A day for a breakaway before the uphill finish in L’Aquila.
Stage 6 Review: cycling can be such a long sport that a six hour race is short, that one day racing is intense. In a grand tour it’s three weeks and so long that you willingly surrender the lead and finally Primož Roglič managed to shake off the maglia rosa. Almost literally after an early crash in the stage left him with torn kit. There was breakaway from which Fausto Masnada launched the winning move on the big climb of the day. Only Valerio Conti could join him and the pair had a shared interest to reach the finish together since Conti was going to collect the maglia rosa and Masnada could aim for the stage win. In the finishing straight Conti kept shifting his hands on the bars as if he was displaying body language to Masnada to hurry up and sprint past. Masnada still deserved the win and it’s a huge achievement for any wildcard invitee to win a stage in a grand tour. The Italians have their stage win and the overall lead and Conti was delighted, giving an Oscar-style acceptance speech where he was thanking many for helping into this moment.
The Route: if yesterday was a possible breakaway day, today’s a much stronger chance for move to stick. The Svolte di Popoli climb is more famous in motorsport for the hairpin bends but like most other times when a bike race uses a motorsport course it’s a different feel, a Lilliputian moment. Still if no body is drifting through the hairpins it’s still an ascent for 9km at 5.6%.
The Finish: they could ride into town, but instead with 9km to go flick off for a loop with some extra climbing and twisting roads before a citadel finish reminiscent of what we often see in Tirreno-Adriatico as the ride past the old gate into town and an uphill finish to the line.
The Contenders: who makes the breakaway? Today’s finish is uphill so if someone can make the move they’ll need an explosive finish. Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) got the nod yesterday, he can again today while Valerio Conti may have a temporary grip on the race lead but five minutes over the main candidates is probably enough, he’s unlikely to be allowed to take more. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) is the daily pick (* Update 9.30am: apparently he’s biding his time until the mountains), let’s also cite Andrea Vendrame (Androni-Sidermec), Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) and… and… actually once you look at the riders and remove those working for team leaders and other related duties it’s not easy to name more who you’d back for a punchy uphill finish, for all the GC contenders in the race there’s no Peter Sagan, Alejandro Valverde, Julian Alaphilippe, Michael Matthews et al.
|De Gendt*, Gallopin|
|Vedrame, Vuillermoz, Jungels, Lobato, Dunbar, Gasparotto|
Weather: sunshine and clouds, 18°C
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST / Euro time. It’s on RAI in Italy, Eurosport across most of Europe and Australia, L’Equipe TV in France and Flobikes and Fubo.tv in the US.