After two days made for the sprinters, the climbers were expected on the Giro on Friday, in the seventh stage featuring almost 200 kilometres. As the breakaway had a good shot at making it today on the very hilly terrain, the fight proved to be extremely hard during the first two hours of racing. At the finish, Koen Bouwman eventually took the win, while Attila Valter crossed the line in fifteenth position within a reduced bunch, and with promising feelings. Arnaud Démare holds the cyclamen jersey on the eve of a short and indecisive stage towards Napoli.
“It’s a positive day for me”, Attila Valter
The day’s menu was quite heavy on the Giro this Friday. It was not yet time for the great Italian climbs, but the elevation gain of the seventh stage was still among the highest of the three weeks. More than 4500 of climbing meters were indeed recorded towards Potenza, but that did not prevent the peloton from fighting from the first minutes. There was surely a good reason for that. “We were expecting a furious start, especially after yesterday’s stage which had been quite calm,” explained Benoît Vaugrenard. “We knew that the breakaway had a good chance of winning, that Trek-Segafredo was going to let it go, but that there was going to be a very big fight. And so it was. It took more than seventy kilometres for the breakaway to go”. Although the first real climbs only appeared after about thirty kilometres, the battle began way before, and continued until the long and irregular climb (32 kilometres) of Monte Sirino. Attila Valter fully got involved in it. “I tried a lot in the first two hours”, said the Hungarian. “After only eight kilometres, I was already in the mix. I attacked a lot, I also followed a lot of attacks, but it was really hard to join the breakaway. I was close to my maximum over those two hours. It eventually went one by one. You needed to have very good legs and find the right moment. I tried again 3-4 times after the seven riders went, but that was enough for the bunch, and they didn’t let anyone else go away”. “Attila tried, it did not prove successful, but this was not just anyone up front either”, said Benoît.
In the front, Tom Dumoulin, Bauke Mollema, Davide Formolo as well as Koen Bouwman or Wout Poels were therefore able to get some space and see their gap increase up to six minutes. That was enough to play for the victory after two additional climbs. In Potenza, Bouwman then outsprinted a four-man group to claim victory while a peloton of forty riders got to the line three minutes later. Attila Valter contested the sprint and took a decent fifteenth place. “He managed to follow the bunch when Ineos paced up”, pointed out Benoît. “Even if he was not in front, it was a good day for him. He needed it. I think he will only keep on improving on this Giro”. “It was the most difficult stage so far and I had much better legs than on the Etna”, confirmed Attila. “I knew we weren’t going to come back to the breakaway, but because I hung on for so long, it was also good for the confidence to remain in the front until the end. I’m happy I did it. I think the legs will respond better now. It’s a positive day for me. It’s not a crazy result, but after a few hard days where I did not feel super, it’s quite ok to finish with the main group today. Now, I hope to be able to join a breakaway like today’s one”.
“It was a hard day”, Arnaud Démare
All his teammates, with Arnaud Démare, reached the finish forty minutes later, but without worries regarding the time limits. “It was a very difficult day”, said Arnaud Démare, still wearing his cyclamen jersey for the points classification. “We hung on for as long as possible, but after 25-30 kilometres, there was already a big gruppetto. There were about sixty riders there and we rode well for another 90 kilometres or so, especially thanks to Miles who set a good tempo. When we heard that it was calming down a little up front, we also tried to manage our efforts, but it was a hard day anyway”. “They were in the group where they had to be to get on time at the finish”, concluded Benoît. “The goal was to stay there and reach the finish safely, which did happen. It was still a difficult and tiring stage for everyone. We are coming to the end of the first week and the bodies will start to get tired”. Before concluding the weekend with the famous Blockhaus climb, the peloton will ride around Naples on Saturday, for a stage without big climbs, but with some 2000 meters of elevation gain spread over 155 kilometres.