May 15, 2015 – Former champion Alberto Contador survived the seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia on Friday, a day after dislocating his shoulder in a fall, as Italy’s Diego Ulissi sprinted to the stage victory.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Lampre’s Ulissi got down and kissed the tarmac after outsprinting Spain’s Juan Lobato and Australian Simon Gerrans after a marathon 7hr 22min in the saddle, following a 264km run from Grosseto to the spa town of Fiuggi south of Rome. It was the longest stage on the Giro in 25-years and race favorite Contador might also have felt like kissing the tarmac when retaining his pink jersey after coming through the day’s slog having dislocating his shoulder in a mass fall caused by a spectator with a camera during the bunch sprint on Thursday.

The 32-year-old Spaniard, who took the pink jersey following Wednesday’s fifth stage, was a doubt for the start in Grosseto after dislocating his shoulder a second time when climbing to the podium Thursday.

He was in such pain he couldn’t put on the pink jersey or lift his left arm. Tinkoff’s strategy however has been built on the precept that Contador will go the whole way, and they know the 2008 Giro champion is a master of stoicism when it comes to riding through the pain barrier.

So it was no surprise to see him begin to test his shoulder by getting into the occasional climbers dance posture. “I can’t wait to get back to the hotel for a rest and get an ice-pack on my shoulder,” Contador, the current Tour of Spain champion, said after the race.

“I didn’t know what to do with the arm from around four hours into the race,” Contador claimed, although many pundits were claiming the wily Spaniard was overplaying his injury as a ruse.

“It’s going to be tough tomorrow. Normally I’d have been attacking, but now it looks like I’ll have to defend,” said Contador ahead of Saturday’s mountain stage. He is considered by most pundits as the world’s greatest climber.

An early escape group of four riders – Pierpaolo De Negri, Marco Bandiera, Nicola Boem, Nikolay Mihaylov – got away after 12km, and led for a massive 230km on Friday before being reeled in 20km from Fiuggi. On the long gentle climb to the spa town, famous for its Fiuggi brand water, Tinkoff’s climb oriented team comfortably dictated the pace from the front.

The race culminated in a mixture of punchers and a few surviving sprinters racing for the line with the 25-year-old Tuscan Ulissi clinching his fourth career Giro stage win. Ulissi was delirious with joy, having only returned to competition at the end of March following a doping ban for salbutamol.

“I’ve been through a tough time,” admitted Ulissi. “This is a kind of liberation but is in no way a revenge.”

Saturday’s eighth stage goes back to the mountains and culminates with a summit finish with a 6.9 percent 13km climb to Campitello Matese.

 

Final 10 Kilometers of Stage 7

Results Stage 7:
1. ULISSI, Diego (LAMPRE – MERIDA) 7:22:21
2. LOBATO DEL VALLE, Juan Jose (MOVISTAR)
3. GERRANS, Simon (ORICA GreenEDGE)
4. BELLETTI, Manuel (SOUTHEAST)
5. BATTAGLIN, Enrico (BARDIANI CSF)
6. COLBRELLI, Sonny (BARDIANI CSF)
7. FELLINE, Fabio (TREK FACTORY RACING)
8. BOLE, Grega (CCC SPRANDI POLKOWICE)
9. REZA, Kévin (FDJ)
10. LAGUTIN, Sergey (KATUSHA)

General Classification:
1. CONTADOR VELASCO, Alberto (TINKOFF – SAXO) 27:48:00
2. ARU, Fabio (ASTANA) + 2
3. PORTE, Richie (SKY) + 20
4. KREUZIGER, Roman (TINKOFF – SAXO) + 22
5. CATALDO, Dario (ASTANA) + 28
6. CHAVES RUBIO, Jhoan Esteban (ORICA GreenEDGE) + 37
7. VISCONTI, Giovanni (MOVISTAR) + 56
8. LANDA MEANA, Mikel (ASTANA) + 1:01
9. FORMOLO, Davide (CANNONDALE – GARMIN) + 1:15
10. AMADOR BAKKAZAKOVA, Andrey (MOVISTAR) + 1:18