Giro d'Italia - De Clercq takes surprise win
Fri, 13 May 16:28:00 2011
Unfancied Belgian Bart De Clercq survived a mad rush from the peloton to win the first mountain-top finish in the Giro d'Italia.
The 24-year-old Omega Pharma-Lotto rider finished stage seven half a bike length ahead of Italy's Michele Scarponi (Lampre) after a surprise attack on the second of two second-category climbs in the short 110-kilometre stage from Maddaloni to Montevergine di Mercogliano.
The Czech Republic's Roman Kreuziger (Astana) took third place ahead of a collection of the race favourites, including Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sunguard).
Dutchman Pieter Weening (Rabobank), the overnight race leader, maintained the maglia rosa ahead of Saturday's flat stage eight to Tropea.
De Clercq's win is the biggest win of his career and comes in his first year as a professional rider.
Spotting his opportunity with 7km to go until the summit, De Clercq was the last of a series of Omega Pharma-Lotto riders to try breaking clear in a slightly nervous finale.
There was very little reaction in the peloton until the Lampre team-mates of Scarponi decided to lead the chase with 2km remaining.
A tiring De Clercq's 30-second lead soon plummeted - but the youngster held on in what was the tensest of finishes thus far in the 94th edition of the race.
Earlier in the stage, a five-man group containing Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini), Lars Bak (HTC), Federico Canuti (Colnago), Jerome Pineau (Quickstep) and Matteo Montaguti (AG2R) had built up a slender three-minute lead over the peloton.
Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil), celebrating his 28th birthday, attacked the bunch on the closing moments of the second-category Serra della Strada climb, 50km from the finish.
Hoogerland managed to catch the quintet before the start of the final climb of the day, but the group was swept up on one of the first of 14 hairpin bends sweeping to the summit.
Various riders tried their luck in vain - including Omega Pharma-Lotto's Sebastian Lang and Francis De Greef - before De Clercq took the bunch by surprise with his attack.
Saturday's 217-km stage from Sapri to Tropea offers the sprinters a chance to steal the limelight before Sunday's Sicilian showdown on the precipitous slopes of Mount Etna.
Giro stage 7