L'Aquila (Italy) – Tony Gallopin came close to victory on Friday in the 7th stage of the Tour of Italy, who kept the same pink jersey, Italy's Valerio Conti, attacked all day long.
"Second, it's a consolation prize", regretted Gallopin who failed a handful of seconds from the Spaniard Pello Bilbao, gone on the attack at 1400 meters from the line.
In this Giro, the first of his career although it is one week away from his 31st birthday, the former yellow jersey of the 2014 Tour is aimed primarily at the stage success. To complete a list of achievements that already has one stage of the Tour and another of the Vuelta.
Reaching this goal, Gallopin managed to integrate the main breakaway of the day, with 13 riders. But the pink jersey team has never let up because of the presence in the front of the Spaniard Jose Joaquin Rojas, 4th overall at the start of Vasto.
"We have wasted a lot of strength to fight with the squadGallopin said: The gap, of the order of two minutes to forty kilometers from the finish as the race crossed the plateau of Abruzzo, was further reduced in the final, after the hand given by two teams (Bardiani and especially Trek) to UAE Emirates team of Conti.
The gain of the stage was played however between the members of the breakaway. Rojas, struggling on the steepest slopes, tried his luck at 4 kilometers. The junction operated, Bilbao countered without waiting to make sure a few seconds and resist in the last kilometer leading to the center of L'Aquila.
– The relief of the pink jersey –
"Bilbao played well tactically, he came out at the right time", admitted Gallopin who was mostly focused on Davide Formolo, second of the recent Liege-Bastogne-Liege.But the Italian climber could not do better than third in the heart of L'Aquila city, martyred by the 2009 earthquake .
Bilbao, a 29-year-old Basque who joined the Astana team in 2017, won for the first time on a grand tour. Last year, he took 6th place in the Giro final standings.
"It looked like the whole pack wanted to attack today"Sighed Conti, relieved to finish after the 185 kilometers of this stage driven beating, at nearly 45 km / h, despite the rugged profile.
The favorites of this Giro who finally found the sun remained on their position. But the Slovenian Primoz Roglic lost a teammate, the Belgian Laurens De Plus, who gave up (like the Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria).
Saturday, the 8th stage, the longest of the event (239 km), leads from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro, along the Adriatic, on the eve of the San Marino time trial.
If the first 140 kilometers are flat, the result is more rugged with a final climb to 24 kilometers from the finish judged near the sea. In the city of the composer Giacomo Rossini who has not received the Giro since 1986 (victory from Bontempi), fighters and sprinters have their chance.