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ALBERTOBELLO, Italy (VN) — How boring was Friday’s stage 7 at the Giro d’Italia? Even riders were yawning as they came across the finish line after the 224km race.
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Things spiced up toward the end, with Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) taking a break-out sprint victory, but the preceding six hours certainly didn’t see any fireworks. A two-man break went up the road, and the peloton slipped into siesta mode.
“We stopped for coffee and pie,” joked Laurens Ten Dam (Sunweb) at the line. “We had some fun on the bike. I talked with my best friends during the race. I think it’s part of the sport. Italy is big, so we need to go from A to B. It is what it is.”
On paper, Friday’s seventh stage was the second-longest of this Giro (stage 12 is five kilometers longer), but it featured an extensive neutral start. So in terms of distance, it well could be the longest day in the saddle for the peloton.
Racing over mostly flat terrain on wide roads, including portions along a four-lane highway, the peloton trundled along, knocking out the kilometers in metronome pace.
“I heard a lot of jokes over the radio today,” said Quick-Step’s Pieter Serry. “I heard the guys calling for some music to be played over the radio. Can you put some music for us please? … I don’t know why they [race organizers] do it? If they make the race shorter, at 150km, I think the race will be much more spectacular. It must have been boring to watch. It was a long, long day, and now I go to the bus to take a long, long shower.”
Part of the reason for Friday’s decaffeinated racing is geography. After five nervous stages on Sardinia and Sicily, the Giro must cover some serious ground. The course hopscotches up the length of the Italian peninsula during eight stages before reaching the Alps, and with one time trial along the way, that means there’s a lot of terrain to cover.
Drawing a straight line to the Alps, that would be about 1,300km, but with the Giro route zig-zagging its way north, going from its “toe” to the “heel” before pedaling north into Tuscany and finally into the Piedmont, the only way to get there is via long stages and longer post-stage transfers.
While Friday’s stage certainly wouldn’t rank up there as the most engaging race in cycling history, it came as a welcome respite for the weary riders a week into the 100th Giro. And with a vicious final week looming across the Alps and Dolomites, Friday’s “passeggiata” was appreciated.
“It can be a little boring, but in a lot of ways, you need a nice stage like that,” said Orica-Scott’s Svein Tuft. “With strong sprint teams, it’s going to be controlled. You cannot be pinning yourself every day, especially with the third week the way it is.”
In fact, more than a few riders found the drama-free race to be a much-needed salve following several nervous days of racing on narrow and often bad roads and treacherous winds on Sardinia, Sicily, and Reggio Calabria. Even though it appears that not much has happened to shake up the GC, riders say the Giro so far has been anything but boring.
“Well, we didn’t stop for a coffee,” said race leader Bob Jungels (Quick-Step). “It might have been boring for you guys, but for me it was a really good day. There was no stress, no winds, no fear of echelons. I appreciated today, and I think a lot of riders in the bunch did, too.”
Tomorrow’s stage should be quite a bit livelier, with two rated climbs and an explosive uphill finale. No one can afford to be sleeping at the wheel.