Giro stage 7: Ulissi’s odyssey complete as Contador lives to fight another day

A year after two stage wins and a positive doping test, Lampre-Merida’s Diego Ulissi returned to the Giro to win a tough uphill sprint at the end of a 264km stage – the longest of this year’s race – while race leader Alberto Contador survived the near 7½-hour marathon to retain the maglia rosa.

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Rider of the day

Never mind getting to the finish safely ensconced in the pack. For Alberto Contador, even getting to the start-line with a shoulder that he dislocated twice yesterday was no small achievement – and a reminder of how tough these professional bike racers are.

Contador started and finished the longest stage of this year's race despite yesterday's injuries (Image: Giro d'Italia)

Contador started and finished the longest stage of this year’s race despite yesterday’s injuries (Image: Giro d’Italia)

He was probably glad there wasn’t a big summit finish today but a 264km Liege-Bastogne-Liege-like sort of day would not have been what the doctor (or he) would have ordered.

But Bertie is the consummate pro. He discharged his podium duties yesterday with good grace and he was thoroughly professional again today, wearing his best poker face and showing no sign of the pain and presumably poor night’s sleep he had. It’s impossible to tell yet how badly the crash has affected him – often the body doesn’t react fully to the after-effects until 48-72 hours later. Tomorrow’s summit finish, a 13km climb up the cat 1 Campitello Matese, will be much more revealing. But in the meantime, chapeau.

Three things we noticed

1. Variety. One of the reasons we love the Giro so much is that the organisers aren’t afraid to mix up the parcours. Already this week we’ve had flat stages, lumpy stages, a medium mountain summit finish and now a classics-style puncheur’s sprint. We’ve had a road stage (three) of just 136km that took just 3:33 to complete, compared to today’s endurance test of 264km, much of it into a headwind, that lasted a gruelling 7:22 – more than twice as long. As a consequence we’ve had a different winner every day so far and each of the four classification jerseys has been worn by at least three different riders (four in the case of the maglia rosa). There’s something new to look forward to every day. We like that very much.

2. Safety. After yesterday’s final kilometre crash, it was good to see that RCS had acted swiftly in installing higher barriers for the final 350 metres of today’s finish. It’s a fine line to walk. On the one hand, cycling allows fans to get closer to the action than virtually any other major sport, which creates fantastic atmosphere and rapport. Equally, while it is impossible to completely eradicate risk from the sport – just ask Domenico Pozzovivo – it’s important to minimise it as far as is sensible. Ultimately, though, fans have a key role to play. In a bunch sprint, someone is always going to get right up close to the barriers. Even today, there were people leaning over the barriers waving their smartphones around. Be safe, folks.

3. Absurdity. I will say this for Diego Ulissi. There is an element of mitigation in the circumstances behind his nine-month doping ban, insofar that he was banned for a drug, salbutamol (which asthmatics will know as Ventolin) that he was permitted to use – but not at the concentration that was found in his urine (nearly double the allowed limit). However, rules are rule, he was banned and he has served his time. Nonetheless it sticks in my throat that a rider can win two stages at the Giro, serve a ban and then return the following year and win again. There’s something not quite right about that. I’ll say no more on the matter.

Stage 7 result

1. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) 7:22:21

2. Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) same time

3. Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEDGE) s/t

4. Manuel Belletti (Southeast) s/t

5. Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani CSF) s/t

General classification

1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 27:42:00

2. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:02

3. Richie Porte (Sky) +0:20

4. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0.22

5. Dario Cataldo (Astana) +0:28

6. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0.37

7. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) +0:56

8. Mikel Landa (Astana) +1:01

9. Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) +1:15

10. Andrey Amador (Movistar) +1:18

Points leader: Elia Viviani (Sky).

King of the Mountains leader: Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida).

Best young rider: Fabio Aru (Astana).

Team classification: Astana.

Link: Official race website

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