Sweet relief for Caleb Ewan
It’s been a frustrating first week of the Giro d’Italia for young Australian sprinter Ewan.
The one sprint he actually did win on the opening day happened to take place just behind Lukas Pöstlberger, while an unclipped foot and some general bad luck has seen him miss out on the early sprint stages of his debut Giro.
And if you’re a fast man you’ve got to make them count this week, with more and more mountains creeping in as the stages go on. Finally though, Ewan managed to get a second Grand Tour stage victory on stage seven with his perfectly timed move.
After another quiet day at the Giro, a technical sprint finish awaited the riders and it seemed Ewan and his Orica team had this one down to a tee.
Dropped off in the final 300 metres by Luka Mezgec, Ewan was able to make the first move without the line in sight and immediately had Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) on his wheel.
It looked like he was beginning to fade as the two behind came round him before the line, but he just managed to hold it on the line and won by a rim ahead of the bike throws of Gaviria and Bennett.
It’ll be a big relief for 22-year-old Ewan, and all the more joyful for the disappointment he’s had so far.
Gaviria looks like he’s here until the end
Wearing the points jersey after his two stage wins, you couldn’t blame Fernando Gaviria for eyeing a potential retirement from this year’s Giro when we hit the mountains proper next week.
There’s very little in there for a fast man in the final week, with even the final stage a time trial this year instead of a procession and then sprint.
But the Colombian was the most active in chasing intermediate sprint points on stage seven, and showed is intention of not only finishing is first Grand Tour with stage wins, but with a jersey as well.
Those heading to the Tour de France in July like André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) will no doubt abandon to save themselves for France, but Gaviria won’t be going with Marcel Kittel there for Quick-Step, so can throw his all at getting through a tough finale in the mountains.
Moreover his team have stated their intention to get a full Grand Tour in the 22-year-old’s legs. He was close to another win on stage seven, but some bad positioning in the final meant even his electric speed couldn’t get him past Ewan.
Rudi Selig (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Max Richeze (Quick-Step) shared a few choice words at the end of the stage, after the pair could be seen sharing a few sharp elbows coming into the closing kilometre.
It was hectic in there, and the fight for space in a sprint finish was no more evident than on the twisty, technical roads to the finish today.
Orica-Scott worked it perfectly to keep their men out of trouble at the front, but there were some sketchy moments in bunch at the end.
Added to that was the somewhat suicidal marshall that appeared in the middle of the road as they came into the finish town. He was trying to wave his flag and let the riders know about the traffic island coming up, but his road positioning left a bit to be desired and there could have been a nasty accident.
Even the riders looked bored
Well done to you if you managed to sit through the coverage on TV today, that was a huge effort. British Eurosport began their coverage at 160km to go (of 224km) and it wasn’t easy.
Many questions arose during that time, none of which were really racing related though. For instance, how does Rob Hatch keep talking? Does Patrick Dempsey really know where he is? And how many Happy Days related jokes in reference to Giuseppe Fonzi can everyone fit in during one stage? At one point there was [Simone] Ponzi and Fonzi in the same breakaway, which would have been even more fun.
But until we hit 20km to go, there was a lot of chit-chat and joking around between the riders, who spent a remarkable amount of time riding along a straight motorway. Considering how the first week of the Giro has gone so far, they can’t have much left to talk about…
One more stage until Blockhaus
Never fear though, because the mountains will be here soon. Well one at least. Saturday will provide a nice uphill finish on stage eight which will give the punchy riders a chance to win, but the big day will be on Sunday with the summit finish to Blockhaus.
If Mount Etna was the spectacular anti-climax none of us were hoping for, here’s to hoping the harder slopes of the Blockhaus can provide the first stage for the GC contenders to really go toe-to-toe with each other.