Sports Director Matt White had told his riders that if anyone wanted to ride in the break today, they had free rein to head up the road. Fumiyuku Beppu eagerly took White up on the offer and spent 190 kilometers of the seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia as part of a four-rider escape group.
“We’re here to win stages,” said Sports Director Matt White. “Today, it was totally optional for the guys to go into a break. Beppu really wanted to go up the road today, and he went. He’s had really good legs, and he had a strong ride today.”
As soon as the flag dropped in Marche, Beppu joined Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Reto Hollenstein (Team NetApp) up the road. The quartet built up a seven minute lead within the first ten kilometers. Their gap would eventually stretch to a maximum advantage of nine minutes ahead of the two categorized climbs in the second half of the stage.
Seven minutes ahead of the field at the mid-point of the stage, Beppu took the intermediate sprint atop the third category Colle Galluccio. The four riders collaborated well until the final 30 kilometers at which point their cohesion dissolved as the peloton began to close in on the break. Rabottini was the first to attack his breakaway companions, and the other three riders followed suit.
Rabottini hit the base of the Rocca di Cambio summit finish as the race’s lone leader. Beppu, Selvaggi and Hollenstein were absorbed by the peloton on the lower slopes of the mountain. Attacks came quickly from opportunists seeking stage wins as the overall contenders seemed content to sit back and eye one another. Behind, the tempo up the climb spit out the sprinters. Rabottini, too, was eventually overtaken by the field.
“There was a little bit of a misunderstanding with Beppu on stage six,” noted White. “The Japanese tend to take things quite literally. I asked him to wait for [Matt] Goss yesterday on a climb and told him to bring him back to the bunch.”
“He’s such a loyal teammate,” White continued. “He didn’t tell me how good he was going. Instead, he just did as I asked – and he stayed by Gossy’s side for the next four hours, even after Gossy had been dropped. All I had asked him to do was bring Matt back the first time he was gapped. It’s a cultural thing, and something I need to be more of aware of in the future. I was happy to see Beppu have such a good ride today after he gave up his own chances yesterday.”
As the pace spiked, overnight race leader Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) faded on closing climb that saw the race favorites exchange their first blows on the upper slopes. Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) secured the stage win ahead Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) while Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) became the first Canadian to don pink.
“There are still a lot of fresh legs,” said White. “Today’s stage was important for a lot of teams who wanted to put their rider in the leader’s jersey. I’m not surprised that the break wasn’t able to stay away. Once we have bigger time gaps on the overall classification, it will be a better time for breaks. That being said, if someone wants to give it a go up the road tomorrow, they’re more than welcome.
Note: We saw several questions on Twitter wondering why Fumy no longer wears his national colors during road races. The Japanese National Road Championships were held last month, and Fumy was unable to contest the championships due to his race schedule. Unable to defend his title, Japan now has a new National Road Champion, and Fumy is back in the green, gold and blue of Orica-GreenEDGE.