Stage 7 of Giro d’Italia will see a return to a battle between sprinters, after Attila Valter became the first Hungarian rider to wear the maglia rosa following a fantastic ride on a mountaineous stage 6. The stage was blown-apart by the INEOS Grenadiers as they crested the Forca di Gualdo, where Alessandro De Marchi was caught behind.
The early breakaway was reduced to four, with Matej Mohorič pulling his teammate Gino Mäder to the foot of the final climb as Bauke Mollema and Dario Cataldo came along for the ride. Mäder went solo with 3km to go and held on for the stage win — there would be no repeat of Paris-Nice earlier this year where the young Swiss was caught in the final metres by Primož Roglič.
Behind in the GC battle, Egan Bernal attacked in the final few kilometres and Remco Evenepoel, Dan Martin and Giulio Ciccone were the only riders that could follow the Colombian. This result now leaves Evenepoel second in the GC with Bernal five seconds back in third.
Giro d’Italia Stage 7 profile
Following a day in the grupetto, the sprinters return to the front for stage 7. Heading further south, the stage takes place almost exclusively along the Adriatic Coast. Starting in Notaresco, the road heads to the fishing town of Termoli. The route isn't entirely flat, though; there are some climbs in the middle of the stage which may disenchant some stage protagonists.
The Chieti climb is the only categorised effort of the day so Gino Mäder will hold on to the maglia azzurra assuming that he finishes the stage. However, at 4.7km and 5.9%, the effort isn’t entirely insignificant. A number of rolling hills follow, all of which are around 2km in distance with an average gradient close to 5%. We may see Bora-Hansgrohe press on throughout this section to test the legs of the pure sprinters.
However, the final 80km are almost entirely flat. Although the road is largely exposed to the Adriatic forces, strong winds aren’t anticipated which means we probably won't see any echelons.
Not too dissimilar to the stage in Cattolica just days ago, the finish is highly technical with roundabouts and sharp corners aplenty. After entering the town on the seafront there is a 90-degree right-hand turn which immediately punches uphill with just under 2km to go. Positioning will be pivotal here — the next few hundred metres are very steep and if you’re not at the front it will take a leg-draining effort to move up ahead of the finish.
Caleb Ewan celebrates victory on stage 5. (Image credit: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
There have been two bunch sprints so far at the 2021 Giro with Tim Merlier and Caleb Ewan the two victors. It would make sense to start with them.
Ewan entered the race as the sprinter to beat and it was a shock to see him so far out of position on stage 2. He and his Lotto-Soudal teammates more than made up for that in Cattolica, though, as Ewan weaved his way through the peloton like an eel before producing an electric acceleration. If his Lotto-Soudal teammates are able to place him well yet again he’ll be very difficult to beat. However, he must remain strong on the early climbs.
Tim Merlier has had inverse fortunes so far. He was dominant on stage 2 after kicking early. No one could get near the Belgian, who won the first road stage at a Grand Tour he participated in. However, after being caught in a Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewan sandwich he suffered mechanical issues which denied him any chance of a result on stage 5. He banged his bars in frustration, but can be delighted with his performance to this point at his first Grand Tour. If positioned well he will be a major contender.
Second in both of the pure sprints so far? You guessed it, Giacomo Nizzolo. Unbelievably, Nizzolo now has 11 runner-up finishes at his home Grand Tour whilst he is still searching for a win. Qhubeka-ASSOS are packed with strong domestiques, namely Max Walscheid and Victor Campenaerts, who will look to place the Italian champion at the front. Could this finally be his day?
Elia Viviani is another who, like Nizzolo, has had consistent stage-finishes so far — he was third on both stage 2 and 5. His team have ridden superbly too, Simone Consonni was particularly notable for his powerful late lead out on stage 5. It’s been one of the trickiest spells of Viviani’s career but he looks to have the legs to challenge at the front again.
UAE-Team Emirates were again notable for the wrong reasons on the previous sprint stage. Juan Sebastián Molano and Fernando Gaviria were not on the same page in Cattolica and although they didn’t collide on this occasion, Gaviria could only sprint to fifth. They are under pressure to improve here.
Dylan Groenewegen was satisfied with fourth in Novara on stage 2. "I have to be satisfied with this fourth place after nine months of absence", said the Dutchman before adding, "I am a winner and always want to achieve more.” He will therefore be downbeat following stage 5, where he was only eighth after being caught too far back. Is he now ready to win again he has almost a week of racing in the legs?
Bora may look to push some sprinters out of the peloton on the climbing sections, but with a long flat road in the final half of the stage they must be fully committed to this strategy. Nonetheless, Peter Sagan is always positioned well for the finish and with another technical finale that features an uphill section, the Slovak may be quietly confident.
Peter Sagan's prowess in positioning, whether he has the support of his teammates or not, puts him among the lead contenders here. In another highly technical finish with a steep uphill pitch in the closing kilometres, this could be Sagan's first win at the Giro this year and a big step towards the maglia ciclamino.