Stage 7: Recanati – Rocca di Cambio 202km

Giro d’Italia 7: Tiralongo wins into Rocca di Cambio

Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) celebrated his second career victory (AFP/Getty Images)

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Paolo Tiralongo added to Team Astana‘s list of successes in 2012 by conquering the steep, twisting climb up to Rocca di Cambio to win the seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia. With 500 meters to go Tiralongo followed the attack of 2011 Giro winner Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and the Astana rider
came around Scarponi inside of the final 100 meters to claim his second
career victory. Scarponi finished second in the same time as Tiralongo
while Fränk Schleck of RadioShack-Nissan finished third, only three seconds later.

Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian to wear the maglia rosa,
as Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) faded early on the closing climb. The
Garmin-Barracuda rider finished fifth on the stage, five seconds behind
Tiralongo, and now leads the race by 15 seconds over Tiralongo, with
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) moving up to third at 17 seconds.

The closing climb was the first exchange of blows among the
favourites for the final title. Most, if not all, of the overall
contenders were still in the group which went for the win, with an
impressive Scarponi declaring his intentions, and Schleck also making
his first real showing of the year.

From the flag

The group of the day couldn’t have formed any earlier. When the flag
dropped to commence racing, Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle
Italia), Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM), Fumiyuki Beppu
(Orica-GreenEdge) and Reto Hollenstein (Team NetApp) jumped. The peloton
was happy to have things settled so early and let the quartet go.

Stage seven was the Giro’s second medium mountain stage, another
rolling day with numerous small climbs and two ranked ones. The previous
day had proved hard enough to nearly eliminate a number of top
sprinters, but cooler temperatures and an overall slow pace proved a
boon for the fast men today.

The leading foursome had quickly built up a lead of up to nine
minutes ,and it see-sawed between eight and nine minutes for much of the
day. The rash of abandons which afflicted the sixth stage let up, with
only Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol) leaving during the race.

The first ranked climb of the day came at km 101.7, the Colle
Galluccio, and Japanese rider Beppu took the top points, followed by
Rabottini, Hollenstein, and Selvaggi. The field crossed the line 7:49

Gradually the gap started coming down, and with 64km to go the
break’s advantage was appropriately at 6:40. The only intermediate
sprint of the day came at km 178.8, and the gap had dropped to 2:50.
Beppu and Selvaggi took advantage of the sprint banner to take off.
Rabottini caught them but Hollenstein, who had spent much of the day in
the “virtual” maglia rosa, struggled at first before catching up.

That was the end of the co-operation amongst the four leaders, and finally Rabottini took off on his own.

The stage ended atop the category two Rocca di Cambio, which proved
to be tougher than anticipated. Stef Clement (Rabobank) was the first to
(unsuccessfully) jump from the field as the peloton started up the
closing climb. Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF Inox) was the next to give
it a go and was more successful. Meanwhile, behind the field, the
grupetto started forming around world champion Mark Cavendish of Sky.

Pirazzi quickly bridge across to Beppu, Hollenstein and Selvaggi with
about 16km to go, and smoothly went on past them. By that time
Rabottini had 33 seconds on the chasers, with the peloton at about one

Liquigas-Cannondale’s Valerio Agnoli was the next to jump, while
behind him overnight leader Malori had to bid an early farewell to the
pink jersey as he was unable to keep pace with the field on the climb.

With 13.6km to go, Pirazzi caught Rabottini and behind them Jose
Herrada of Movistar passed Agnoli and took off after the two leaders.
All semblance of co-operation within the chasing field disappeared, as
attack followed attack – all unsuccessful.

The Spaniard caught the two Italians with a bit more than 12 km to
go, as the attacks and counter-attacks continued behind them. Only two
kilometres later Rabottini finally succumbed to the efforts of his long
escape and dropped back. The field was only 22 seconds behind the two
leaders at this point.

Pirazzi set a good pace and the leading duo increased their lead
slightly. The Spaniard did some turns in front, but Pirazzi did the
majority of the work.

Meanwhile, the field was steadily diminishing in size but all the
favourites were still in it, most of them with numerous teammates at
their side. Astana led them under the 5km marker, where the course
flattened out momentarily. Astana’s tempo brought the gap down second by

A slight descent came before the final pitch to the finish line and
Pirazzi nearly missed the right turn to the finale, being cut off by a
race moto. Herrada took advantage of the miscue by Pirazzi in the corner
and took off alone as the parcours grew steep.

With only 700 meters to go Herrada was caught, and 200 meters later
Scarponi took off with Tiralongo right behind him. It was a very steep,
twisting finale, and Tiralongo pulled away to take the win ahead of the
defending Giro champion.

Schleck and Rodriguez were the next over the line, and the rest of
the favourites followed shortly thereafter, but all lost valuable
seconds to Scarponi, who not only had gapped them but also picked up
bonus seconds.