L’AQUILA, Italy (AP) — Pello Bilbao won the seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia with a late attack while Valero Conti held onto the overall leader’s pink jersey Friday.
Bilbao was part of an early breakaway and accelerated uphill from a group of five riders with little more than one kilometer remaining in the undulating 185-kilometer (115-mile) stage from Vasto to L’Aquila.
Bilbao, who rides for Astana, had time to celebrate and punch the air as he crossed the line.
Tony Gallopin was second and Davide Formolo was third, both five seconds behind.
“It’s a really important day for me today. It took me a long time to get my first stage win in a Grand Tour,” Bilbao said. “It was a very big advantage to have two riders in the breakaway. Andrey (Zeits) pulled a lot. Dario (Cataldo) was our designated rider but it was such a hard and complicated stage that eventually who made the breakaway was improvised.”
Jose Rojas, who was also part of the breakaway, moved up to second overall, 1:32 behind Conti, who took the lead a day earlier. Giovanni Carboni is third, 1:41 back, with Bilbao 11th.
Fernando Gaviria, Conti’s teammate on UAE Emirates and winner of the third stage, abandoned the race with pain in his left knee. That leaves Conti with only five riders to help him protect the lead.
“It’s been very difficult to retain the pink jersey because it looked like the whole peloton wanted to break away today,” Conti said. “There were strong GC riders like Rojas and Bilbao at the front. Luckily, the UAE Team Emirates is very strong and dedicated, too. I’m very happy to keep the lead.”
The stage paid homage to L’Aquila a decade after an earthquake devastated the town in the Abruzzo region.
Stage 8 on Saturday is the three-week race’s longest, a 239-kilometer leg from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro. The opening 140 kilometers of the stage are flat but the second half is hilly.
The Giro ends June 2 in Verona.
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