Frenchman wins his second stage in three days with crafty sprint

Nacer Bouhanni won stage 7 of the Giro d’Italia Friday in Foligno, Italy. Bouhanni ( overtook Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) in a bunch sprint to close the 214-kilometer leg from Frosinone.

Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing)) was second and Mezgec was third.

“My team did a great job in the last 50K or so,” said Bouhanni. “Of course, the climbs near the end weren’t easy, but I managed to hang on, and the team did the rest, really.”

Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) finished fourth to maintain his overall lead.

Five riders comprised the day’s long escape: Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida), Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF), Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), and Björn Thurau (Europcar). The breakaway’s advantage topped out above eight minutes, but the peloton’s hunger for a final sprint before the Giro hits the mountains Saturday was insatiable.

The gap was down to one minute with 10km to go and Haas attacked, sparking the escape to up its pace. Thurau surged with 6.2km to go, but the five men again regrouped.

With 2.5km to go, they were finished.

Orica upped the pace in the bunch, with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) sitting third wheel, behind a teammate.

“It was a little bit more technical than we originally thought, so we tried to be in the front of the bunch from 5K to go,” said Matthews. “I just didn’t quite have the legs after yesterday to get over the line, but another very good day for the team.”

Lined up side-by-side, Giant-Shimano and took over with 2km to go.

The Dutch team led into the final 800 meters, with Tom Veelers pulling Mezgec. Mezgec opened the sprint 150 meters from the line, but Bouhanni snuck through a narrow gap along the barriers to take the victory.

“I was close into the corner, but again, with 30 meters to go, I managed to just get in front and just take the win,” said Bouhanni.

The 97th Giro d’Italia continues Saturday with the 174km eighth stage, from Foligno to Montecopiolo and the race’s first summit finish.