No change in pink
The day’s final climb was only three kilometres long and averaged a modest 6.9 per cent gradient, so perhaps expectedly it didn’t cause any ruptures in the fight for the general classification.
An earlier ramp of 11 per cent didn’t prompt any attacks from the leading contenders, and rather boringly they all crossed the line in the same group, swinging their frames from side to side but not exerting too much of an effort, knowing that tomorrow's Giro d'Italia stage presents a greater opportunity to gain and claw back time, depending on a rider’s current predicament.
It means that Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) retains the lead and in second Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) continues to hold an 11-second advantage over Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), who in turn has an eight-second buffer to Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech).
Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) featured at the head of the leading bunch without being tempted to eat into the 27-second deficit he has to Evenepoel, while Simon Yates (BikeExchange) was also positioned close the front but will wait for harder tests before attempting to overturn a 38-second gap to Evenepoel.
Can Valter hold onto the lead?
It’s not really surprising that Valter did manage to finish in the leading group given the tame profile of the final climb, but the very fact that he did indicates that he isn’t going to give up ownership of the pink too easily.
Little is known about the 22-year-old, and while he won a mountain stage at the Tour of Hungary last year that also earned him the overall title in his home race, his limited results so far don’t suggest that he will be able to stay in touch with Bernal and Yates and the other big hitters on stage nine.
But then that’s his ace card: no-one knows what he is capable of. Comparatively, we were in a similar situation last year when João Almeida, also aged 22 at the time, first took pink, and the Portuguese ended up keeping the jersey for two weeks.
What have we learned about Valter? That the more we know about him, the less we still know just what he is capable of.
Cofidis break their Giro drought
French team Cofidis were hoping to end their Giro d’Italia stage win drought last year with Elia Viviani, but that aspiration didn’t really go as planned.
The Italian has been close in three sprint stages so far this week, but it was his team-mate Victor Lafay who finally claimed the team’s first Giro win since 2010.
Lafay attacked from the break in the closing kilometres and rode a measured effort to catch others and then comfortably cruise to victory by more than 30 seconds.
With his bright red rosy cheeks, the 25-year-old scored his first-ever professional victory and continues his noteworthy spring form that also saw him finish second on a mountain stage at the Tour of Valencia before claiming fourth overall.
Lafay has pedigree at U23 level – a stage win at the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc and second in the 2018 U23 European Championships road race – but it’s only in the past few months that he has begun making a name for himself at the highest level. Another French climber to watch.
Ewan abandons to focus on other targets
Even on a day reserved for the breakaway and the GC riders, the sprinters didn’t want to be left out of the day’s action.
Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan, who won two stages in the opening week, abandoned in the early part of the stage, citing knee pain and a need to recover from his efforts in the past seven days to set him up for the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, the remaining Grand Tours where the Australian wants to win a stage in this season.
Ewan can be very satisfied with his week’s work in the Italian rain, and many of his sprint rivals will be content too given the ease at which he won stage seven.
With no clear favourite to triumph in the race’s forthcoming sprints, it opens the door for Viviani to get even closer, Peter Sagan to win a bunch sprint against top competition for the first time since the 2019 Tour de France, and even Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) to try and secure a stage win on his return to the peloton.
Movement in the points jersey
In quitting the Giro, Ewan ceded the points jersey – a classification he was never targeting – to Belgian Tim Merlier of Alpecin-Fenix who now leads by a narrow seven points from Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhuebka-Assos).
In seventh place ahead of the stage was Fernando Gaviria, and the UAE Team Emirates rider was part of the day’s breakaway. Predictably, the Colombian scooped all 12 points at the first intermediate sprint points on offer.
A fall on the descent of the Bocca della Selva, however, hampered him latter in the stage and he didn’t bother contesting the second sprint, although did claim an additional two points to move 27 points adrift of Merlier.
Curious tactics and infiltrating breakaways has begun in the battle for the maglia ciclamino.
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