Grand Tour debutant Alvaro Hodeg takes fifth in a scrappy sprint in Brindisi.
Stage 7 of the Giro d’Italia, a completely flat one between Matera and Brindisi, was supposed to be also a quiet one, but soon after the start it got battered by heavy crosswinds, and that completely changed its dynamic. Sensing an opportunity, Deceuninck – Quick-Step amassed at the front of the peloton and turned into one of the main instigators, our team’s huge forcing creating a select 30-man group which caught off-guard many GC riders, who found themselves trailing by a minute.
A mad pursuit of those caught out in the echelons ensued, and it was only when the peloton changed direction and the wind dropped that the chasers bridged across, with around 100 kilometers to go. The Wolfpack – who rallied around overall leader João Almeida – remained focused and at the front of the bunch, which didn’t have quite the armchair ride until the finish, as the threat of crosswinds was still present.
The closing kilometers were very technical, featuring several roundabout, tight corners and narrow roads in Brindisi, a stage finish for the first time in the race’s history. For Grand Tour debutant Alvaro Hodeg, it was the first opportunity to go for a good result, and the 24-year-old Colombian didn’t disappoint, taking a solid fifth place as Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) claimed the victory in a hectic sprint.
João Almeida finished in the pack and continues to lead the general classification with a 43-second gap over his closest pursuer. Just 22 years of age, the Portuguese is now the youngest rider in 41 years to collect at least five pink jerseys at a single Giro d’Italia edition.
“The stage was very fast and nervous because of the wind, but I had a perfect team around me, who protected me and made sure I was always at the front, and thanks to them everything went smoothly today. I was a bit nervous at the start due to the echelons, because I don’t have that much experience of racing in these conditions, but when you have such a strong squad around you, you grow in confidence. I am delighted that I could keep the maglia rosa, but now a really hard weekend awaits, and I hope to have the same good legs to overcome the obstacles lying ahead”, Almeida said at the finish.
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