tunnels making it even more nervous.
We can here riders shouting out.
3km remaining from 159km
Lotto Fix All is on the front as Trek and EF move up.
Here come Quick-Step, with Morkov dragging up Sabatini and Viviani.
No one team is able to lead out the peloton.
2km remaining from 159km
LottoNL lead through the right and left turns.
It's 1.9km straight to the line now.
EF take over but here comes QSF.
1km remaining from 159km
Viviani has 3 riders to lead him out.
Viviani prefers to go solo. Bennett is on his wheel.
Modolo leads it out. Viviani comes past but he also runs out of speed.
Bennett edges past him to win!
Bennett and his Bora teammates hug in celebration.
It is Bennett's 23rd career win but the first of 2018.
Viviani looked set to win but Bennett came off his wheel at the right moment to pass him in the final 50m.
Bennett heads back to the podium area to be crowned as the stage winner.
It is Bennett's first Grand Tour stage win.
This is the top ten for the stage.
1 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe 3:45:27
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
3 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
4 Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
5 Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
6 Jakub Mareczko (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia
7 Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
9 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing Team
10 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
The general classification remains unchanged.
1 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:00:16
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:26
4 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:43
5 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:00:45
6 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:53
7 Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:01:03
8 Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:10
9 George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:11
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:12
“I’m really happy. We tried so hard in other sprints but never got the timing right. The team did a fantastic job and want to thank everyone who helped me get to this point,” Bennett said.
Bennett holds his arms out wide on the podium.
He's proven yet again that the Bora team is not just about Peter Sagan and the Classics.
“It’s very hard to get Viviani’s wheel, they all want it. I had to fight for it. I thought we’d left it too late but the timing was right and I could use my power to get an advantage."
Simon Yates is on the podium. He does not seem sure of the podium protocol yet but is happy to have the pink jersey for another day.
“It was a nice day until the finale and sprint,” Yates said briefly. “The break went early and never really got a gap so it was a good day.”
This is the first shot of the sprint finish.
Here's Yates in pink on the podium in Praia a Mare.
Here's a later shot of the sprint. Viviani is not happy, while Bennett clearly is.
Several riders and DS have explained that the late tunnels above Praia a Mare were not lit, with wax torches the only source of light. However the wax apparently ran onto the road, causing a moment of panic in the peloton.
Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) spoke briefly to Italian television but avoided revealing the team’s tactics or who is the real team leader.
"Consistency is the key," he said.
"There are going to be some difficult days ahead. We have to be ready every day and then there’s still the time trial."
"Who is the captain in team? I don’t think we have a captain. We have a good team, we don’t need to label anyone. We’ve got two strong guys and so we’ll take it day by day."
This is a great shot of Bennett enjoying his stage win.
To see more great photos from stage 7, and to read our full stage report, click here.
That was the view from the start in Pizzo. However the riders had little chance to enjoy the sea views.
The peloton rolled along the coast compact, with Simon Yates protected by his Mitchelon-Scott teammates.
Elia Viviani was disappointed to be beaten in Praia a Mare.
H kept the ciclamino points jersey but was not happy.
"We had to spend a lot of energy to come up - my guys needed to spend energy, I was on the wheel but Bennett was always sat on my wheel," he explained.
"He decided a good tactic. I think Modolo went early, but I also went early. In a sprint like that one on the sea, the wind makes a difference. You also see Bonifazio came third from a long way behind."
"I just needed to wait 10 metres more. When I know guys like Bennett are on my wheel, so they have a really fast 50 meters... maybe also the last three stages are somewhat in the legs."
"We know we are fast, but today we were beaten by a faster one."
Unfortunately Viviani and the other sprinters will have to suffer in the mountains in the next few days before the next chance to sprint for victory.
Saturday's 8th stage ends with the fast climb to Montevergine near Naples.
Sunday is 225km long and ends with the long climb up to Gran Sasso. The 26km climb is steep at the beginning, flattens in the middle but then steepens to 8% in the final 4km.
The riders enjoy the second rest day on the Adriatic coast on Monday but then face a 239km rolling stage in the hills of Abruzzo, Le Marche and Umbria.
It seems perfect for a breakaway or an attack on the pink jersey rather than a sprint finish.
Next Wednesday's 11th stage is very similar with several late climbs. A visit to Filottrano to remember Michele Scarponi is followed by a twisting, uphill finish in the centre of ancient Osimo.
The next real chance for the sprinters in next Thursday in Imola, when the 214km stage ends on the Autodromo Ferrari motor racing track.
However there is a final 15km circuit in the nearby hills that will surely inspire attacks.
The sprinters will have to work for victory, while all the stages off a chance for the GC contenders to attack each other to gain time.
Sam Bennett won the fight to the line but then he had to fight the swarm of photographers and other team staff at the finish to go to the podium.
It was clearly worth it and Bennett rightly celebrated his first ever Grand Tour stage win.
For full details on the stage and to see our 50+ photo with every stage report, click here.
We've increased our number of podcast this season and you can here the latest edition by click here.
Stage 6 to Mount Etna shook up the overall classification and give a real indication of who will emerge to challenge for final victory.
In the latest podcast, we hear from new race leader Yates, along with Rohan Dennis, the rider divested of the maglia rosa.
We also hear from Chris Froome, who ticked a box by staying with the main group of favourites but was hardly convincing on Etna. The same goes for 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin, and we assess his chances along with those of the rest of the general classification contenders.
We then look ahead to this weekend’s action, with two more summit finishes closing out the first week.
The mountains in this Giro are concentrated in the final week but stages 8 and 9 should see some action, if not on the category 2 finish at Montevergine di Mercogliano on Saturday then certainly on the long final climb of Gran Sasso d’Italia on Sunday.
The Cyclingnews podcast is brought to you in association with Prendas Ciclismo, Pinarello and Floyds of Leadville.
Click here to see other episodes and subscribe.
Thanks for joining us in the saddle for another stage if full live coverage.
Well be back on Saturday for full stage 8 live coverage.
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