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Giro Stage 7 Preview: Maddaloni-Montevergine di Mercogliano, 110 km

Giro d'Italia Podium CafeFriday is fun day! At least, it is for the climbers. This short stage runs 110 kilometers from Maddaloni to the summmit of Montevergine di Mercogliano. The Giro d’Italia celebrates its first mountain-top finish with this stage, and it should offer a chance to see who among the favorites has brought his climbing legs to this year’s race.

The Giro last visited Montevergine di Mercogliano in 2007. Danilo DiLuca won the day. After his attack on the road to Fiuggi on Thursday, DiLuca appears to have some form, but riders like Nibali and Contador are not likely to let him have things his own way. Before DiLuca, Damiano Cunego won on this climb in 2004. Cunego took his first maglia rosa that day, much to the disgruntlement of his team-mate Gilberto Simoni. Ah, the 2004 Giro, that was some bike race.

Stage Battle:Two climbs provide the warm-up for the grand finale, the 18 kilometer ascent to the Santuario di Montevergine. No doubt the sprinters will call grupetto at the Serra della Strada climb, which runs 10 kilometers uphill and summits at kilometer 66. The Serra della Strada averages around 5% and offers a nice leg-stretcher before the stage finale.

The finishing climb is not especially steep, it’s pedalabile. Simply put, one sits in the saddle and pedals. The road switchbacks up the mountain and the gradients stay in the 5% range. A steeper section of around 10% announces the finish and offers a nice launchpad for an attack. With its relatively slack gradients, this climb is fast and furious, and will not likely open up ginormous time gaps among the favorites. Instead, expect a sprint from a gruppo ristretto of top riders.

Maglia Rosa Matters: Peter Weening still holds the Maglia Rosa after today’s jaunt to Fiuggi. Konstantin Sivtsov lurks just two seconds back, and is no slouch in the hills. If Weening falters, Sivtsov could win himself a nice new shirt. Marco Pinotti also sits two seconds behind Peter Weening, and is plainly on good form so far for this Giro. Pinotti is not known for his climbing, but on the relatively mellow gradients of the Montevergine di Marcogliano, Pinotti should be able to hang with the favorites.

Of the bigs, Vincenzo Nibali sits at 24 seconds, Michele Scarponi at 26, and Alberto Contador at 30. View the full standings at La Gazzetta (Click Classifiche Generali). They should remain close on time after Friday’s finish, unless someone suffers a giorno no.

Cue Opera For: Anyone who didn’t bring his climbing legs. It’s early days in this Giro to lose time, and any rider who hopes to wear Pink in Milano must ride well on Friday. It’s not quite the Real Giro yet, but it’s getting close now.

Stage 7 Maps and Profile at La Gazzetta. (Click Altimetria for the profile.)