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Post Stage Analysis

Post Stage 7 Analysis: Rain Dance: Edvald Boasson Hagen Wins in Chiavenna!
Diluca remains the race leader after long, wet day of racing

9 Big Photos from Stage 7sirotti

May 15 update: Today's stage unfolded under cold, wet conditions. In good weather, this stage would have ranked very high in the all-important picturesque classification, as the road passed Alpine lakes and the crenellated peaks of the high Alps. Today, it was all a bit grim, as the riders huddled under rain capes and winter layers and snow piled up along the roadside at the higher elevations.

Not suprisingly, an early break departed after only a few kilometers of racing. The group of four included Mario Facci of Quick Step, Bartosz Huzarski of ISD-Neri, Serguei Klimov of Katusha, and Vladimir Isaichev of Xacobeo-Galicia. With a headwind and a steady rain (mixed with occasional snow) falling, the bunch felt content to let the foursome go. The break built up a maximum advantage 9 minutes on the road to the Passo Majola. In all, the break rode nearly 200 kilometers off the front of the race today.

With a wintery mix of rain and snow falling on the Passo Majola, the main field stirred into action and caught the break just short of the summit. With the break in sight, Barloworld and Liquigas did much of the work. Over the top of the Passo Majola, it was gruppo compatto. Liquigas patrolled the front in an effort to control the pace on the curvy descent. Under dry conditions, the descent off the Passo Majola is a difficult business. The rain and cold today made for treacherous racing. Michael Rogers of Columbia-High Road commented after the stage that he had "never been so scared on the bike."

Not at all intimidated, Alessandro Bertolini of Diquigiovanni-Androni saw opportunity in the difficult conditions and technical descent. He attacked and soon built up an advantage of a minute over the main field, still led mostly by Liquigas. All the race favorites sat close to the front, and the bunch took the descent gingerly, with no risks the name of the game today.

With 25 kilometers to ride, Bertolini still sat out in front alone with just over a minute in hand. Five kilometers later, the gap dropped to inside a minute, tempting a few riders to bridge on their own. Clearly, the general classification teams were not interested in chasing. Although Alessandro Petacchi sat in the front group, his team did not contribute to the chase. He commented after the stage that the team had set defending the race lead of Danilo Diluca as their priority. With the big teams uninterested in chasing, it was clearly a day for a break to survive.

With 20 kilometers to go, Pavel Brutt of Katusha began the long journey across no man's land to the flying Bertolini. Robbie Hunter of Barloworld soon joined Brutt and the two steadily whittled away at Bertolini's advantage. At 15 kilometers to ride, the two chasers sat 28 seconds behind Bertolini. Edvald Boasson Hagen of Columbia-High Road and Davide Viganò of Fuji-Servetto soon also joined the chase. Then, it was five together, and with 10 kilometers to ride, the five-up break had 30 seconds over the main field. Andriy Grivko of ISD-Neri tried to bridge, but his effort came too late.

The five worked well together, and quickly built up enough advantage to hold off the largely disinterested field. Following narrow roads with several difficult corners, the finish would likely have made for a dangerous sprint. Recognizing the additional risks the weather created, the race organizers nuetralized the final 3 kilometers for the general classification. All the more reason to let the breakaway ride.

And ride they did, but not until they'd had a bit of game play. Staring at one another, the four tried to force Edvald Boasson Hagen, who has a formidable sprint, to lead out. Though he sat on the front of the field, the Columbia-High Road rider was not about to take that bait. Speedster Robbie Hunter sat in third wheel, nicely placed. Inside the final kilometer, Bertolini attacked hard up the left barricade, opening up a sizeable gap, made larger by the width of the road between the chasers and him.

Through the corners, Bertolini held his advantage, but the road soon straightened in the final 600 meters. Behind him, Brutt broke the stalemate among the chasers and charged across to Bertolini. He must have been happy to make the catch, but his celebration ended before it began, as the Russian perfectly delivered Boasson Hagen to the line. The 22 year old Edvald Boasson Hagen easily took the stage win by several bike lengths.


After the stage, Boasson Hagen claimed that he is "not really a sprinter." "I can sprint when the group is not that big," he explained. "I am quite good at sprinting," he finally admitted. On Sunday, when the Giro heads into Morbegno, Boasson Hagen will celebrate his birthday. But the Columbia-High Road rider does not expect to contest his birthday stage, saying that he would all but certainly work for Mark Cavendish on Sunday. Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi praised the speed of Boasson Hagen, calling him "one of the strongest young riders to come on the scene in the last few years," and saying that he is "quasi-unbeatable from a small group." The Italian predicted, "this will not be his only win." Indeed, the young rider has already won the semi-classic Gent-Wevelgem this season. Clearly, there is more where that came from.

As for Bertolini, who started all the hijinx in the finale, he was disappointed not to win the stage, but still smiling at the finish. Former professional Francesco Moser praised Bertolini's ride on the tricky descent. Bertolini judged the tricky corners perfectly and looked calm and relaxed. Just a jaunt around the park. After the stage, he said he had hoped to bring another win to the team after Scarponi's victory yesterday. "Scarponi did a big number," commented Bertolini. "It is difficult to win a stage of the Giro. It is important to be aggressive," said the experienced Diquigiovanni-Androni pro.

No Change to the General Classification

In the general classification, the situation remains unchanged with Danilo Diluca of LPR Brakes still in the Maglia Rosa of race leader. In a post-race interview, Diluca described the final descent aas "very technical" and "very fast." The race leader also said that he agreed with the decision to nuetralize the final 3 kilometers, given the wet conditions. Ivan Basso, not noted for his descending, also found the descent "very difficult," and praised his team for their efforts to keep him out of trouble. The Liquigas captain also noted that the "Giro is going well," but it is "only the first week."

Tomorrow, Bergamo

Tomorrow's stage is a bumpy affair, which promises to tempt again the attackers. The first climb of the day is difficult, but not impossible. Former professional Paolo Savoldelli, who is from Bergamo, called the descent off the Culmine di San Pietro very technical. If Savoldelli, long known for his mad descending skills, considers the descent technical, the more ordinary bike handlers will want to be on their guard. The final climb of the day comes with 27 kilometers to go. A historic climb in Italian cycling, the Colle de Gallo has been used in countless races, including the Giro di Lombardia. It begins steeply, and at the summit, sits the Madonna die Ciclisti, a chapel and museum. Again, the descent is tricky.

The finale is a curvy climb to Bergamo's old city where the finish lies in the Piazza Matteotti. Sections of the climb are cobbled. Though not absurdly steep, this climb should rule out the sprinters. Stefano Garzelli has won here before, and he will no doubt try again tomorrow. The terrain also offers an opportunity for race leader Danilo Diluca to try to steal away some more time. Count Damiano Cunego among the ranks of the possible winners, especially after his rough day on the Alpe di Siusi ruined his hopes for the general classification. Giovanni Visconti of ISD-Neri and Michele Scarponi also have the characteristics for a stage finish like this one.

Eight ball says: Breakaway certain. Cunego needs a stage win. Also, watch out for a cheeky move from Diluca.
(The Eight Ball is verbose today. Too many espressos, perhaps.)

Course Preview

Stage 7: Innsbruck (Austria)-Chiavenna
Date: Friday, 15 May
Distance: 244 km.
Terrain: Lengthy, gradual uphill, quick descent, flat finish.
GC Importance: Minimal, barring a wrinkle in the cosmos.

Stage 7 sends the Giro Centenario back to Italia, after a scenic detour through Switzerland. The stage begins in Innsbruck, Austria, which served as a finishing town for the 1988 Giro d’Italia. Climber Franco Vona won the stage that day. This time around, Innsbruck will host the start and send the Giro on its way home. The stage finishes in Chiavenna in Lombardia, not far from Lake Como. The finish is flat.

Profile Details. The majority of this stage is uphill, before a fast descent to a flat finish. From Innsbruck, the riders will climb steadily a total of 1200 meters over 190 kilometers, summiting at the Passo del Maloja. Along the way, the course passes through the Swiss resort town of St. Moritz. There are KOM points on offer at the top of the Passo del Maloja, 1815 meters above sea level. From the top of the Passo del Maloja, the riders face a steep, switchbacking descent to Chiavenna. The descent drops 1400 meters in 23 kilometers.

The finish in Chiavenna follows four kilometers of mostly flat road. Here, the Giro enters Lombardia, and Chiavenna sits 16 kilometers from the tip of Lake Como. The city of Milano lies 100 kilometers Southwest from the stage finish, and no doubt a few riders will be wishing that this Giro was headed toward its traditional finishing stage in Milano.

Tactics Talk. This stage looks made for a breakaway to survive, though the GC teams will want to remain vigilant, as it would be easy for an escape to run up the clock on the long grind up to the Passo del Maloja. Many riders will have tired legs after the previous three stages of heavy mountains.

The descent off the Passo del Maloja is fast with tight switchbacking corners. The poor descenders will not enjoy the vertiginous drop to Chiavenna. Still, it’s unlikely that this stage will alter the general classification. It’s a stage for the chancers and for a rider from a smaller team to enjoy a moment of glory.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)

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