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Giro d’Italia stage 7: De Clercq claims first professional win by a whisker

Stage 7: Maddaloni to Montevergine di Mercogliano, 110km

In a thrilling finale, first year professional Bart De Clercq launched a solo attack and then just managed to hold off a charging pack containing all the top contenders to claim his maiden victory on the first summit finish of this year’s Giro d’Italia at Montevergine. The 24-year old Omega Pharma-Lotto rider edged out the fast-closing Michele Scarponi to win by a single bike length.

A breakaway quintet established itself early in the stage. Italians Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), Federico Canuti (Colnago-CSF Inox) and Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale) were joined by Dane Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad) and Frenchman Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step). They established a three-minute lead before the peloton set to work pulling them back in.

Stage 7 winner Bart De Clercq

Vacansoleil‘s Johnny Hoogerland marked his 28th birthday by breaking free of the peloton to bridge the gap to the leaders with 25km left. However, even with their number increased to six, their advantage was down to a tenuous 1:10 by the base of the final 17km climb as Scarponi’s Lampre-ISD team made a concerted effort to close the gap. Hoogerland kicked again, dropping Visconti and Pineau, but did little more than delay the inevitable, and within another four kilometres the entire group had been absorbed back into the peloton.

With the big names happy to ride tempo a few riders tried to attack off the front, but none were successful until neo-pro De Clercq kicked with about 7km to go and was allowed to build a 30-second lead as Acqua & Sapone maintained a controlled pace behind him. The leaders’ group tapped out a steady rhythm, holding their deficit steady, until Androni Giocattoli‘s Carlos Ochoa had a dig with 3.5km remaining. He was soon followed and subsequently overtaken by Colnago’s Stefano Pirazzi.

But as Lampre turned up the wick in the final 2km both were soon swallowed up, and although De Clercq passed under the 1km banner with a healthy 20-second lead, this suddenly disintegrated as Scarponi attacked in the final half-kilometre, dragging the other favourites with him. The young Belgian had to dig deep and summon up a sprint finish in the final 150 metres, and did just enough to hold Scarponi by no more than one length. Had the finish line been ten metres further up the road, the Italian would surely have snatched victory.

De Clercq held on in a tight finish to claim his first victory as a professional (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

Despite the disappointment of missing out on the stage win, the 12 bonus seconds Scarponi earned leapfrogged him from seventh to fifth overall, 14 seconds behind maglia rosa Pieter Weening. With the rest of the top GC riders crossing the line immediately behind Scarponi, the top ten was otherwise unchanged.

De Clercq was surprised at how easy he had found it on the final climb, which encouraged him to attack:

The speed wasn’t very high, I found, so I attacked. It turned out quite well.

He also dedicated his win to his compatriot Wouter Weylandt, who died after a crash on Monday:

I want to dedicate this win to Wouter and his family; it’s really difficult for them at the moment.

Scarponi was satisfied with his and his team’s efforts, but was disappointed not to have capped it off with victory:

I thought I was going to win. The breakaway rider [de Clercq] looked like finished but he made it, just.

We did a great job to come across to him but he was super strong. I said that I wouldn’t move until one kilometre to go and I didn’t. I remained on the wheels all day. I did a good sprint but I needed a little bit more to win. I’ve raced well. It’s ok, I’m doing well, my team is doing well, and I liked this finish. It’s all good. The hardest stages are yet to come and I’m ideally placed for what I want to achieve on the overall classification.

Stage 8 from Sapri to Tropea is a flat 217km drag with a nasty sting in the tail – a sharp kick-up in the penultimate kilometre which will disrupt the sprinters’ teams’ run-in and probably make for a chaotic finish.

The following day’s stage finishing on Mount Etna still looks set to go ahead even though Europe’s most active volcano is still smouldering. Race director Angelo Zomegnan said:

The locals and crews have cleared dust that fell on the route. We will monitor the situation, but right now, everything looks good to host the stage as planned.

Stage 8 profile

Stage 7 result:

1. Bart De Clercq (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 2:54:47

2. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) same time

3. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) s/t

4. Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) s/t

5. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) s/t

6. Joaquim Rodríguez (Team Katusha) s/t

7. José Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) s/t

8. Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) s/t

9. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) s/t

10. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) s/t

General classification:

1. Pieter Weening (Rabobank) 23:09:59

2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad) +0:02

3. Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) +0:02

4. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:05

5. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) +0:14

6. Pablo Lastras (Movistar) +0:22

7. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +0:24

8. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) +0:28

9. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) +0:30

10. José Serpa (Androni Giocattoli) +0:33

Points classification:

1. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) 48 pts

2. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) 41

3. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) 38

4. Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli) 30

5. Ángel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) 28

Mountains classification:

1. Bart De Clercq (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 11 pts

2. Martin Kohler (BMC) 10

3. Federico Canuti (Colnago-CSF Inox) 9

4. Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago-CSF Inox) 8

5. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) 7

Links: Giro d’Italia official websiteSteephill.tv

Giro d’Italia recaps

Stage 1: Pinotti swaps red, white and green for pink

Stage 2: Petacchi celebrates, Cavendish remonstrates in ham-fisted Parma finish

Stage 3: Weylandt’s death casts a long shadow

Stage 4: Peloton rides in tribute to Weylandt

Stage 5: Weening takes maglia rosa as Millar bites the dust

Stage 6: Ale-Jet runs out of gas as Ventoso wins uphill drag

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

15 Responses to Giro d’Italia stage 7: De Clercq claims first professional win by a whisker

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