Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) was placed perfectly through the final few corners with the Australian having to kick early to chase down Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) who launched very early.
Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) took his second runners-up spot of the race with Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) showing good pace again in third.
The vast majority of the day was yet another slow-paced day controlled by the sprint teams with an exception to the intermediate sprint halfway through the day where Qhubeka-Assos and Bora-Hansgrohe ripped up the pace with Sagan being the only major sprint name to take points.
Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) kept hold of the pink leaders' jersey with no change in the GC apart from a late mechanical for Hugh Carthy (EF-Nippo).
How it happened
Stage seven of the Giro d’Italia 2021 started in the town of Notaresco before heading over relatively lumpy terrain until flattening out in the final third of the stage with a technical finale into Termoli after 181km of racing.
Three riders went from the flag drop with the usual suspects of Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Umberto Marengo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) were joined by Manxman, Mark Christian (EOLO-Kometa) who pulled out almost six minutes at its peak.
The time gap did drop down and settle at closer to four minutes as the sprinter’s teams took control of the main bunch. But, when the race headed to the intermediate sprint at the halfway point of the stage Qhubeka-Assos and Bora-Hansgrohe upped the pace for their sprinters.
This backfired for Qhubeka as their man, Giacomo Nizzolo lost touch with the front riders with Peter Sagan and his team-mate, Daniel Oss, pulling away for Bora with Sagan easing over the line in fourth, taking valuable points. Filippo Fiorelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) was the only other sprinter to score points.
But, the pacing brought the gap to the break right down to under a minute before it settled yet again, but at a much shorter gap of 1-30 in the final 50km. With Pellaud taking the lead of the Fuga Pinarello prize of most kilometres out in the break.
The break were brought back by the peloton with 17km to go as all the sprint trains were coming together to control the pace and to set up a mass dash to the line as well as other teams keeping their GC riders safe, especially after losing Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) due to crashes on the last sprint stage.
Alpecin-Fenix led into the last 3km and a small climb to take them into Termoli but it was Lotto-Soudal who took over pacing with Ewan very well placed. Francesco Gavazzi (EOLO-Kometa) tried to get clear with Oss following but Lotto-Soudal's Jasper De Buyst quickly pulled it back.
Gaviria went very early with about 400 metres to go, but this early sprint launched Ewan into action, with the Australian quick to sprint straight after the Colombian sprinter.
Ewan got into the split stream of Gaviria into the final corner with Cimolai and Merlier closing fast but Ewan held on to get his second win of this year's race as well as taking the lead in the points classification.
Valter finished safely in the bunch and maintains his 11-second lead over Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and 16-seconds lead over Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) going into the eighth stage from Foggia to Guardia Sanframondi, a 170km taking on some medium mountains.
Giro d'Italia 2021 stage seven, Notaresco to Termoli (181km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, in 4-42-12
2. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-Up Nation
3. Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
4. Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
5. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
6. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates
7. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
8. Max Kanter (Ger) Team DSM
9. Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè
10. Juan Sebastian Molano (Col) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time.
General classification after stage seven
1. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ, in 26-59-18
2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 11 seconds
3. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 16s
4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 24s
5. Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix, at 25s
6. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 39s
7. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 41s
8. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 47s
9. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, at 49s
10. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 55s.
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