BRINDISI, Italy (AP) — Arnaud Démare earned his second straight stage victory and his third in this year’s Giro d’Italia by winning the seventh leg in another mass sprint Friday, and João Almeida held onto the overall leader’s pink jersey.

Démare edged Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews and Fabio Felline at the end of the mostly flat 143-kilometer (89-mile) leg from Matera to Brindisi.

Démare, a French rider with the Groupama-FDJ team, also won the fourth and sixth stages, which also ended in mass sprints.

“My teammates have made the difference even more than the great confidence I have these days,” Démare said. “We had to exchange the positions of the lead out men in the finale. There was some elbow to elbow. With the head wind to finish with, it wasn’t an easy task.

“I opened my sprint at a right time. I felt the presence of Peter Sagan close to me. I’m happy I made it again. It is extraordinary.”

There was little drama on Friday despite heavy crosswinds affecting some parts of the stage. Although there were early splits in the peloton, with several of the overall favorites left behind before getting back in the race.

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Almeida, a Portuguese rider with the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, remained 43 seconds ahead of Spanish rider Pello Bilbao.

“Today we went very fast, especially in the final,” Almeida said. “In the last kilometers I stayed in the front of the peloton protected by my teammates. They did a perfect job to protect me from the wind.

“The Maglia Rosa (pink jersey) makes me stronger every day.”

Saturday’s eighth stage is a 200-kilometer (124-mile) route from Giovinazzo to Vieste. The first half is mainly flat but there are two categorized climbs in the much more undulating second part of the stage.

The Giro was rescheduled from its usual May slot because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race ends on Oct. 25 with an individual time trial in Milan.

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