Evans takes epic stage 7 in the rain, Vinokourov takes back the lead
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Evans takes epic stage 7 in the rain, Vinokourov takes back the lead

by Ben Atkins at 11:05 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results
 
The world champion powers to victory

Cadel EvansCadel Evans (BMC Racing) won the seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia at the end of an epic, rainy 222km between Carrara and Montalcino. The World champion beat Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) into second and third on the steep uphill finishing straight. The stage, which traversed the region of Tuscany, crossed some of the regions famous Strade Bianche (unsurfaced ‘white roads’) was turned into a legendary struggle by the atrocious weather conditions and aggressive racing to the end.

Under heavy rain, the early kilometres were raced at a very high tempo preventing any breaks from forming, but after around 60km the attacks began. A group of five riders managed to get a small gap, then a larger group of 16 tried to get away, but the presence of third-placed Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Doimo) and Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Farnese Vini) meant that the Katusha team soon pulled them back. Finally, after almost 80km, Rick Flens (Rabobank) and Nicki Sorensen (Saxo Bank) escaped and the peloton let them get away.

In the next 30km the soporific peloton allowed the duo to extend its lead to 9’25” before the Katusha and Lampre-Farnese Vini teams decided to react and it began to come down again. The increase in speed, as well as the atrocious conditions, caused a split in the peloton; all of the big race favourites were present in the front half, despite initial reports that Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) was caught behind.

With 42km still to race, with the rain still pouring down, at the foot of the Passo del Rospatoio the two leaders’ held just a minute over the peloton. An attack came from local rider Dario Cioni (Team Sky) but he was unable to open much of a gap, as this was also the moment that Vinokourov ordered his team to increase the pace; the acceleration merely had the effect of thinning the front group slightly. On the descent disaster struck for race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) as team leader Ivan Basso slid off on a wet corner. The crash brought down Nibali as well as teammate Valerio Agnoli, third placed overall and wearing the white jersey of best young rider.

With the race leader on the ground, Vinokourov appeared to want to wait but Thomas Rohregger (Milram) attacked, taking teammate Linus Gerdemann, Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Spaone), Jan Bakelandts (OmegaPharma-Lotto) and the Kazakh with him.

As the front group hit the first section of white roads – they had a lead of more than a minute over Nibali, who was forced to stop again and change his bike. With 20km to go, as they briefly returned to a tarmac surface, the lead was up to 1’30” with the front group’s numbers swelling; Evans, Cunego, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) were among those to join.

The leading group of around 30 riders hit the second section of white road and the climb to Poggio Civitella and once again split to pieces. Former mountainbike World Cup winner Evans worked well with Vinokourov to pull clear; Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone), David Arroyo (Caisse d’Epargne), John Gadret (AG2R-La Mondiale), Marco Pinotti and Cunego joined them to make seven front.

With 10km to go the seven leaders had an advantage of 28 seconds over the next group, with Nibali still 1’30” behind and having to sit up and wait for Basso. Towards then end of the white road section Evans and Vinokourov were alone in front, but Arroyo fought back to them. As they rejoined the tarmac with 5km to go Cunego and then Pinotti also rejoined the front group. With 3.5km to go, just after the summit of the climb, Vinokourov attacked once more, briefly gapping Arroyo and Pinotti.

Meanwhile, behind them, Basso and Nibali were riding a two-man time trial, cutting their way through the dropped riders in a vain attempt to pull back the leaders. As Vinokourov accelerated up front the gap was 1’53”.

On the downhill section as they approached Montalcino all five riders took care around the wet corners and the rode through the cobbled streets of the old town together, with Arroyo slightly behind. Back on the tarmac once more, Evans took the final left hand turn first with just a few hundred steep uphill metres to go. The World champion attacked first with the sort of acceleration that won him la Flèche Wallonne last month and managed to open a slight gap over the others. Cunego was able to hold off Vinokourov, with the Kazakh finishing third; Pinotti followed a few seconds later with an exhausted Arroyo a few seconds behind him.

Nibali came in exactly two minutes behind Evans and so drops to fifth in the overall classification. Vinokourov takes back the maglia rosa that he lost to Nibali after stage 4’s team time trial, with Evans in second place; Great Britain’s David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) finished 11th on the stage and moves up to third place overall.

Result stage 7
1. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing
2. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini @ 2s
3. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Astana @ 2s
4. Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Columbia @ 6s
5. David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne @ 12s
6. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone @ 27s
7. John Gadret (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale @ 29s
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli @ 1’01”
9. Cayento Sarmiento (Col) Acqua & Sapone @ 1’07”
10. Jan Bakelandts (Bel) OmegaPharma-Lotto @ 1’10”

Standings after stage 7
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Astana
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing @ 1’12”
3. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Transitions @ 1’29”
4. Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha @ 1’30”
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo @ 1’33”

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