Cadel Evans of BMC Racing proved stronger than Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov and Lampre-Farnese Vini’s Damiano Cunego this afternoon in the run-in to the finish line in Montalcino of Stage 7 of the Giro d’Italia on a day when a heavy downpour caused chaotic conditions on the road in scenes more reminiscent of a Flanders Classic than a Grand Tour.
The World Champion – although you’d have been hard pressed to pick out the rainbow stripes on the front of his jersey, so mud-soaked was it - had used the bike handling skills he developed in his MTB career to lead the front group of five riders into the narrow streets of Montalcino’s centro storico, the others being HTC-Columbia’s Marco Pinotti and Caisse d’Eapargne’s David Arroyo, and proved to have more in his legs than the Italian and the Kazakh, whose expected attacks failed to materialise.
Still, with maglia rosa Vincenzo Nibali suffering after crashing into a ditch with several other riders on a descent 33 kilometres out and having to help pace team leader Ivan Basso who was caught up in the same incident, Vinokourov had the consolation of getting back into the race leader’s jersey that he had worn for 24 hours prior to Stage 4’s team time trial.
Evans’ victory, plus the time bonus that came with it, saw him climb back up to second overall, while Britain’s David Millar, crossing the line just over a minute behind the winner at the end of 222 kilometres and more than five hours of punishing riding after the stage had got underway in Carrara this morning, rises to third.
This year’s route honours some of the great names of cycling’s past, and following Thursday’s Stage 4, which commmemorated Fausto Coppi with a finish in his home town of Novi Ligure, today’s stage paid tribute to the Campionissimo’s great rival, Gino Bartali, taking in his home roads including two sections of the fabled strade bianche, Tuscany’s answer to Flanders’ cobbles.
The words strade bianche may translate into English as white roads – the gravel gleams brilliantly under the summer sun – but there was no evidence of that today as the deluge turned them into a brown quagmire and blew the race apart, splitting the riders into small groups in the closing 30 kilomnetres, and if any riders had been expecting an easy day in the saddle ahead of tomorrow’s summit finish on Monte Terminillo, the weather put paid to that.
Among the big losers was Cervelo TestTeam’s Carlos Sastre, the highest placed finisher in last year’s Giro competing this time around – the Spaniard was elevated to third place after Danilo di Luca’s disqualification – who lost nearly five and a half minutes to Vinokourov and is seven minutes behind the Kazakh overall, and who now looks likely to have to content himself with targeting a stage win rather than the general classification.
The first Team Sky rider home was the Italian Dario Cioni, who finished 24th, a second shy of three minutes behind Evans. Cioni is also the hghest-placed rider from tbe British outfit in the overall standings, occupying 25th place, more than seven minutes behind Vinokourov. Team-mate Bradley Wiggins occupies next place, but is nearly nine minutes off the overall lead.
Stage 7 (Carrara-Montalcino, 222km) Top 20
1 EVANS Cadel BMC 5:13:37 2 CUNEGO Damiano LAM 0:02 3 VINOKOUROV Alexandre AST 0:02 4 PINOTTI Marco THR 0:06 5 ARROYO David GCE 0:12 6 GARZELLI Stefano ASA 0:27 7 GADRET John ALM 0:29 8 SCARPONI Michele AND 1:01 9 SARMIENTO Cayetano ASA 1:07 10 BAKELANDTS Jan OLO 1:10 11 MILLAR David GRM 1:11 12 ROHREGGER Thomas MRM 1:13 13 GERDEMANN Linus MRM 1:13 14 KARPETS Vladimir KAT 1:18 15 LARSSON Gustav Erik SAX 1:42 16 PORTE Richie SAX 1:42 17 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQ 2:00 18 BASSO Ivan LIQ 2:05 19 EIBEGGER Markus FOT 2:24 20 DIDIER Laurent SAX 2:53 General Classification 1 VINOKOUROV Alexandre AST 24:09:42 2 EVANS Cadel BMC 1:12 3 MILLAR David GRM 1:29 4 KARPETS Vladimir KAT 1:30 5 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQ 1:33 6 PINOTTI Marco THR 1:40 7 GERDEMANN Linus MRM 1:50 8 BASSO Ivan LIQ 1:51 9 ROHREGGER Thomas MRM 1:56 10 PORTE Richie SAX 2:00 11 GARZELLI Stefano ASA 2:47 12 CUNEGO Damiano LAM 3:08 13 SCARPONI Michele AND 3:09 14 ARROYO David GCE 3:28 15 AGNOLI Valerio LIQ 3:38 16 DIDIER Laurent SAX 3:39 17 KISERLOVSKI Robert LIQ 4:05 18 JUFRE POU Josep AST 4:23 19 WEENING Pieter RAB 4:38 20 MOLLEMA Bauke RAB 6:05
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.