After returning to Italian soil after a spectacular and well received start in Northern Ireland and Ireland, the Giro d’Italia continued its inexorable path on Italian soil.
Despite the transfer of nearly 3,000km from Northern Europe to the balmy Adriatic coast, the rain has remained a constant of the race and has been as critical to the selection of early favourites as the racing itself. Wet and slimy roads had caused havoc in the peloton, which has lost 11 riders to broken bones, fevers and crash injuries since the start.
For complete coverage of the race, check out Cyclingnews.com. Below is a brief summary of the racing thus far. You can also read a summary of the opening four stages of the 2014 Giro d'Italia on BikeRadar.
Stage 5: Taranto - Viggiano 203km
Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) took advantage of some excellent teamwork and a perfectly timed sprint to win the punchy uphill finish in Viggiano – his first Giro stage. He was marked closely by the Cadel Evans (BMC) who, at 37, is showing impressive form and appears to be emerging as a genuine contender for the overall.
Stage 6: Sassano – Montecassino 257km
Wet roads again wreaked havoc in the peloton as it neared the finale after an incredibly long day in the saddle. Eight riders – Evans and Matthews again among them — avoided a crash 8km from the final, just as the peloton was about to hit the final into Montecassino. In the crash confusion, race favourite Joaquim Rodriguez came down and was forced to abandon with a broken rib and thumb in the mass pile up - but not before photographers snapped some of the worst road rash we’ve seen in a while. “It hurts to leave the Giro, but there is no other option,” he said a team press release.
Up ahead of the carnage, Evans controversially turned the screws and secured a big advantage over other GC contenders. At the end of the day, Evans was just 21 seconds behind Matthews (who won the stage in the pink jersey and picked up eight extra seconds as a time bonus), and almost a minute ahead of Rigoberto Uran (Omega-Pharma QuickStep).
Stage 7: Frosinone - Foligno 211km
The third stage in a row over 200km was destined to end in a sprint. But despite the peloton still recovering from its collective war wounds, the pace was rapid in the finale, and despite a brave attempt by a quintet of riders to remain clear, Nacer Bouhanni – who used to be a boxer – nipped in ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) and Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) to claim his second stage win, after his rainy, crashy first in Bari on Tuesday.
As the race heads into the hills this weekend, the Aussies can reflect on a well-ridden first week, that’s been supplemented with a healthy dose of luck: Matthews (a former U23 world champion) goes into the weekend in the pink jersey and Evans is sitting pretty in second on the overall classification.
For complete coverage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia, head on over to Cyclingnews.com.