Caleb Ewan shows his versatility once again
The Australian powerhouse has set himself the ambitious goal of winning a stage of all three Grand Tours in a single season, a feat only achieved by three riders in history, and already has his Giro stage ticked off.
But as Ewan admitted after that win, he always wants more, and with his confidence sky-high he was the favourite heading into this next sprint opportunity, even with the uphill gradients in the final.
Ewan has consistently shown his versatility in sprints, winning from a multitude of positions on varied terrain (including the brutal uphill Hatta Dam finish in the UAE Tour), and the finish into Termoli was another addition.
As Fernando Gaviria fired an early attack to try and sneak victory away from his sprinting rivals, Ewan was left isolated at the front of the bunch but wasn’t afraid to set off in pursuit alone.
Despite the uphill to the line, Ewan single-handedly closed down Gaviria’s attack and fired past to take his second win of the race.
The next question for Ewan is how long will he stay in the race.
Admirable long range attack from Gaviria fails to catch Ewan off guard
Respect has to go to Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) after his sprint on stage seven.
The Colombian has been struggling to deliver from the conventional sprints so far this Giro, with his best finish being fifth place on stage five, so instead opted for a new tactic in Termoli.
Gaviria kicked clear of the bunch 500m out, a long way for a pure sprinter, in the hopes he could catch his rivals off guard on the uphill gradient to the line.
After pulling out a considerable gap, it looked like a 50-50 opportunity for Gaviria, with Ewan hot on his heels in pursuit.
The jump was 100m too early for Gaviria, who slipped back to sixth at the line, as the attack showed he doesn’t have confidence in his pure power.
But the effort showed he’s not afraid to shake up the sprints in the hopes of adding to his tally of five Giro stage wins.
With more opportunities on the horizon, Gaviria may take confidence from the ambitious, if doomed, move.
Merlier sprints to podium even after ‘case of the Tom Dumoulins’
Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) has proved himself amongst some of the fastest sprinters in cycling already in this Giro, winning at his first opportunity on stage two during his maiden Grand Tour.
But things very nearly went south for the Belgian sprinter on the roads to Termoli, as he was forced to duck out of the peloton as the pace ramped up.
According to reports Merlier stopped at the side of the road for “a case of the Tom Dumoulins” as it was described by GCN commentator Rob Hatch - a subtle euphemism for an unexpected bathroom break, named after Dumoulin was forced to drop his shorts on the way to the Stelvio during the 2017 Giro.
While that could have been game over for Merlier, the determined rider hopped back on his bike and rejoined his team-mates, miraculously sprinting to a third-place finish, presumably in a rush to change clothes...
Maglia ciclamino race still wide open
Ewan’s double victory in this year’s Giro opens up a fascinating question for his rivals in the form of the maglia ciclamino points classification.
Unsurprisingly, Ewan went straight to the top of the leaderboard with his second victory, now with 106 points, knocking Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos) off the top spot.
But Ewan has admitted he has no intention of finishing this year’s Giro, as he plans to pull out of the race early to turn his attention to his next goal, the Tour de France.
This means the points classification is still wide open.
After his victory on the opening road stage,Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) is second in the competition on 83 points, putting him next in line to take over the jersey when Ewan leaves the race.
Giacomo Nizzolo, a double winner of the maglia ciclamino in past years, finished outside the top 10 on stage seven and so missed out on valuable points, knocking him down in to third, but still within reach of Merlier on 76.
But it’s impossible to discount Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), winner of seven Tour de France green jerseys, who has slipped down into fifth on 57 points.
Sagan is the best of his generation at riding consistently through a Grand Tour to score points and has the versatility to hit the podium on varied terrain, making him a threat as the race heads towards Milan.
Each of these riders will be eyeing Ewan’s jersey when he finally decides to call it quits.
Another tame day in Italy, this time without the miserable weather
So far the Giro d’Italia 2021 will be best remembered for its unmemorable stages.
The race has covered some serious distance since we departed from Turin last Saturday, with the first seven stages averaging 179km in length, with more than 1,000km covered in the first week.
Combined with the miserable weather conditions riders have had to face most days, it’s not really a surprised the peloton is taking its recovery where it can, and stage seven was another one of those days.
Following the first mountain finish of the race on stage six, the GC teams were happy to cruise along the Adriatic coast to Termoli, with the sprint teams controlling the pace and just doing enough to keep the breakaway within reach, not expending any unnecessary effort.
While the Giro is always back-loaded with intense climbing stages, there won’t be much time to relax in the next few stages, with stage eight suiting the breakaway or the puncheurs, ending with a sharp 3km climb to the finish.
Stage nine is likely to be where the real fireworks return however, as the peloton faces a tough climbing day, ending with a first category climb with a gravel finish.
Then after a likely sprint finish on stage 10 into Foligno, stage 11 marks one of the major spectacles of this year’s race - the infamous white roads of Tuscany.
While stage seven may not have provided the thrills of stage six, we won’t have to wait long before the race explodes into life once again.
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