Thanks for joining me today for live coverage of stage 7. I'm away over the weekend but Tim Bonville-Ginn will be stepping into my shoes. It promises to be an exciting weekend's racing with the longest stage of the race tomorrow followed by that tricky time trial and GC showdown on Sunday.
Vasto - L'Aquila
Giro d'Italia - 17 May 2019
Giro d'Italia – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 20:40 on 17 May 2019. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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No huge change in the top 10 with Rojas moving closer to the summit after taking back half a minute on Conti and the rest of the peloton.
Jose Rojas sixth ahead of Sebastian Henao and Antonio Pedrero. The pack comes home 1'07" down.
Lucas Hamilton was fourth and Mattia Cattaneo fifth.
Tony Gallopin (Ag2R-La Mondiale) beats Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) for second place a few seconds back.
Victory for Pello Bilbao of Astana!
Formolo is in a world of pain and it looks like the four chasers have given up.
They're over the steepest part and it's looking good for Bilbao.
Cattaneo takes his foot off the gas and lets Formolo lead the chase. Bilbao has about five seconds, if that.
On to the climb now and under the flamme rouge. Bilbao is already struggling as Cattaneo leads the chase.
Bilbao attacks! There's hesitation from the others and the Astana rider has opened up a gap.
Rojas is almost reeled in now. Bilbao is also a good shot today. And can you ever discount someone of Gallopin's calibre?
Rojas has a good gap now while Henao isn't far off the five chasers. But the last kilometre is all uphill at an average of 7.6% and a maximum ramp of 11%. Surely that's too much for someone like Rojas? My money is on Formolo or Cattaneo.
Rojas means business because he's caught and passed the leaders!
Rojas is back with the leaders - and he's taken out his earpiece so is riding au naturel and without his DS barking orders.
Another uphill dig before the next small descent. Rojas has almost rejoined the five leaders.
Hamilton pushes on just as he reaches the leaders. Gallopin finally makes contact. Their gap is 1'12".
Formolo and Cattaneo have ridden clear but the Italians are joined on the descent by Bilbao and Hamilton, then Gallopin.
Back with the pack and Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) has attacked. The Briton tried his luck earlier but couldn't get into the break.
If Tony Gallopin wins today he will complete his grand slam of Grand Tour stage wins. That was the same as Ruben Plaza yesterday (and today, until he was dropped).
Henao has blown up. Just Gallopin, Bilbao, Hamilton, Cattaneo and Formolo out ahead now. Their gap has grown to 1'22" and so it's looking good for one of these five.
Hamilton ups the tempo on this climb and his pace has dropped both Movistar riders Pedrero and Rojas.
McCarthy has also pulled up. Both he and Zeits are now onto that steep ramp. They buried themselves earlier for Formolo and Bilbao.
This break could yet hold on but it's going to be tight. Just 1'08" to play with now with 10km remaining and one of the Astana riders has pulled up - probably Zeits.
The gap is 1'11" with 11km to go, which I thought worth commenting on for its simplicity.
Now Katusha-Alpecin have come to the front of the pack to help Trek with the chase - perhaps setting thinsg up for their man Enrico Battaglin.
Puncture for Ben O'Connor of Dimension Data. He needs a bike change and will have to fight back through the cars - that came at the worst possible time for the Australian.
The lead comes tumbling down - just 1'30" now for the leaders who will fear for their chances.
Here come the cavalry: Trek-Segafredo and Bardiani-CSF have come to the front of the pack to lead the chase. They don't have any riders in the break and clearly still feel they can get something from today's stage. UAE Team Emirates will be happy because Rojas is currently just in the virtual maglia rosa.
There's a small split in the group as Bilbao and Pedrero open up a gap. I don't think that was intentional and it shouldn't be long before we have 10 riders back together. The gap is now 2'03" and so approaching the Rojas-as-virtual-maglia-rosa mark.
The peloton is all strung out on this wide, straight road crossing a flat plateau. The gap is 1'55" as some riders regain contact after being tailed off on that climb.
Still 1'50" for the break.
De Gendt and Plaza ride over the summit just ahead of the peloton, which comes over 1'45" down on the leaders.
It's Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) who takes the 18pts over the top of the climb ahead of Andrey Zeits (Astana) and Giro debutant Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott). It's uncontested, however, with the Spaniard allowed to take the spoils after doing much of the pace setting.
The rest of the now 10-man break are still together and have a 1'50" gap over the peloton. They're just one kilometre from the top.
The petoton has lost quite a few bodies including the maglia ciclamino Ackermann and the Italian national champion Elia Viviani.
It looks like Ruben Plaza either has a mechanical issue or he's hit the wall because the veteran Spaniard has been dropped. The 39-year-old was in the break yesterday - finishing fourth - and so he could well be feeling the pinch from that effort.
It looks like Thomas De Gendt isn't feeling it today. The Belgian has sat up and will be soon caught by the peloton. De Gendt clearly looked around and decided that the break was either too weak to stay out, or contained riders too strong for him to compete against.
McCarthy and Zeits are on domestique duties on this climb setting a high tempo for their respective teammates Formolo and Bilbao. In betweem there's Cattaneo, a good dark horse for the win. Imagine that: two in a row for Gianni Savio's Androni Giacattoli.
We've hit the start of this climb, the Cat.2 ascent to Le Svolte di Popoli (9km at 5.6%). it's a climb which is better known for its use in motorsport, apparently. The gap is 1'15" for the leaders. Yesterday, the winning move from the break came on the Cat.2 climb - but it was a little bit closer to the finish. Let's see if history repeats itself.
It's a really strong break, this, but they're not making any headway. Some of the stronger riders will need to shuffle the pack on the climb because their advantage is down to 1'07" now. The likes of Gallopin, Cattaneo, Bilbao, Formolo, Plaza and De Gendt have the quality to do something today.
The danger man in this break for Conti, the maglia rosa, is Rojas, who was part of the break yesterday and is 2'12" down on GC. Conti's UAE team-mates are back on the front now riding high tempo as the race zips along towards the foot of the only categorised climb today.
A reminder of this 12-man move: Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Tony Gallopin (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Jose Joaquin Rojas and Antonio Pedrero (Movistar), Pello Bilbao and Andrey Zeits (Astana), Jay McCarthy and Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mattia Cattaneo (Androni Giacottoli), Sebastian Henao (Team Ineos) and Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott). They have 1'40".
The two danger men for the GC in the break are Formolo and Bilbao - with regards to the bigger picture. The Italian is currently in 21st place but is only 1'06" down on Primoz Roglic, while the Spaniard is 1'16". Set against the current leader, Conti, both riders are over six minutes down.
With no Fausto Masnada in the break, Giulio Ciccone's lead in the blue jersey KOM classification is not under threat today. The local rider - who has just passed his home - did not get into the break today, perhaps saving himself for hillier days.
It's been a frenetic start to the stage with no opportunity for the riders to refuel. The peloton now head through the feed zone with the gap up to 1'30".
With the gap up to 1'30" UAE now have four riders on the front of the pack ahead of a cluster of Astana riders, who are sandbagging because they have Bilbao and Zeits up the road.
After all that, Thomas De Gendt is in the breakaway...
UAE Team Emirates not getting any help from other teams in this chase, with Movistar - who have Pedrero and Rojas in the move - happy to sit on. The gap is up to 50 seconds and the next few kilometres will be key for the breakaway...
This new break features Pedrero, Rojas, Gallopin, Cattaneo, Bilbao, Zeits, Formolo, McCarthy, Gradek, Plaza, De Gendt, Hamilton and Henao. It's made up of riders from that initial move and some newcomers from the peloton - and the gap is 30 seconds as they dart down the descent from Chieti.
It comes back together before Davide Formolo pings off the front with his Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Jay McCarthy to provoke a counter-attack as the road rises into the splendid town of Chieti. Interesting stuff - the Italian has twice finished 10th in the Giro.
The large break has almost been pulled in now as the road heads upwards once again. Nibali clearly mindful of the last time the Giro came to L'Aquila - back in 2010 when the break took 13 minutes over the peloton. Evgeni Petrov took the win for Katusha as Richie Porte - remember him? - moved into the pink jersey in his maiden Grand Tour.
Another withdrawal - this time it's Laurens De Plus of Jumbo-Visma. That's a big blow for Primoz Roglic because the Belgian was one of his key lieutenants. But he's been suffering from illness for a few days now.
The break zipped through the intermediate sprint during a break and we have no idea as yet who took the spoils. But the gap is coming down fast now - soon we'll be back together.
We're now on to the next uncategorised climb - and this one has the second intermediate sprint at the top. Bahrain Merida have five riders on the front now chasing down the leaders - Vincenzo Nibali clearly feels a bit threatened by the likes of Gallopin and Bilbao. They have caught those three chasers and the gap is only 40 seconds now.
So, the riders in this break are: Rojas, Gallopin, Vuillermoz, Bilbao, Izagirre, Agnolo, Benedetti, Schwarzmann, Honere, Modolo, Carthy, Madouas, Plaza, Sbaragli, De Bust, Van der Sande, Martens, Hindley and Gogl. The three chasers are Barbin, Canola and Hamilton. The gap is down to 50 seconds on this uncategorised climb.
More on Gaviria's retirement, which apparently is because of pain in his left knee. That means the Colombian has been a DNF in two of the three Grand Tour's he's ridden before. Brittle.
The gap is up to a minute for the leaders. We're still waiting for who's there - but UAE have found some allies in Bahrain Merida, who have missed the split (save for Valerio Agnoli) and think this 19-man move is a bit dangerous.
Finally, it looks like a break has formed - and it's a whopper. There are around 20 riders in this lead group with three, I think, trying to bridge over from the pack, which is 25 seconds down and being led by Conti's UAE team.
Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) has abandoned. More on that when we get it. The Colombian 'won' stage 3 when Elia Viviani was disqualified, and finished second two days ago. That means UAE are down to six riders, including the race leader Valerio Conti.
EF Education First now have Sacha Modolo trying to break clear with Hugh Carthy on the front of the move - a move which has almost been pegged back. A thankless task, this seems.
Around 20 riders now ahead of the pack. But as more and more try to join the party, the chances that the move will stay away gets less and less likely.
It was a high average speed of 49.8kph today as the pack rolled along the coast and then inland at Ortona - no surprise a move has struggled to get away.
Five riders now have some day light with another bridging over and two more just darting out of the peloton. Perhaps this is the move that sticks.
It's back together again - although 'together' is a very long and strung-out peloton. Every now and then a gap forms and some riders seem to have a bit of daylight. But it's a fierce battle to get into the lead, today.
There's a group of 15 now being chased by a group of around eight, with a couple then trying to bridge over from the peloton. But the gaps are very small on this wide road which is something of a false flat for it gradually rises.
Jhonathan Narvaez (Team Ineos) was one of those riders who joined the leaders - but they were then pegged back by around 20 other riders. A small gap appears between this group and the peloton but it's touch and go because more and more riders keep on bridging over.
Still the battle continues to form a break. Victor Campenaerts and Jasha Sutterlin are the latest to ride clear with three others...
It looked like a break of around 10 riders had formed but it has come back together in Ortona and the intermediate sprint is won by that man Pascal Ackermann, who darts clear to extend his lead in the maglia ciclamino classification. What a great Giro the German is having, what with those two stage wins to boot.
Yet more moves from Androni and Movistar on a small climb before the riders drop down to Ortona for the inetrmediate sprint. Conor Dunne, the Irish champion, also looked to be involved there.
And here it is... confirmation that De Gendt won't be up for this one... although Adam Blythe did then say that be could be bluffing!
More attacks coming in but nothing is sticking at the moment. Many people think today's the day we finally see breakaway specialist Thomas De Gendt off the front. We'll see - it may be too obvious for the Belgian...
And here's a great picture of yesterday's two Italian winners - the man who took the stage and the man who went into pink...
It's been a fast start today with the riders enjoying the sunshine and some warmer temperatures than what they have been racing in for the past few days. Vasto was looking resplendent this morning.
Around 20 riders opened up a gap but it came to nothing. Valerio Conti and his five UAE Emirates team-mates are on the front making sure they're happy with the composition of any break that forms - the don't want to lose this maglia rosa quite yet.
The race hugs the coast for the first 40km before the sprint at Ortona after which it heads up into the hills. Some early moves saw the Italian national champion Elia Viviani - who's had a rotten race - try to get in the mix.
Here's the official profile today. The tough stage through the Abruzzo concludes in the hilltop town of L'Aquila 10 years after a terrible earthquake caused such devastation to the city.
They're off! The remaining 167 riders roll out of Vasto to get this stage under way.
It's a sunny day this morning in Vasto - and here's our new look selection of classification winners: Giulio Ciccone (blue), Valerio Conti (pink), Giovanni Carboni (white), Pascal Ackermann (ciclamino) and yesterday's stage winner Fausto Masnada (on the left in red).
Here's the new-look GC with Conti on top and - out of picture - Roglic down to 11th place.
Yesterday, Valerio Conti moved into the overall lead and Fausto Masnada won the stage as a long breakaway lit up the race on a day the maglia rosa Primoz Roglic hit the deck and dropped out of the top 10.
Ciao ragazzi! Welcome to live coverage of stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia - another day suited to the breakaway as the riders tackle the rolling 185km between Vasto and L'Aquila. Like yesterday, the stage concludes with a Cat.2 climb preceding some lumps and bumps before the finale, which comes on a steep uphill ramp. Bosh!