Young Belgian Bart De Clercq (Omega Pharma Lotto) held on by the skin of his teeth for victory on today’s stage seven of the Giro d’Italia.
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The stage from Maddaloni to Montevergine di Mercogliano was a short but sharp affair – only 110km – but saw the first mountain top finish of this year’s race.
Following a fast start, a group of five riders managed to break the elastic to form the days breakaway.
Today’s lucky five were Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Federico Canuti (Colnago-CSF Inox), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini), Lars Ytting Bak (HTC-Highroad) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r La Mondiale).
Stefano Garzelli’s Acqua & Sapone henchmen controlled the pace, trying to set up their leader for the final hilltop assault.
As the gap started to fall, over the second category climb with just over 40km remaining, a familiar face took off in pursuit of the breakaway.
Jonny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) made short work in bridging the 1-30 to the leaders, before trying to ride straight past them – to no avail.
The favourites however had their eyes on victory and the break came to a fold on the lower slopes of the final ascent.
The usual attacks ensued from the peloton with Stefano Pirazzi, already very active the previous day, once again trying to get away. But it was the 24-year-old first year pro De Clercq who managed to slip away and quickly built up 30 seconds.
He held around 25 seconds at the red kite over a slimmed down chase group but was struggling to hold the pace.
Acqua & Sapone and Lampre-ISD headed the chase and into the final 300m Scarponi made his bid for glory. It looked like De Clercq would be swallowed up just metres from the line but he held on by just centimetres for his first professional win.
Scarponi came over the line in second ahead of Roman Kreuziger in third.
The pink jersey remains on the shoulders of Pieter Weening finishing in the same time as the stage winner. The only favorite to lose time was Carlos Sastre (Geox) who conceded 21 seconds in the final kilometre.
Giro d’Italia 2011, stage seven: Maddaloni to Montevergine di Mercogliano, 110km
1. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto in 2-54-47
2. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
3. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana
4. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
6. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
7. Jose Guillen Rujano (Ven) Androni Giocattoli
8. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quickstep
9. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank Sunguard
10. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Garmin-Cervelo
78. Peter Kennaugh (GB) Sky Pro Cycling at 7:35
165. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 15:09
167. Adam Blythe (GB) Omega Pharma Lotto
176. Russell Downing (GB) Sky Pro Cycling
178. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank in 23-09-59
2. Kantantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad at 2 secs
3. Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Highroad at same time
4. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Garmin-Cervelo at 5 secs
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 14 secs
6. Pablo Lastras (Spa) Movistar at 22 secs
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 24 secs
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank at 28 secs
9. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Sungard at 30 secs
10. Jose Serpa (Col) Androni Giocattoli at 33 secs
49. Peter Kennaugh (GB) Sky at 8-25
81. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Cervelo 19-38
137. Russell Downing (GB) Sky at 36-01
175. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad at 50-18
193. Adam Blythe (GB) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 1-05-19
Mark Cavendish chases back on
Jerome Pineau heads the day’s big breakaway group
Bart De Clercq holds off the chasers by literally centimetres
Pieter Weening successfulyy defended his race lead
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Giro d’Italia 2011: Stage reports
Giro d’Italia 2011: Photo galleries
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Giro d’Italia 2011: Live text coverage
Giro d’Italia 2011: Start list
Giro d’Italia 2011: TV schedule