Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) was a surprise winner on the uphill sprint finish to take the seventh stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia.
The Italian claimed his fourth Giro d’Italia career stage win, and his first win of any kind since returning from his doping suspension.
Ulissi, though cleared of a deliberate violation, was banned for nine months after his negligence led to a positive test at last year’s Giro.
But on a day which saw injured race leader Alberto Contador finish safely in the bunch, Ulissi went some way to atone for that with a perfectly-timed sprint.
Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) was in the break for the second day running, and he was joined this time out by fellow Pro Continental riders Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF), Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) and Pier Paolo De Negri (Nippo-Vini Fantini).
On such a long stage, the peloton were happy to let them go and build up an advantage of more than ten minutes, with Tinkoff-Saxo on the front for much of the day.
Injured Alberto Contador was kept safe, even getting out of the saddle on occasions despite dislocating his shoulder the previous day, though the central position of his left hand on his handlebars showed there was discomfort.
Elia Viviani (Team Sky) twice kicked from the bunch to collect intermediate sprint points, enough to move back to the top of the points classificiation.
Though there was only one categorised climb on the route, there were plenty of uncategorised ascents which, coupled with a headwind, made for a slow pace throughout the day however.
Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) and Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) were both dropped on one of the late intermediate climbs, but the likes of stage six winner Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) proved harder to shake off.
BMC Racing and Cannondale-Garmin both put in big digs on the front, reeling the breakaway in with 20km still to race but Tinkoff-Saxo and Contador ensured they kept men up the road.
Tinkoff-Saxo still led as they passed through a long tunnel just shy of the 5km to go kite, but Team Sky, Lotto-Soudal and Orica-GreenEDGE soon lined out at the front.
Lampre-Merida took charge at the perfect time, however, despite a powerful Orica-GreenEDGE lead-out by Pieter Weening.
The pace of the Australian and Italian teams proved too much for the likes of Greipel, and after rounding the final corner on the front, Ulissi led the sprint out.
Gerrans and Lobato both gave chase, but the Lampre-Merida man was too quick – unable to hide his delight at the finish as he haunched over on the floor but taking the congratulations of his team-mates.
Contador, meanwhile, was safe in the bunch and will – it would seem – live to fight another day as race leader.
Giro d’Italia 2015: stage seven – result
1) Diego Ulissi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – 7.22.21hrs
2) Juan Jose Lobato (ESP) – Movistar – ST
3) Simon Gerrans (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
4) Manuel Belletti (ITA) – Southeast
5) Enrico Battaglin (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF
6) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF
7) Fabio Felline (ITA) – Trek Factory Racing
8) Grega Bole (SVN) – CCC Sprandi Polkowice
9) Kevin Reza (FRA) – FDJ
10) Sergey Labutin (RUS) – Katusha
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 27.48.00hrs
2) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Atstana +2”
3) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky +20”
4) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Tinkoff-Saxo +22″
5) Dario Cataldo (ITA) – Astana +28″
6) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE +37″
7) Giovanni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar +56″
8) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Astana +1.01
9) Davide Formolo (ITA) – Cannondale-Garmin +1.15
10) Andrey Amador (CRC) – Movistar +1.18