What might finally prove an easy day for the peloton awaits on Stage 7, a comparatively short 143km jaunt from Matera to Brindisi, on almost entirely flat or descending roads. An opportunity at last for the pure sprinters to test their form against those who have already succeeded in the opening week’s tougher finales. There is the threat of crosswinds during the day however, which is bound to make the bunch twitchy, especially as the general classification teams strive to keep their leaders at the front of affairs.
There is a considerably technical run into the finish, which will make positioning paramount for the sprinters, as burning matches to make up lost places is not ideal before a gallop to the line. The final kilometre will be contested at an almost imperceptible gradient, so should not drain the legs during their concluding effort in the hunt for stage honours.
It was a truly phenomenal performance by Arnaud Démare to take his second victory of the Giro d’Italia yesterday, having looked completely dislocated from the front of the race with only 600m remaining. A slight lull in tempo and a perfectly judged final corner did him the world of good, but given his immense winning margin, there is no denying he was on a totally different level. It will be fascinating to see if he can repeat this once again, as being the only sprinter with a full team at his disposal, there is every reason to think he shall dominate the battle for positioning during the technical finale.
Having set his team to work for much of the day, it proved to be another disappointing result for Peter Sagan, who cannot blame any misfortune for his 8th place finish yesterday. Stage 7 should be an even faster conclusion and does not bode well for the three time world champion, who has looked off the pace during the flatter concluding stages. However, Sagan will benefit from the more complex finish, allowing him to surf the wheels in pursuit of Démare, who he will look to leapfrog as the line rapidly approaches late on.
We are yet to see a fair showing of Fernando Gaviria at this year’s Giro d’Italia thus far, though the Colombian is the fastest sprinter present, at least on paper. Erstwhile race winning form appears to be within touching distance during 2020, hopefully returning to his grasp by the conclusion of today’s stage. He does however suffer from a lack of firepower and convincing leadout, which may well leave him exposed in regards to both crosswinds and the technical finish.
The rider most likely to catch the rest by surprise is Álvaro Hodeg, who certainly has the top-end speed to win the stage, but is an unknown quantity in regards to his current form. The young Colombian started the season well, and being fair to him, has not looked terrible since the restart, but to have not won at the level of his races leading into the Giro d’Italia is troublesome.
A year ago, this would have been a clear chance for Elia Viviani to collect another stage win at his home race, but the switch to Cofidis has failed to replicate the Olympic champion’s finest form. He is one of the sprinters least likely to be bothered by crosswinds and should cope well in regards to positioning late on too, but there has been little evidence to confidently state he will mount a convincing sprint for the day’s honours.
The weather is likely to be the biggest variable during the stage, which could bring several additional names into contention; Rudy Barbier, Michael Matthews, Juan Sebastián Molano, Ben Swift and Enrico Battaglin.
1st Fernando Gaviria 2nd Arnaud Démare 3rd Peter Sagan