(Reuters) - Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni claimed his second win in this year’s Giro d‘Italia when he edged a mass sprint at the end of the 214-km seventh stage to Foligno on Friday.
Australian Michael Matthews stayed clear of trouble to finish safely in the pack and retain his 21-second overall lead from compatriot Cadel Evans ahead of the first mountain stage on Saturday.
“The stage was a bit different to how it looked on paper, it was a bit more technical,” Matthews, who won stage six, told Eurosport.
“I didn’t quite have it in the legs after yesterday but it was a great day for the team,” added the Orica-GreenEdge rider.
After several days of crashes, Friday’s stage in the undulating Tuscan countryside was relatively incident free although Bernie Eisel and Eugenio Alafaci both hit the deck on a high-speed roundabout near the finish while Movistar’s Fran Ventoso also suffered a fall.
On the first climb of the day five riders, Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), Jose Herrada (Movistar), Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida), Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) and Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF), broke clear although Herrada was soon dropped.
Nathan Hass joined the leading group which extended the gap to seven minutes at one stage but were relentlessly reeled in by the peloton over the last 30km.
They were eventually swallowed up in Foligno and FDJ’s Bouhanni, winner of the fourth stage, positioned himself perfectly to surge to the finish in first place, less than half a wheel ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo.
Frenchman Maxim Mederel (Europcar) quit the race shortly after the stage start still suffering from the injuries he sustained in one of several pile-ups on Thursday.
Saturday’s stage takes the riders 179-km from Foligo to Montecopiolo and includes two category climbs.
Writing by Martyn Herman; editing by Justin Palmer