Thanks for joining us today - be sure to return over the weekend, especially for Sunday's showdown on Mount Etna.
Maddaloni - Santuario di Montevergine
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What a finish! Scarponi almost pipped the Belgian with his late burst. Kreuziger took third. Weening arrives in good nick to hold on to the pink jersey.
But the young Belgian holds on by half a wheel length to take the biggest win of his career. What a ride - and it was almost such a sad ending for the Omega Pharma-Lotto man.
It's crazy that no one attacked until it was too late… BUT HERE THEY COME! Scarponi leads out the sprint from the peloton and he's closing on De Clercq fast…
Lampre up the ante on the front of the peloton. They catch Pirazzi and Ochoa, but it looks like the Belgian will hold on.
De Clercq is on course for his first win in the Giro as he passes the one-to-go banner. This will be a win in his first full year as a professional…
Stefano Pirazzi joins Ochoa in pursuit of De Clercq.
Carlos Ochoa of Androni Giocattoli attacks the peloton.
It's over 30 seconds now for De Clercq.
Movistar send a rider to the front. It's David Arroyo. De Clercq has 26 seconds over the bunch now. Not a bad effort. Pink jersey Weening is still there, so he could well hold on to the lead today.
De Clercq is finding it hard to open up a gap. Garzelli is four pack in the long line of Acqua & Sapone riders on the front of the bunch.
Yet another attack by an Omega Pharma-Lotto man. It's Bart De Clercq. There are 14 hairpins in this final climb of the day.
Acqua & Sapone and Lampre have moved to the front after Nibali told his team-mates to drop back and hand over the pace-setting duties.
Multiple attacks from the peloton! But it's all coming back together - and here's Lars Bak. Job done and now blown out the back.
Meanwhile, birthday boy Johnny Hoogerland is struggling to stay on the back of the peloton...
Vincenzo Nibali tells his team-mates to ease off the pace. There's no need to catch them yet, he infers.
ATTACK: The tallest man in the pelotom, Omega Pharma's Francis De Greef, has a pop. He's followed by two riders, and now a fourth.
Hoogerland and the other initial leaders have been caught. It's just Bak now, who's 15 seconds further up the hill.
Liquigas look so at home on the front of the peloton as the road edges skyward.
Lars Bak tries his luck alone, leaving his breakaway companions in his wake. He's pushing a large gear.
Right, the 2011 Giro starts here: with the leaders just 10 seconds ahead, the scene is set for the GC big cheeses to fight it out. Geox are right up there on the front. Loads of riders have already been blown off the back.
Hoogerland, his shirt unzipped, drives forward. Back in the peloton, an Omega Pharma-Lotto rider tries his luck...
It's the indefatigable Dutchman who is still driving the leaders forward, but with Liquigas on the front of the peloton, the lead is now a slender 25 seconds.
Message from my brother: Did you know that because of the prominent bull-tattoo on his arm and his roots from the peninsula of Zuid-Beveland, Johnny Hoogerland is nicknamed "the Bull van Beveland"?
Bak, Montaguti and Canuti are the only three with Hoogerland now. Pineau and Visconti have called it a day. With the lead at just 40 seconds, it's easy to see why.
ATTACK: Right at the start of the final climb of the day and you've got it: Johnny Hoogerland goes on the offensive. His dig sees a couple of the leaders drop back... But with the gap at under a minute now, surely it's all in vain.
Lampre are on the front of the peloton. Surely Michele Scarponi fancies his chances today...
Hoogerland is now back on the front and doing all the work. Surely he'll get the prize for the most competitive/combative rider today... But the lead is only 1'39" and these men will surely be swept up early on in the final climb of the day.
Full marks for entertainment: birthday boy Hoogerland is now on the back of the group fetching water...
MY WORD! Hoogerland catches the five leaders and passes them! Is he crazy?! Canuti takes his wheel, and the others follow, but what a statement of intent by the Dutchman...
Here comes Johnny! Hoogerland is just a few seconds behind the leaders. A brave effort but in all likelihood the Vacansoleil man will finish at least two minutes behind today's stage winner... surely he's used up all his energy in trying to catch the leaders.
Hoogerland can now see the five leaders up ahead but one senses it's a bit of a birthday suicide mission for the 28-year-old Dutchman.
Front wheel puncture for Jerome Pineau - but that's a swift wheel change so he should rejoin the leaders fast. Hoogerland will be with them soon. He's 40 seconds behind. The pink jersey peloton is riding at 2'30".
Hoogerland is going hell for leather. He's about a minute behind the leaders and a minute and a half ahead of the bunch.
CRASH: Cavalier Canuti hits the deck on the descent! His wheel turned on a tight bend as he applied the breaks and he takes quite a tumble. He's back on his bike, but back with the others. Ouch.
Colnago's Federico Canuti has broken clear of the leaders and took maximum points at the top of the category two climb. Jerome Pineau came second over the summit followed by Giovanni Visconti. Further back, Hoogerland is in the dancing position as he tries to catch the leaders.
Hoogerland has caught and passed both Cazaux and Lang. A nice 28th birthday for the Dutchman.
It is Hoogerland! And how does this humble commentator know it's his birthday? We, we are Facebook friends... Go Johnny, go go go!
ATTACK: A Vacansoleil rider breaks clear... could it be Johnny Hoogerland celebrating his birthday by going on the offensive?
CRASH: Three of the Acqua & Sapone pace-setters lose their grip on a tight bend through a paved piazza and hit the deck. The road bottlenecks and the whole peloton is forced to slow down.
Cav tweeted his concern ahead of today's stage this morning: "ok, so us sprinters/fat b*****s/lazy b*****s/wounded have a less than 20min time cut today."
ATTACK: The indefatigable Sebastian Lang breaks clear of the peloton. The Omega Pharma-Lotto man is soon joined by Euskaltel's sole Frenchman, Pierre Cazaux. Meanwhile, Britain's Mark Cavendish has been thrown out the back of the bunch.
Acqua & Sapone's Carlos Betancourt, not to be confused with the American contemporary artist of the same name, sets the pace on the front of the peloton. Does anyone have a better name that the Columbian in the whole peloton? It's doubtful.
Alessandro Petacchi already feeling the heat off the back of the peloton. Movistar moves up alongside Acqua & Sapone on the front.
The leaders are onto the second category Serra della Strada climb. It's about 10km in length at an average gradient of 5%.
The Soap & Water boys are setting a fierce pace as the lead drops to 2'30". Remember, you can listen to LIVE commentary from David Harmon and Sean Kelly:
Britain's David Millar said before the start that "heads should roll" at the UCI for allowing the doping index leak. "It's shocking. I understand that that list should exist, that's what targeted testing is about," he said. "This list should never have been released. The UCI, some of their people should be fired for this. A major investigation should go on into what exactly they are doing with this model."
CORRECTION: Visconti is not the best place rider in the GC. Montaguti is 2:16 down in 45th while Canuti is 4:53 down in 55th. Good spot @GeorgeL
The red riders of Acqua & Sapone have taken up position at the front of the peloton. Meanwhile, 2'53" up the road, the five leaders overshoot a bend on a descent and almost come a cropper.
Yesterday's stage was won by Angel Ventoso after Alessandro Petacchi appeared to take his foot off the gas with just metres to spare. Our blogger Blazin' Saddles tries to evaluate the situation...
Of course, the big news story of the day is l'Equipe's controversial publishing of that infamous list of riders with potentially suspicious blood levels ahead of last year's Tour de France. Here's a link to the story - and let us know in the comment box below what you think. Was the paper wrong to publish this document? What should the UCI do? It is right for us to know all this confidential information?
Italy's Visconti is the best placed rider from this group in the GC. But at 8:01 and back in 67th place, he's hardly a threat to Weening's maglia rosa.
The quintet has 3'10" over the peloton, which is being controlled by the Rabobank team-mates of pink jersey Pieter Weening.
The final climb to Montevergine is a regular fixture in the Giro. In 2004, Damiano Cunego won a similar stage on his way to overall victory, and Danilo Di Luca did the same in the 2007 edition, beating compatriot Riccardo Ricco to the summit. The average gradient is only 5% but at times it hits 10%. The race organisers have decided to put a 20-minute limit in which all riders must finish if they want to continue the race - something which has prompted a bit of a grump by Mark Cavendish.
Only five of the leaders managed to stay out in front. They are: Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini), Lars Bak (HTC), Federico Canuti (Colnago), Jerome Pineau (Quickstep), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R). The lead is over two minutes now.
Six more riders have joined the leaders: Selvaggi, Pasamontes, Visconti, Cherel, Bak and Betancourt. They have 18 seconds over the bunch but it seems to be coming down...
The duo are joined by another pair of riders: Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) and Katusha's Eduard Vorganov, who has already been on the offensive in this year's Giro. The quartet have 10 seconds over the peloton. But others are trying to join them.
Two riders have managed to get away. They are Colnago's Federico Canuti and Julien Berard of AG2R La Mondiale.
It's not as hot as yesterday but the sun is still out at the start in Maddaloni. There are a few clouds at the finish and the temperature is in the early 20s.
They're off! The shortest road stage of this year's Giro is underway. And right away some riders have a go at breaking away. A frantic opening to what could well be an explosive afternoon in the saddle.
The remaining riders are in the neutral and today's short-but-hard stage is about to get underway. The two climbs today may be just second category numbers but they should see the peloton blown apart and allow us to see who the main protagonists for this year's Giro really are.
Welcome to live coverage of stage seven of the Giro d'Italia. Bringing a difficult first week to a conclusion is this punchy 110-kilometre stage from Maddoloni to Montevergine di Mercogliano, which culminates in the race's first summit finish.