Good morning and welcome once again to Cycling Weekly's live blog. I'm still Adam Becket, and I'll be taking you through what could be a crucial Giro d'Italia stage seven, as the race heads back to the mountains.
Mads Pedersen won stage six, meaning he has now won stages at all three Grand Tours, with his Giro win added to the stage he won at the Tour de France last July, and the three stages he won at the Vuelta a España in 2023.
His victory was not the overarching story of the day, however, that was the heartbreak doled out to the two surviving members of the breakaway, Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco AlUla) and Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech), who were caught within the final 200m.
Today should be a day for the climbers as the race finishes atop Gran Sasso d'Italia, with over 4,000m of climbing across the day's 218km. Expect general classification action.
You can check out the stage seven route in more detail in our Giro route analysis.
Are you planning on tuning into the Giro today? Find out how you can catch all the action in our how to watch guide.
Covid strikes Giro d'Italia peloton again
After Clément Russo of Arkéa Samsic was forced out ahead of stage six on Thursday, there have been two more Covid positives in the Giro d'Italia peloton.
Bora-Hansgrohe confirmed that their young Italian rider Giovanni Aleotti would not start stage seven due to having Covid, with news coming from Alpecin-Deceuninck that Nicola Conci would also not be at the start in Capua for the same reason.
With three riders out with the virus so far, it seems like it is only a matter of time before it impacts the general classification hopefuls, although let us hope for more luck through the rest of the race.
Mark Cavendish 'feels good' despite third crash of Giro
We feared for Mark Cavendish's health after the British champion was pictured on the floor during Thursday's stage six, his third crash of the Giro so far.
Thankfully, his Astana-Qazaqstan team confirmed that he finished the stage with the help of teammates, and later on Thursday night the squad released a statement saying he had avoided "serious injury".
"After his crash on the descent in Stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia Mark Cavendish feels good," the statement read. 'He's got some new bruises and abrasions on his right side of the body, but, generally, avoided any serious injury."
Official start given for Giro d'Italia stage seven
The official start has already been given for stage seven of the Giro - early, I know. The riders have 218km to tackle, including that fearsome final climb to Gran Sasso d'Italia, so they better had get moving sooner rather than later.
Bad news though, I'm afraid, it's raining again. Of course, that's bad news for the riders rather than us, but we hope there are no more nasty crashes of the like we saw on Wednesday's stage five.
Some riders will be delighted that climbing is back on the menu, while others - like Trek-Segafredo's Tom Skuijnš - will be grimacing.
Been fun to sit in top 10 on GC for a few days. However today I say bye bye. #fatboysdontclimbMay 12, 2023
212km to go: There has been a flurry of attacks off the front already. At the moment, there is a quartet off the front: Henok Mulubrhan (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), Davide Bais (EOLO-Kometa), Karel Vacek (Corratec-Selle Italia) and Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty). Is that the day's break already?
209km to go: That does indeed look like the break has gone. The road has been filled by the peloton, with one minute already given to the men up the road. There are a couple of riders stopping for the toilet already - nerves?
207km to go: Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) was awarded the most combative rider award overnight, thanks to a Twitter poll. I don't think that will do much to heal his heartbreak at being caught 200m from the line yesterday, though.
202km to go: The riders of the peloton are currently having a chat, naturally. It's pretty relaxed, as you can tell. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), the world champion, has his leg warmers back on. It's May!
197km to go: If they go this slowly all day, it's going to be a loooooong stage. The break have well over five minutes on the peloton.
Meanwhile, the photo above shows just how different it is up on the Gran Sasso d'Italia, where there are walls of snow. It will be a very pretty finish.
193km to go: The squeal of disc brakes heralds a very wet day in southern Italy. The break now has over six minutes - how much is too much time? The peloton are not even really riding yet.
One thing we haven't talked about yet is the general classification. It has not changed since stage four, where Andreas Leknessund (DSM) took pink, but it probably will on the steep climb of the Gran Sasso d'Italia today.
The Norwegian is not a bad climber, but can he hold off the likes of Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). Both have crashed, so it will be interesting to see where their legs are at when the road starts to go upwards.
Roglič probably needs time on Evenepoel ahead of the second time trial, given what happened on the opening stage. Will that be in his mind?
'It could have been a lot worse' - Geraint Thomas
It was heart-in-mouth time for Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) towards the end of stage six of the Giro on Thursday, when his chain slipped and he was briefly off the back of the bunch.
No harm was done in the end, and the Welshman said "it could have been a lot worse" after the stage.
"The gears were a bit dodgy all day, but I didn't want to change my bike because it was so crazy," Thomas told Cyclingnews. "It was ok, but then the chain just came off the front and off the cassette. It took me a while to realise it was off the cassette, but I put it back on.
"After that, the boys were great in getting me back into position. Luckily, I've got strong guys around me. With Swifty [Ben Swift], Pippo [Filippo Ganna] and Puccio [Salvatore Puccio], I had great support."
"It could have been a lot worse," Thomas said. "At least it was just a chain coming off again and nothing else."
"When there was a barrage, it could have been touch and go, but it was all good in the end," he added later.
185km to go: We have got to the thrilling bit of the day where riders are filmed taking off and putting on rain jackets. A penny for JaI Hindley's thoughts whenever he sees that on TV. The break has been pegged at just over six minutes.
30km to go at Itzulia Women
Meanwhile, thanks to the Giro d'Italia starting early, I forgot to tell you about Itzulia Women, which has begun today. There's 30km to go in the Basque Country for some on the world's best female riders. There are just three stages of the race, and all three were won by Demi Vollering (SD Worx) last year.
At the moment, Aurela Nerlo (Massi-Tactic) and Anna Kiesenhofer (Israel-Premier Tech-Rolan) have just over a minute on the peloton. Giving Kiesenhofer time up the road might not be the best option...
157km at the Giro: The break now has eight minutes on the peloton. It's a sleepy start to the day.
153km to go: That gap is now ten minutes, which seems like a lot, but remember that the peloton has not really started riding at all yet.
Meanwhile, EF Education-EasyPost's riders have stopped at the side of the road to change into new clothes, which you don't often see.
149km to go: Robbie McEwen reports that Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has a cold, which is a blow to his hopes to take the points jersey and win another stage.
Demi Vollering solo at Itzulia Women
Demi Vollering (SD Worx) is now alone at the front of Itzulia Women stage one, after Kiesenhofer and Nerlo were caught on the climb Urkaregi. I told you earlier that the Dutchwoman won all three stages at the race last year, and she doesn't want to stop winning in the Basque Country just yet. Vollering has just under 40 seconds to her chasers, with 4km to go.
Demi Vollering wins Itzulia Women stage one
There has never been a stage of Itzulia Women not won by Demi Vollering. If that feels like a weird thing to say, this year's race is only the second edition, and the SD Worx rider won all three stages last year, and the opening stage this year.
The Dutchwoman clipped off the front on the final climb, Urkaregi, underlining her form at the moment, and soloed to the finish. Behind her, her teammate Marlen Reusser finished second, and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) came fourth. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) finished fourth, conceding a considerable amount of seconds to Vollering.
Two stages still to come.
140km to go at the Giro: The sun is out at the Giro, at last, but a lot of the riders still have their rain jackets on - it must be a little chilly out there too. The break still has over nine minutes on the peloton.
The Cyclists' Alliance publishes learnings from Zaaf situation, argues for changes to UCI rules
The Cyclists' Alliance (TCA), the unofficial union for the women's peloton, has published an overview of how it helped riders during the collapse of the Zaaf team and what it has learned for the future.
TCA describes itself as a foundation which offers "holistic support to professional female cyclists during and after their careers", and put a lot of work in to help the riders who were caught up in the situation surrounding Zaaf Cycling Team, a former Spanish Continental team.
Multiple riders quit the team after allegations that it had not paid some of its riders and staff salaries. The other early departures included Debora Silvestri, Ebtissam Zayed Ahmed, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Lucie Jounier, Mareille Meijering, Elizabeth Stannard, Heidi Franz, and Maggie Coles-Lyster.
On April 27, the UCI removed the Zaaf Cycling Team from the list of registered teams because its roster fell below the minimum of eight riders that the sport governing body requires for a team to obtain a Continental women's team licence.
In its findings, The Cyclists' Alliance says: "We feel that there should no longer be a question as to whether or not professional athletes are allowed to find another job if their employer is failing to respect their contractual obligations. Zaaf riders who were able to find new contracts and transfer to other teams during the spring of 2023 have done so under exceptions to the current UCI rules.
"The Council feels the exceptions that the UCI and TCA has helped the Zaaf have access to, should become permanent changes to the UCI regulations. This will avoid taking the risk and tedious hassle of pushing for the same exceptions in the future. Changing the regulations for good will create long term systemic changes."
The organisation has written to the UCI about this.
There are also recommendations for what a rider can do if they are unsure of the situation they are getting into, which include reviewing a contract with someone with legal expertise.
131km to go at Giro: The break's gap has now dipped below nine minutes as the race heads towards the second-category climb Roccaraso. It is 7.3km at an average of 6.1%, so shouldn't trouble the riders too much, but it might mean action.
Before then, there is an intermediate sprint to deal with, which will be crossed by the riders in the break first before those interested in points in the peloton get involved.
124km to go: The breakaway of four was briefly three. On the first climb of the day Karel Vacek of Corratec has dropped off the back, before getting back on. The other three out front are now Davide Bais (EOLO-Kometa), Henok Mulubrhan (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) and Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty).
Bais won the intermediate sprint, from Petilli, Vacek and Mulubrhan, while back with the peloton, Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) beat Michael Matthews (Jayco AlUla) for fifth. That means four for the Dane, three for Matthews, and none for the leader in the points classification - Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious).
The sun is out again!
Tom Thewlis here, taking over for the next hour while Adam takes a break.
120km to go: We've just had a shot of Remco Evenepoel at the back of the main field with a couple of Quick-Step teammates. Looks like he's deep in conversation with the guys around him.
The weather really hasn't been great so far this Giro, although that's often to be expected.
The roads are slick once more today and the riders are all decked out in wet weather gear. One thing's for sure, it will certainly be freezing at the top of the Gran Sasso today.
119km to go: We've still got the same guys up the road with the gap back to the peloton still standing at just under ten minutes.
We're just under a kilometre from the summit of the Roccaraso climb, the sun's out and my money is one Davide Bais to grab maximum points at the top.
118km to go: Yes! He's done it. Davide Bais takes 18 points in the mountains classification as he's first over the top, with Pettili taking eight in second, Vacek of Corratec taking six and Mulubrhan taking four.
There's still a couple of points on offer for when the peloton arrive, Thibaut Pinot will almost certainly look to grab them.
114km to go: As the breakaway reached the top of the Roccaraso, Henok Mulubrhan was dropped out of the back.
We've now got three guys up the road led by Bais, with Mulubrhan somewhere in between them and the peloton ten minutes back down the road.
113km to go: The peloton are just passing through a feed zone, with many of the domestiques grabbing hold of their musettes ready to pass on to their leaders.
UAE, Quick-Step and DSM are on the front of the bunch and don't seem to be in any particular hurry. The breakaway's lead is at eleven minutes now.
Expect that to plummet as the stage reaches its finale later today.
110km to go: You can see Pinot sat comfortably in the bunch resplendent in the Maglia Azzurra.
The Frenchman darted out of the main field as they crossed the summit of the Roccaraso there and took the remaining two mountains points on offer. It all looked pretty easy, he's tucking into an energy bar now after that little effort.
Pinot's teammate Stefan Küng took the remaining point.
Pinot now leads the mountains classification with 42 points, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek-Segafredo) is ins econd on 26 points with Aurelien Paret-Peintre of AG2R in third palce on 22 points.
Here's the current state of play in the mountains classification if you want to take a closer look!
https://t.co/qSM6wDOesi pic.twitter.com/Hird1AWe15May 12, 2023
103km to go: We've had a small crash! Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) is on the deck along with the youngest rider in the race, Matthew Riccitello (Israel-Premier Tech)... far from ideal from both guys.
We didn't see what happened there, just the two left on the floor after the incident.
Riccitello looks pretty miffed understandably, particularly as he's had to change his bike as a result.
101km to go: Here's Remco a moment ago, complete in his leg warmers and overshoes.
As the sun starts to appear, a lot of the riders are gradually getting rid of their wet weather gear. We've just seen current race leader Andreas Leknessund removing his leg warmers as the temperature has apparently risen by ten degrees.
97km to go: Here's Leknessund, getting comfortable as the peloton rolls along this plateau.
Bais, Petilli and Vacek are still the trio up the road.
89km to go: The breakaway's gap has moved up to more than 12 minutes now as the riders snake down a small descent.
DSM are clearly looking to organise things a little now, moving all of their riders to the front of the peloton to set the tempo.
Leknessund is at the back of their train. Will the Norwegian manage to keep hold of the Maglia Rosa today? In commentary, Robbie McEwen has just said it feels "inevitable" that Evenepoel will re-claim the pink leaders jersey today... At just 28 seconds off the lead again, it does certainly feel that way.
Jay Vine signs long term deal with UAE Team Emirates
While the riders continue on the road to the Gran Sasso d'Italia, UAE Emirates have just announced that Jay Vine has signed a new contract with the team.
Vine will now be a UAE rider until 2027. He could play a key role in support of team leader João Almeida today.
✍️ We are delighted to @JayVine3 🇦🇺 has signed a new long-term deal until 2027.Full story: https://t.co/tC04yVdFPY#UAETeamEmirates #WeAreUAE pic.twitter.com/o33rm7cheTMay 12, 2023
80km to go: The gap to the leaders has dropped a little and now stands at 11-12.
We're cruising along towards the next intermediate sprint point of the day. DSM are still leading the bunch although other teams will no doubt look to get amongst it in the kilometres to come.
Hello! Adam here, I'm back, I've had two slices of pizza and am ready and raring to go.
68km to go: Nothing has happened while I was away, as far as I'm aware. The break still has almost ten minutes, the peloton is just rolling along. Easy.
53km to go: I'm not saying that today has been dull so far, but on TV they are talking about saffron. The gap is 10-35, and we are closing in on the final climb(s) of the stage.
47km to go: Pieter Serry (Soudal Quick-Step) looks like he was caught up in a crash, you can see a rip in his shorts on the right hand side. Hardly an ideal start to the serious bit of the day for Quick-Step.
44km to go: Before we get to the final drag to Gran Sasso d'Italia, the riders have to tackle the Calascio first, which is a second-category climb. Something has to happen soon, surely.
41km to go: We have action! On a right turn into the bottom of the climb there are lots of different teams trying to gain position in the peloton. Let's see if this lasts.
41km to go: The climb has begun and the dynamic feels like it has changed in the peloton. Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) and Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) are off the back already.
Interestingly, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek-Segafredo), second in the mountains competition, is near the back of the bunch, so Thibaut Pinot's time in the blue jersey might not be under threat from him.
At the front, Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) and Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) are two big riders who might not last for too long on this climb.
39km to go: The gap has gone back up to 11 minutes and DSM are back on the front of the peloton... who will take this on? And when?
At the back, Samuele Battistella (Astana-Qazaqstan) grabs a lamb skewer.
38km to go: Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) has another mechanical problem! The Welshman had problems with his chain yesterday, and has more problems again - he's chasing back onto the peloton with Filippo Ganna now.
36km to go: Geraint Thomas is back in the peloton now, fortunately for him. It's 40km to go for the bunch now, with Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) still on the front.
35km to go: The gap between the leading trio and the peloton is now below ten minutes. The pace is still high, and the road is ramping up. We haven't seen the break for a while, so we are just assuming it still exists...
35km to go: There are the three, going under the 35km to go arch, sponsored by Visit Malta. Isn't that nice. Who is your money on? Bais, Vacek, Petilli or someone from the peloton?
Meanwhile, Michael Matthews (Jayco AlUla) and Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) have now been dropped. DSM remain on the front of the bunch.
32km to go: Davide Bais (EOLO-Kometa) crested Calascio first, taking the maximum points, followed by Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Karel Vacek (Corratec-Selle Italia). The bunch is about 3km further back down the climb.
27km to go: Back down the mountain, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) collects the spare points on offer from the classified climb. Easy. He still might not hold onto the jersey, though, depending on what happens at the end.
22km to go: 7-50 is the gap back to the peloton, so it looks like it might be the break's day. The peloton is looking reasonably small at the moment, and the final climb is still to come.
21km to go: Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) just briefly headed off-road as there was no space for him on the tarmac. No harm done, though, he's back in the bunch.
19km to go: The break has 7-24 over the peloton, which has AG2R Citroën at the front, intriguingly. Maybe they're hoping to put Aurélien Paret-Peintre into pink, seeing as he's just 30 seconds behind Andreas Leknessund, the race leader.
14km: OK, this has been boring. Still nothing happening in the peloton...
Marc Hirschi wins stage three of the Tour de Hongrie ahead of two Brits
Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) won stage three of the Tour de Hongrie on Friday afternoon, his first win of 2023. The Swiss rider took the win solo, ahead of Ben Tulett (Ineos Grenadiers) and Max Poole (DSM). Hirschi now leads the five-stage race overall.
11km to go: Six minutes is the gap from the leading trio to the peloton, which is now being controlled by Soudal Quick-Step. Is the pace finally increasing? Will something happen? Let's see. The break looks like it will contend for the win.
6km to go: We have an attack! Simone Petilli is the first to put a move in. Nothing breaking apart just yet, but here we go... Vacek definitely looks the weakest of the three. Meanwhile, the bunch are just rolling through, 10km to go.
5km to go: That's for the break, anyway, the peloton might be taking a dinner break further down the climb. There's 6-14 between them and the three up front.
3km to go: Karel Vacek has been dropped again, but he hasn't quite disappeared yet... The peloton is all together with 5km to go.
4km to go for the peloton: It will be really interesting to see what the GC riders have to say at the end of the day. Why nothing so far?
Thomas Champion (Cofidis) has clipped off the front, just because.
1.5km to go: Karel Vacek has dropped off the back again, but he has returned. The breakaway trio are inside the walls of snow now. They look tired.
Now Vacek attacks! What's going on.
1km to go: Movistar are pushing on in the peloton and finally things are thinning out back there. Not that there's anything crazy happening, but riders are being dropped.
Meanwhile, the leading trio are under the flamme rouge.
0.9km to go: The three up the road are still all together, who is going to pounce first? The peloton is looking a little more all-together now.
Davide Bais wins stage seven of the Giro d'Italia
Davide Bais launched in the final few hundred metres, taking the win in front of Karel Vacek and Simone Petilli. What a day for the men in the break.
That was Bais' first ever professional win. Some stage for it.
No change at top of general classification
Well. No gaps as the general classification group comes over the line, led by Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), and then Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). Eddie Dunbar (Jayco AlUla) belatedly tried to do something, but nothing really came of it.
Andreas Leknessund stays in pink
Andreas Leknessund (DSM) stays in pink for another day, despite predictions to the contrary earlier on Friday. The young rider is therefore the Norwegian who has spent the longest in pink.
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