Arnaud Demare took his third stage win of the Giro d’Italia with relative ease as he beat Peter Sagan in a scrappy sprint in Brindisi.
Australian Michael Matthews edged out British champion Ben Swift for third place at the end of stage seven from Matera but none of them could match Demare, who raised him arms in celebration for a second day running.
The relatively flat 143km stage looked like it might offer respite on paper, but in reality crosswinds made for a day of tension and drama, reflected in an average speed of 51.6kmh as the pressure was on all day.
Ultimately there was no change in the general classification, with Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Joao Almeida retaining his 48-second lead over Pello Bilbao of Bahrain-McLaren in the battle for pink while Vincenzo Nibali, Steven Kruijswijk and Jakob Fuglsang remained within 90 seconds.
It all came back together for the final 20km to set up the bunch sprint to the finish but it was a messy affair, with no one able to find the room to challenge Demare. The ease of his victories both here and on Thursday will fuel the continuing debate over why the French national champion was left out of the Tour de France last month, but for now he can enjoy his successes here.—AP