Perez Wins Stage 7 of Giro; Di Luca Reclaims Maglia Rosa
Koldo Gil Perez (Liberty Seguros) has won Stage 7 of the Giro d?Italia. Perez attacked for 180 km to take the 211-km stage from Grosseto to Pistoia in 5:08:17. Defending champion Damiano Cunego (Lampre) outsprinted Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) for second at 0:20. Di Luca has retaken the maglia rosa from Paolo Bettini (Quick Step).
The stage was ridden in overcast, humid conditions. From the start, the racing was aggressive. At 32 km, Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze) attacked, and eventually, 20 other riders joined him. The escapees included Evgeni Petrov (Lampre), Laurent Lefevre (Bouygue Telecom), Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Ivan Parra (Selle Italia), Patrice Halgand (Credit Agricole), Christophe Brandt (Davitamon), Michael Barry (Discovery Channel), Celestino and Marco Fertonani (both from Domina Vacanze), Sandy Casar (La Francaise des Jeux), Marcel Strauss (Gerolsteiner), Jose Luis Carrasco Gamiz (Illes Balears), Dariusz Baranowski and Perez (both from Liberty Seguros), Charly Wegelius (Liquigas), Steve Zampieri (Phonak), Cristian Moreni (Quick Step), Theo Eltink (Rabobank), Angel Gomez Gomez and Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (both from Saunier Duval), and Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile). Initially, the peloton did not chase, and the fugitives? advantage ballooned to 13:00 at 95 km.
CSC began to chase. The Danish squad?s acceleration made up time on the break and split the peloton into three groups. At 162 km, the bunch trailed the break by 4:57. With 32 km left, the gap had narrowed to 3:50. The break was living on borrowed time.
Just before the Sammomme, Zampieri attacked. Perez and Gomez Gomez joined him, and the trio led the remainder of the break by 0:10 with 30 km left. Kessler attempted to bridge up to the leaders. The maglia rosa group was 2:00 behind the leading trio.
On the Sammomme, CSC, Panaria, Liquigas, and Selle Italia led the pursuit. Ahead, Perez dropped Zampieri and Gomez Gomez. At the top of the Sammomme, Gilberto Simoni (Lampre) accelerated and split the chase group in two. Jos Rujano (Selle Italia), Ivan Basso (CSC), maglia rosa Bettini, Di Luca, and Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) dropped off of the pace, as did Stefano Garzelli and Dario Cioni (both from Liquigas).
On the descent to the finish, Perez ruled. The chase group absorbed the remnants of the break, and Di Luca caught the chasers. With 10 km left, Perez led the Di Luca/Cunego group by 1:05, the Basso/Garzelli group by 1:40, and the maglia rosa group by 2:30. With 1,400 m left, Garzelli crashed, but because the mishap occurred in the last three km, the 2000 Giro champion received the same time as his group.
Basso, who is expected to contend for overall victory, lost time because of a different mishap. ?The backside of my left thigh suddenly cramped up,? Basso said. ?It really took me by surprise, as I?d been able to keep up no problem until then. The team worked hard to split the peloton, and of course I?m disappointed about being dropped.
?I had a puncture just before the penultimate climb and was forced to change my bike. As it turned out, the new bike had a different saddle than the one I?m used to, which is why I got cramps. It was very unfortunate, but at least I wasn?t dropped due to lack of strength. When the cramps disappeared, I was able to take some long turns in the pursuing group in order to reduce the gap to the leaders, and I felt very strong. I have to accept the fact that I lost some valuable time today, but this only makes me even more motivated for tomorrow?s time trial.?
Tomorrow?s time trial, Stage 8, will be a 45-km affair from Lamporecchio to Firenze. The course will feature a six-km climb. Stage 8 will be the first test of strength for those who hope to win the 2005 Giro. Who will pass it? Savoldelli? Sergei Gontchar (Domina Vacanze)? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!