Mechanical takes Kittel out of contention in Giro d'Italia stage 7
A puncture which occurred with five kilometers to go spelled the end of the German's ambitions in Foligno.
It was only after the first categorized ascent of stage 7 (Sulmona – Foligno, 211 kilometers) that a breakaway snaped the elastic and built a maximum lead of nearly four minutes, following what has been another fast and furious start at the Giro d'Italia. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF), Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling), Axel Domont (AG2R), Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida), Stefan Kung (BMC) and Daniel Martinez (Willier-Southeast) were the men who went up the road, staying together until the top of Valico della Somma. There, Kung attacked and pushed for a gap of one minute, which helped him stay at the front until the last seven kilometers of the stage.
After being distanced on the final climb of the day, Marcel Kittel didn't give up and began a frantic chase together with four teammates, in order to return to the peloton led by Cannondale, who was setting a scorching pace. A 30-second gap was scratched off on the descent and the former wearer of the maglia rosa returned to the bunch for the expected bunch finish in Foligno. Unfortunately, Marcel punctured with around 5 kilometers to go and had to change his bike, which meant it was game over for him at that point, as the bunch was riding at more than 55 km/h.
The race for the stage victory started inside the final three kilometers, when it became very crowded at the head of the peloton. Lotto-Soudal set the pace, but FDJ and Orica-GreenEdge made their way and swept past the Belgian side. First to open his sprint was Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge), who then couldn't keep the momentum and didn't even get on the podium at the finish, as Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) came fast from behind, and finished in the top 3, with the German taking the win.
In Kittel's absence, Matteo Trentin was the Etixx – Quick-Step rider to take up the responsability in the closing meters, and the 26-year-old Italian made his way through the bunch on the tricky and technical finish, sprinting to sixth. In the same time as the winner came also Bob Jungels – fourth in the overall classification – who gets to wear the white jersey for at least one more day.
"The stage wasn't easy. We had a very difficult start, more than an hour at full gas and with some bad weather in between. Our plan was to wait and see what will happen on the last climb. We stayed together, worked as a team and really believed in the win, and all these things make up for the positive side of today", said Marcel Kittel in Foligno. "We chased hard and just as the descent was coming to an end, we were already back in the peloton. The final was super fast and I was excellent positioned, with Fabio and Matteo on my side. Unfortunately, the puncture came and the race was over. It's a pity that we were so unlucky, but I still want to congratulate Andre for taking the victory. As I said earlier this week: this is cycling, with great and sometimes not so great moments. After all, today was Friday 13th", Marcel concluded with a smile on his face.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele