Tiralongo battles to Giro triumph
Scarponi edged out in dramatic finish on Rocca di Cambio
Last Updated: 12/05/12 5:43pm
Paolo Tiralongo: Impressive victory saw him move up to second overall at the Giro
Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) won a thrilling seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia as Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) moved into the overall lead.
The first mountain stage of the race, which took the riders 205 kilometres from Recanati, only really came to life on the final climb up to Rocca di Cambio.
Lampre-ISD had looked to set it up for local hero Michele Scarponi and he launched his attack on one of the steepest sections just inside the final kilometre.
But Tiralongo was able to jump from the pack and he used his finishing kick to good effect as he pushed himself to the limit to take the win from Scarponi.
Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) was third, three seconds back, stage favourite Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) fourth and Hesjedal fifth. Sergio Henao was a close-up 11th for Team Sky.
With previous leader Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) having been dropped early on the climb, it means that Hesjedal is the new holder of the maglia rosa.
He has a 15 seconds advantage from Tiralongo, with Rodríguez a further two seconds back in third.
The late drama was in contrast to what had gone before on a stage which featured more than 3,000 metres of climbing. A break moved clear straight away and within 30km the four riders in question - Fumiyuki Beppu (Orica-GreenEDGE), Reto Hollenstein (NetApp), Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini) and Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) – quickly built up a lead of just over nine minutes.
Perhaps as a reaction to what had proved a surprisingly tough stage 24 hours earlier, the pace was far more sedate in the benign weather conditions, with the average speed 33km/h for the first three hours of the day.
The escape quartet’s lead held steady at just under eight minutes for much of the day - it was still 7:40 with 70k to go - but that all changed when the Lampre-ISD team of Malori were joined on the front with 35km to go by Garmin-Barracuda.
The gap came down rapidly thereafter and by the base of the final climb with 19km remaining it had dipped under two minutes and Rabottini was out on his own having left his fellow escapees.
A fierce pace on the early slopes initially caused plenty of splits but it soon settled down and Rabottini was joined by Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF) and José Herrada (Movistar) at the head of affairs.
As the Farnese rider eventually dropped back the other two still had 15 seconds in hand going into the last 2km but any chance Pirazzi had disappeared when he lost all momentum as he had to swerve around a motorbike. Herrada gave it his all but he too was eventually swallowed up as Scarponi and then Tiralongo took centre stage.
The climbers should again be to the fore in Sunday's 229km eighth stage which is up and down right from the off at Sulmona and only flattens out in the final 5km run into Lago Laceno.