Having enjoyed yesterday’s fractious eruptions amongst the lithe limbed climbers and general classification hopefuls, Stage 7 returns the riders to a relatively flat stage, one where we can expect a familiar battle amongst the limited number of elite sprinters at this year’s race. Leaving Pizzo in the morning, the riders face a relatively short 159km journey to Praia a Mare, taking in a degree of rolling terrain in the absence of any categorised climbs. Notably, there is a kick approximately 20km from the finish, but it will take a well organised break or powerful rider to escape the clutches of those with hopes of another sprint finish.
Elia Viviani has improved exponentially since making the transition from the stifling approach ofTeam Sky, to the more combative stylings of Belgian outfit Quick Step. The season has seen the Italian knocking upon the door of the peloton’s top tier of sprinters and it already looks like the points competition could prove a cakewalk for Viviani, if he can stay safe and survive the final onslaught of mountains in week three. Native fans look likely to enjoy another home victory on Stage 7 thanks to the mercurial talents of Viviani.
Jakub Mareczko might be the one who surprisingly gatecrashes the final moments of the day’s racing, the alternative Italian win still likely to go down well with local fans regardless. He has collected several victories already this season, though the quality of his competition can certainly be called into question, yet he is clearly still one of the best sprinters here after Elia Viviani. With a team who seem happy to commit everything in setting him up for a shot at victory, it is certainly unwise to underestimate this underrated talent.
Sam Bennett appears incredibly strong in this opening week of the Giro d’Italia, already turning in some great performances on unfavourable terrain, which is likely to be a familiar theme again today. The finale itself is not ideal for the Irishman, but his teammates might be able to make the running a lot harder to tire his rivals and perhaps provide Bennett with a slight advantage over the more fatigued sprinters who survive the increase in tempo.
Sacha Modolo would normally find himself much closer to the coat-tails of Elia Viviani, but being the sprinter upon a team built to challenge for the overall Giro d’Italia win, is far from ideal for when it comes to battling for position in the last few kilometres of an anticipated bunch kick. However, he is reasonably talented at managing his own leadout by surfing the wheels of rivals and is the rider most likely to benefit from a disorganised chase into the finishing straight.
Danny van Poppel looks to still be finding his feet at this grand tour, in the mix for the win on Stage 3, yet still not really that close to pushing for the victory. Another rider lacking the genuine support needed to mount a serious and sustained campaign upon the Giro d’Italia’s points competition, he is surely at an immediate disadvantage. He is a powerful rider though, capable of dealing with a real drag race to the line and might now be riding into good form.
1st Elia Viviani 2nd Jakub Mareczko 3rd Sam Bennett