By Gregor Brown
The Giro d'Italia stage seven to L'Aquila ran at a blistering 45km/h average, with a hard-fought battle for a breakaway to form early in the day.
But what contributed to such a rapid pace seven days into the race?
Add the speed on to the previous long 200km-plus stages and the longest one, 239km coming tomorrow, and you have some tired legs in the peloton.
"The speed was high today but some of the other days it hasn't been super high," said Australian Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott).
"It was just because everyone knew it was going to be a breakaway day, so everyone was just attacking from kilometre zero."
Hamilton was one of select group to fight free in the 185km stage won by Pello Bilbao (Astana). It was the second successful break after stage six, when Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) took over the race leader's pink jersey. However, the break's success on stage seven was not easy to achieve.
"The finish was not for sprinters and there are a lot of guys to play for the jersey. There are opportunities to be in the break and everyone tries, and everyone knows that no one is going to control and we race," EF Education First sports director Fabrizio Guidi explained.
"UAE Team Emirates had to control, there were big groups going, it was super fast, 48km/h average in the first hours, it was not easy for them to control. There are also a lot of long stages and the bunch is also tired. We race three days in a row in bad weather, so the condition is difficult and the bunch is going fast.
"It's beautiful to see on TV, no?"
Bora-Hansgrohe counted on Jay McCarthy and Davide Formolo, the latter nearly pulling back Bilbao for the stage win.
"I think after yesterday's stage where some teams missed the breakaway, a lot of riders got s**t yesterday in the team buses and I think they were really motivated to make it into the breakaway today," said the team's sports director, Christian Pömer.
"That's why we saw full gas racing from the gun today."
"Because everyone wants to be in the break, every sports director in the car wants to have someone in the break," added rider Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe).
"It's hard to have the right combination of riders in the break and there's always a team missing or a possible general classification contender in the break, and that's it, that's why in the first two hours you were riding 47km/h."
"It was a bit of a particular day with the uphill finish, the sprinters teams aren't really going to ride," said Joe Dombrowski (EF Education First). "It's not really a GC Day with a summit finish and UAE has the pink jersey to keep.
"Today and yesterday were really the first two days of the Giro where the breakaway had some real consistency."
Dombrowski added that the days are taking their toll. Post-stage, he and his team-mates have been arriving late to the hotel to eat.
"This Giro is tough," continued Guidi. "And it'll be tough to the end because the last section of the Giro with all the mountains and the weather like this, and with the bunch probably tired."
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