Cunego Takes Stage 7 of Giro, Leads Race
Damiano Cunego (Saeco), Gilberto Simoni's right-hand man, leads the 2004 Giro. Cunego took a four-up sprint from Brad McGee (La Francaise des Jeux.com), Franco Pellizotti (Alessio), and Giuliano Figueras (Panaria) to win Stage 7, a 214-km ride from Frosinone to Montevergine Di Mercogliano, in 5:26:25. Cunego took the maglia rosa from team captain Simoni, which is causing observers to speculate that a leadership battle may be in the offing.
The racing started early. At 12 km, Rubens Bertogliati and Massimo Strazzer (both from Saunier Duval) attacked, and Luca Mazzanti (Panaria), Michele Gobbi (De Nardi), Daniele Righi (Lampre), and Niki Aebersold (Phonak) joined them. The six riders forged a six-minute lead while Saeco rode tempo.
Vini Caldirola joined Saeco at the front, and the tempo increased. With about 20 km left, Aebersold and Mazzanti dropped their companions. The pair led the field by about 1:30 as the ascent to the finish began.
With 13 km remaining, Aebersold dropped Mazzanti. The lead group, which was down to about 50 riders, reeled in Aebersold four km later. A number of accelerations in the following few km reduced the lead group to 20 riders.
With three km left, Figueras (Panaria) attacked. Cunego took his wheel. Figueras's teammate Emanuele Sella countered, and Simoni covered him. With 1.5 km left, Simoni attacked, but Garzelli rode him down.
In the last km, Eddy Mazzoleni (Saeco) went to the front. With 500 m left, Simoni went to the front to lead out Cunego. Figueras took the lead momentarily, but Cunego came around him to win. McGee came from far behind to take third.
In the overall, Cunego leads Simoni by 0:10 and Pellizotti by 0:28. Stage 8 will not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 214-km run from Giffoni to Policoro has a long, downhill run to the finish. The stage should end in a bunch sprint. Will anyone stop Petacchi? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!
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