Mark Cavendish won a sprint. Ho-flippin-hum. In perhaps the GIro's easiest stage, the most predictable outcome came to pass. Cavendish now leads the points competition and sports the maglia rosso passione for his troubles.
Competition of the Day: The Fighting Spirit Prize
Hey, if the Giro wants to give out cash for silly prizes, the riders will do the thing that gets the cash. In this case, the Fighting Spirit Prize goes to the rider who scores results at the intermediate sprint, the climb summit(s) and the finish. In other words, a guy who was on his game all day.
Actually, this competition is really a version of the old combined competition, meaning it's not especially silly or novel. The combined jerseys seem to have faded away over time, but back in the day they were pretty cool, especially the Tour de France one, which merged swatches of yellow, green, and polka dots into a pleasing mishmash. Anyway, the idea is that you can celebrate a rider who does a lot of things well. Unfortunately, riders generally have jobs to do, and unless you were to give a bigger purse for the combined competition, I doubt you could ever garner much interest. So they don't make combined competitions like they used to, if them make them at all.
This is my favorite stage of the Giro, pre-mega-mountains. Take a look at the course profile:
Mind you, profiles are always exaggerated. Rarely are climbs so pointed on top that they threaten to shred tires. But you can do a little math and get the real story, such as the first of the Chieti climbs, where they gain 200 meters in about 2.5km, about an 8% gradient. Not nothing, but with 18 of these, they add up. Also, full disclosure, my ancestry is from this part of Italy, so I'm a bit biased.
Still, this kind of course is reminiscent of the Strade Bianchi race and the strade bianche stage of the 2010 Giro d'Italia, won impressively by Cadel Evans. On that day, teams raced, very hard, in response to endless small hills. That too was a stage 7, I believe, but up north.
Anyway, if the riders decide to go hard, this should be a real thriller. A more likely scenario is that the riders look for ways to make the day end soon, but not necessarily dramatically. I'm sure early on the big teams will take charge, but the Abruzzo stage comes a day ahead of the massive time trial where everyone will be on their guard, as well as unleashing hell. Friday, the day before hell is unleashed? Plenty of teams waiting this one out.
The heads of state will be anxious to see a break get away, relieving them of the duty to control things. [The sprinters teams too, after a couple hard days.] The key is, can the peloton form a break consisting entirely of guys who don't threaten the big names? Often this happens by trial and error. If just one guy in the break is deemed a threat, the peloton chases. If nobody chases you, either you've broken their will or you've come up with a winning hand. Godspeed. Considering there are about 120 guys with over a twenty minute deficit to the leaders, there should be plenty of opportunities for the right break to stay away. Look for no break at all, or a really wide one, with little in between. Enjoy!