No change after chaotic day

Despite all those splits and the crosswind chaos, today's stage ultimately played out in fairly benign fashion with no change in the general classification. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) found himself caught out in an early split, but he managed to fight back and stays 43 seconds down on the pink jersey Joao Almeida (Deceuninck Quick-Step).
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Here's how Demare did it...

There was a deviation but, to be fair, Sagan was never really in it.

Sagan second... again

A third victory for Demare, but a third second place for Sagan. He's not happy about that and gently remonstrates with the Frenchman over the line, suggesting he closed the door on him.
It was Australia's Michael Matthews who took third place there, with Ben Swift fourth for Ineos ahead of Alvaro Hodeg of Deceuninck Quick-Step.

Hat-trick for Arnaud Demare!

Virtually no contest there for the Frenchman, who barges shoulders with Gaviria or one of the UAE riders in the build up before launching his sprint from distance, veering slightly off his line, but not enough to warrant any penalty, holding off Peter Sagan to take his third win of the race.

Final kilometre

The pack makes the long, sweeping final turn as they go under the barrier. It's now straight all the way to the finish with Demare on his train and Sagan in his wheels.

2km to go: Groupama-FDJ in control

Groupama have power in numbers on the front for Demare, but Jumbo-Visma are sticking there like a persistent wasp.

3km to go: Jumbo on the front

Jumbo-Visma lead their man Steven Kruijswijk past the magic 3km marker and that will be their work for the day done. They're on the front with Quick-Step just behind. Who are they working for - Ballerini or Hodeg? We'll see soon enough...

5km to go: Brindisi here we come

It's going to be the first proper bunch sprint of this year's race - unless there's an incident between here and the finish. All the big sprinters are in with a shout.

10km to go: 1,000km down

The riders have now ridden 1,000km since the first day of the race, but the next 10 will be the most important. They always are.
Such is the wide nature of this highway that the teams can ride in team formation and it's all pretty tame out there - albeit fast. Movistar, NTT, Lotto Soudal, Astana, FDJ and Quick-Step are all on the front.
It's hard to look beyond a third victory for Arnaud Demare today. He's shown he's the fastest. But Gaviria, Viviani, Ballerini, Sagan, Oldani, Cimolai etc will do their best to peg the French champion back. Good luck to them.

15km to go: You can cut the tension with a knife

Mitchelton-Scott are near the front for Yates, NTT for Pozzovivo, Bora for Sagan (and their GC men, Majka and Konrad), and Cofidis for Viviani. Quick-Step are partolling, Sunweb in the mix, and Kruijswijk, oddly, there on his own, his other Jumbo men behind.

19km to go: Up goes the pace

It's got stressful and tense again as the road twists and turns, stringing out the peloton. Nibali's Trek team and Fuglsang's Astana are right near the front, but it's the ubiquitous Iljo Keisse who rides on the front with his Deceuninck teammates behind surrounding their man Almeida.

21km to go: Back together!

A collective sigh of relief as the large chase group manages to rejoin the back of the peloton - so Ganna, Vanhoucke and Zakarin can breathe easy again. The peloton has bunched up on this wide dual carriageway - the calm before the next storm.

25km to go: Chasing groups combine

The Zakarin group has been caught by the third Ganna-Vanhoucke group. They're about a minute down on the main pack, which is being driven by Groupama-FDJ, Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck Quick-Step. Pozzovivo is in this main pack, we think, which is good news for the little Italian.

28km to go: Pozzovivo caught out?

The Zakarin group is about 30 seconds back while the Ganna-Vanhoucke group is 1'45" behind. We're hearing that Domenico Pozzovivo has again been caught out but there's no sight of him in any of the groups for now...

32km to go: Jumbo take over

Martin is back and it's now Jumbo-Visma who are controlling things, with Almeida and Quick-Step caught dozing for the first time as the Portuguese drops back a little and needs to dig his heels in to keep in touch.

37km to go: Keisse in control

Iljo Keisse, as always, is on the front for Deceuninck Quick-Step. It's fair to say the Belgian rouleur is a weathervane when it comes to these kinds of stressful stages - stick to him and you'll be A-okay.
One person who hasn't stuck to Keisse is Ilnur Zakarin. It looks like the rangy Russian was caught out by that crash and he's now chasing back on with three CCC teammates. Vanhoucke, the white jersey, was also held up for the second time. The Belgian was involved in the spill in Taranto, plus the crosswind splits earlier.

40km to go: Tensions run high

Stress is etched across the faces of the riders on the front of the main pack, including that of Tony Martin. Two of his Jumbo-Visma teammates narrowly missed out going down in that crash. The Ganna group is a minute back and they're about to hit those winds soon...
Pello Bilbao and Domenico Pozzovivo have also been caught out in the splits.
CORRECTION: Martin was caught out in the spill, which may explain why he looks so stressed...

45km to go: HUGE CRASH!

A slight squeeze at the 45km-to-go banner causes carnage. No one wants to give anything and a raft of riders went down there - with everyone else behind caught up behind unable to continue until it clears.
I'm not sure any of the big favourites were involved - although Flippo Ganna, the blue jersey and double stage winner, is stuck.

46km to go: Here we go...

They're onto the exposed roads and the winds are getting up... Team Sunweb are on the front, and Mitchelton-Scott look to have learned their lesson because Simon Yates isn't in his usual position on the back of the peloton. He doesn't want to get caught out again.

50km to go: Sprint neutralised

It's uncontested in the sprint as the peloton pass through in one block with Boaro, Ballerini and Gradek picking up the bonus seconds, not that it matters (they are all far down on GC and no threat to Almeida).

52km to go: CRASH!

Almeida lucky to stay up there after a touch of wheels saw a Groupama-FDJ rider hit the deck hard near the front on the uphill grind towards the sprint. The pink jersey had to put his foot down to stabilise himself there but he avoided hitting the deck.

55km to go: Bonus temptation?

The two escapees have been brought to heel as the peloton nears the second intermediate sprint. There are 3-2-1 bonus seconds up for grabs so it will be interesting to see who goes for it...

Viviani today?

I tell you who needs a win today - Elia Viviani. The Italian still hasn't tasted glory since swapping Quick-Step blue for Cofidis red - but he put in a good showing in the intermediate sprint so perhaps we'll see him in the mix in Brindisi?

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60km to go: Calm before the storm

The pace has really eased up on this slight uphill segment ahead of the second intermediate sprint. The peloton has left these two leaders to hang out just ahead. It's a chance for people to drop back to their team cars or answer a call of nature - Peter Sagan is curretly going just that. But once they're through the sprint, the road heads slightly downhill all the way to the finish on the Adriatic coast - and it's here where the wind is forecast.

68km to go: Peloton back together

The third group - which we're hearing may have included Ilnur Zakarin (currently 13th on GC) - is back in with the peloton, which has reformed after those numerous splits and then the crash inside Taranto. The two leaders - Pellaud and Frapporti - have 20 seconds to play with. They made up 50% of the earlier four-man break, which came to nothing once the wind started blowing earlier.

75km to go: Pellaud wins sprint

Just before that crash, Simon Pellaud rode through the intermediate sprint ahead of Marco Frapporti. The crash disrupted the peloton but when they did come through it was Elia Viviani who beat Arnaud Demare and Peter Sagan. That means the Frenchman Demare extends his lead on Slovakia's Sagan to 40 points in the maglia ciclamino battle.

77km to go: CRASH!

A touch of wheels a third of the way down in the peloton after a right-hand bend sees a number of riders hit the deck or get caught out by the incident. They include the white jersey Vanhoucke, Astana's Fuglsang and Kelderman of Sunweb. Nothing serious but they will have to battle back now.

80km to go: Pellaud and Frapporti again!

They were involved in the first break which was neutralised by all that activity, but now it's come back together, Simon Pellaud and Marco Frapporti look to get back on the front. First the Swiss zips clear on the outskirts of Taranto on coast of the instep of the heel of Italy, then the Italian veteran bridges over. Game on.

85km to go: Back together!

Yates, Vanhoucke and Pozzovivo - along with those others who were caught out, including Patrick Konrad of Bora - can breathe easy: Quick-Step have knocked it off and it's going to come back together ahead of the intermediate sprint.
To be fair, that's not too surprising. The strong winds are still yet to come - and they could not have kept up that pace much longer. After all, they covered 51.5km in the opening hour!
I say it's back together, but there's still a gruppetto of around 60 riders in what was a third group which is still behind. It doesn't include any of the big name favourites, though.

95km to go: Around 70 clear

The two first groups have now come together but they're still pushing on - and it's the pink jersey, Almeida, who is pulling hard with his Deceuninck Quick-Step teammates, who are being aided by their former rider Elia Viviani, now of Cofidis, who may have momentarily forgets who pays his salary.
The chasing group - which includes Yates, Pozzovivo, and the white jersey Vanhoucke, along with another 40-odd riders - are now 50 seconds back.

98km to go: First two groups coming together

It looks like the first two groups will come back together. The gap is less than 10 seconds now as Astana push to close in and pull their man Fuglsang back to the leaders. Bilbao and Majka are towards the back of the second group...

105km to go: Yates in big trouble

Simon Yates doesn't appear to be in the second group and so the Briton's poor Giro looks set to continue. Mitchelton-Scott worked hard to get him back into the main chasing pack, but the 2018 Vuelta winner looks like he's missed the split again.
Vanhoucke and Pozzovivo are also in third third group and we're hearing they are a minute off the pace.
Just to confirm again that the second group contains Fuglsang, Majka and Bilbao... while, of the big favourites, Kruijswijk, Kelderman, Almeida and Nibali are in the first group.

112km to go: Still only 20 seconds

Quick-Step continue to push on in this lead group of 30-odd riders. They're all strung out and there's a lack of cohesion so I wouldn't be surprised if they let the chasers back on soon. The official gap is 20 seconds although I'm not so sure about that. The maglia rosa and maglia ciclamino are in this first group, but the blue and white are behind - along with a cluster of GC favourites.
Not sure about the crass caption, but the picture says 999 other less risque words...

Well, I was half right, no?

I kind of half-predicted this in jest the other day while snobbishly putting my nose up at today's flat parcours...

120km to go: Breakaway reeled in

That's that for the De Gendt quartet. The early echelons ended any hopes they had of a long run out ahead. Behind, the huge pack has splintered into a number of smaller groups. It's chaos out there...

123km to go: Can they keep this up?

These splits have come so early it would be a huge surprise if the leading segment of the pack can keep this one up - especially given the size of the main field behind. In any case, the upshot is that the breakaway is about to be caught.
It's worth adding that most of the main sprinters are here in the main group: Demare, Gaviria, Viviani, Hodeg, Ballerini, Sagan...

126km to go: Huge gap!

Deceuninck Quick-Step and Jumbo-Visma are piling on the hurt here. They have power in numbers as a group of around 30 have opened up a decent gap over numerous other splintered groups. They come together to form a massive chasing pack - but the likes of Majka, Bilbao, Fuglsang, Yates and Vanhoucke have all been caught out here.
Almeida, Nibali and Kriujswijk are in the leading group, who now trail the four-man De Gendt break by just 50 seconds.

131km to go: Splits! Echelon action!

Just as that man Mazzucco is reeled in the peloton blows apart on an exposed section of straight road. We have numerous groups now and Simon Yates is among the riders who have been caught out for Mitchelton-Scott...

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Stage 6 highlights - Day to remember for Demare

135km to go: Mazzucco in limbo

Poor potato chaser Mazzucco is still stuck in no-man's land. The Italian is 45 seconds down on the four leaders, who are 1'55" clear of the pack. It all depends on whether the leaders fancy becoming a quintet - if they don't, then Mazzucco won't get a sniff in.
It's a gradual downhill all the way to the intermediate sprint half way through the stage today. There's a slight rise ahead of the second sprint before the road heads slightly downhill again all the way to the coast for the finish. It's over that final third where the wind should be most acute. Here's our man Matt Stephens from Brindisi...

140km to go: Four clear

So, Lotto Soudal's De Gendt is riding with three others. There's no point naming one of them, but I will do so anyway - it's the ubiquitous Italian Marco Frapporti of Vini Zabu-KTM (of course it is). The other two are Swiss prankster Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Poland's Josef Cerny (CCC Team).
They have the youngest rider in the race, the Italian Fabio Mazzucco (Bardiani-CSF) in pursuit. He should be able to bridge over because the peloton is not showing too much interest in keeping him to heel.

143km to go: They're off!

The flag goes and there are attacks from the outset with the Belgian Thomas De Gendt one of four riders who manages to zip clear amid the sun-blushed umbrella pines of the Matera environs.

Sagan in civvies

By losing the purple jersey yesterday, Sagan is now in his regulation team kit. It's not a sight we see often - although we'd better get used to it. The former triple world champion has not taken a win since July 2019. Last month he toiled on the roads of France to concede his habitual green jersey to Sam Bennett, and yesterday he was outclassed by Demare.

Jersey recap

A reminder of who's in what. Portugal's Joao Almeida leads both the race and the youth classification; he's in pink while the Belgian Harm Vanhoucke once again deputises for him in white. Arnaud Demare took the maglia ciclamino from Pater Sagan's shoulders yesterday with his second win in three days while Filippo Ganna, who won in between those two stages from the Frenchman, is in blue. With no climbs on the menu today, the Ineos Grenadier powerhouse will keep the maglia azzurra today - but all the others could change hands, or indeed torsos.

Neutral zone in Matera

The remaining 168 riders are making their way through the neutral zone in what must be one of the most spectacular starts to a Grand Tour stage in the stunning ancient city of Matera. Stay tuned for all the action.

Wind, you say? Let's hope it doesn't blow over...

It's fair to day that today's leg of the Giro - in the heel of the boot of Italy - looks about as interesting as a trip to the dentist. But we're hearing that it's blowing a gale down there and so the peloton will be on red (or should that be pink?) alert for the expected crosswinds and echelons. Which, on a day Paris-Roubaix is cancelled, is the very least the fans deserve.
This tantalising tweet from Eurosport's man with the mic, Rob 'It's Worth Pronouncing Correctly Or Not Pronounced At All' Hatch...

Giro d’Italia 2020 – Stage 7

Friday October 9, Matera to Brindisi (143km)
https://i.eurosport.com/2020/10/02/2900598.jpg
Take a look at that relatively pan-flat profile and on paper it’s fair to say this should be one for the sprinters. But with forecasted crosswinds expected to hit the heel of Italy’s boot on the run-in to the coastal finish town of Brindisi, we could be in for quite the day's racing.

Giro d'Italia 2020 - Stage 7 Profile

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