Today’s stage is a “belter” from Cesena to Saltara with the climbs of San Marina, Monte Catria and the Monte Delle Cesane, very hard climbs and some of them on un-made roads, on top of that the stage is 236 kilometres long.
Today looked on paper to be perfect place for Simoni to make up his 2 minute deficit, but his legs had other ideas.
The big question is will the stars rise to the occasion? There is a long way to go to Milan and that last week is sooo hard, today they may want to save themselves or as we hope they blast the thing to pieces.
A nice warm start for the weather and a hot start for the riders as there were many attacks and counter attacks, by the Monte Catria it was Cofidis rider Scheirlinckx on his own with a two minute lead over a group of 13 including Kessler (T-Mobile), Garate (Quick-step) and best placed rider overall, Nicki Sorensen (CSC). The pink jersey was over 7 minutes behind. The hoped for fireworks never lit up on the Catria, as the contenders played it safe, probably waiting as long as possible to light a fuse.
With 70 kilometres to go Scheirlinckx was back with the others making it nine out front, Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears), Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis), Paco Vila (Lampre-Fondital), Serguei Yakovlev (Liberty Seguros), Victor Hugo Pena (Phonak), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step-Innergetic), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval), Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile Team).
The bunch were starting to chase as it looked like Di Luca wanted to show himself, Liquigas, CSC and Discovery were all on the front.
The peloton wanted these upstarts back and with 50 kilometres to the finish their lead was down to four minutes at the village of Fassombrone at the bottom of the climb of Monte Delle Cesane, which is 628 meters high and is about 7 kilometres long and 33 kilometres from the summit to the uphill finish line at Saltara. The Cesane climb is a tough one with bits of 18% in places, the leaders are down to seven as Schierlinckx and Yakovlev are dropped, Garate is doing the pace making and Efimkin is also looking keen and jumps away, but gets caught before the top.
The Cesane is another springboard for attacks, and the grades did stringout the pack. Of the leaders Basso looks the coolest, just sitting near the front controlling all, just behind him is Savoldelli and Cunego, not looking so good is Di Luca and Rujano hanging on the back. The pink jersey has been lost, last seen going out the back on the lower slopes. Over the top it’s Verbrugghe first, Garate next and Vila third, Peсa and Mori are the only ones to have hung on and it’s now up to these five to stay away, or get caught!
Lampre had decided to shake things up on the last but one little climb, this made a few suffer, noticeably Jan Ullrich, he tried to hang on – and did, the form might not be that far off after all. Ten kilometres to the finish and the gap was a minute and the chase group had shaken off the hangers on and are down to about 30 or so riders.
With Verbrugghe up the road, what’s left of the break flogs itself on the last gut-punching climb.
Verbrugghe tries his luck off the front of the leaders, hoping to stay out for the 3 kilometres up to Saltara, Danielson and Savoldelli move to the front of the main group, but it’s still Lampre towing Cunego at speed, the last 200 meters look hard for Verbrugghe but he held them off for a great win. Savoldelli attacks the main field and splits it to pieces, some of the stars lost seconds on the climb as Savoldelli passed the other breakaway riders for second place and it’s one long line for the others.
Rik Verbrugghe enjoys the spoils of victory, while others…
…faces showed just how hard a day it was.
What could have been a great day was average till the last 3 kilometres, all the stars were safe, nobody was found wanting, but Savoldelli showed he wants to be boss, Di Luca was in a little trouble, but was still there when it mattered. If tomorrow’s summit finish doesn’t shale things up, we will have to wait for the last week for all the excitement.
What a difference 6 hours of hard bike racing can make…
Stage 7 Result:
1st Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) in 6.42.15
2nd Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) at 0.14
3rd Luca Mazzanti (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) same
4th Josй E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak)
5th Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) at 0.16
6th Ivan Basso (Team CSC) at 0.17
7th Serguei Gonchar (T-Mobile Team) same
8th Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Overall After Stage 7:
1st Serguei Gonchar (T-Mobile Team) in 27.37.08
2nd Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) at 0.05
3rd Ivan Basso (Team CSC) at 0.11
4th Michael Rogers (T-Mobile Team) at 0.32
5th Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) at 0.53
6th Josй Luis Rubiera Vigil (Discovery Channel) at 0.55
7th Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) at 0.56
8th Josй E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak) at 1.02
9th Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) at 1.06
10th Jens Voigt (Team CSC) at 1.09