A day for the sprinters with a familiar finish in Foligno, last used in 2014 when Nacer Bouhanni won the stage, profiting from the absence of other big name sprinters to collect several stages and a giant contract at Cofidis soon after. Today’s sprinters will settle for merely the stage win.
Stage 6 Review: ever had a dream you’re leading a big race? Tim Wellens must have been pinching himself yesterday as he slipped away from the bunch with team mate Pim Ligthart and Trek-Segafredo’s Laurent Didier for company. Two riders were five minutes up the road but the trio made it across to the early breakaway in no time. It looked like classic Wellens, a bold attack that wouldn’t pay off. Only behind there was no reaction and the time gap grew. The bunch was riding piano, one rider wanting to take off some clothing was spotted getting off his bike and peeling off the layers by the side of the road before handing the gear to his parked team car. With 30km to go – and on a mountain stage – riders in the peloton could be seen having a pee by the side of the road. It meant that Wellens and Co. had eight minutes to spare as they approached the final climb.
Jacob Fuglsang was an early attacker once they hit the slopes. It looked too early, too far but he got precious help from Kanstantin Siutsou who bridged across. Behind the group got smaller and smaller and then Vincenzo Nibali attacked. Normally you don’t need to move if you have a team mate up the road and if you do then you have to make sure you’re going to go clear, decisively and for good. Only Nibali’s move looked nervous, as if he was fed up with Fuglsang taking time although it was always the plan that he’d try. What ever the plan, what ever the appearance it didn’t work. The Shark was reeled in and quickly passed by others, in fact it was Dumoulin who countered and Domenico Pozzovivo was there. Moments later Ilnur Zakarin breezed across and behind the group split to pieces. It was only a matter of seconds but Chaves, Majka, Uran and others took time while Nibali, Ulissi, Landa and Amador surrended a little time, enough for La Gazzetta to put Nibali on the front page under the title “Flop Nibali” which needs little translation.
Dumoulin was impressive, authoritative but a word of caution, he is very good on short climbs and yesterday’s effort was brief, intense and not on a steep slope. Put him on an 8% gradient that takes 40 minutes to climb and the result may not be the same.
The Route: one for the sprinters. Later on the Valico della Somma is easy, a wide road of 4-5% used by trucks to cross the landscape and only enough to dump the out of form sprinters, but if the sprinters get in trouble then their teams will stop chasing and this could give any breakaway survivors an extra chance, albeit slim.
The Finish: fast, flat and familiar. The Giro finished here in 2014 and the route is identical. There’s a flat run into town. It’s not got anything wild and takes place on modern, wide roads but there are several bends with pinch-points from street furniture. A wide U-turn at 500m and the roadbook lists a bend and then just a 160m finishing straight but there’s no sharp corner, just a sweeping road.
The Contenders: Marcel Kittel? He’s been cooked since arriving in Italy. For all his impressive climbing in the Tour de Romandie seems to be suffering on suffering on the stages with a climb or two. Today’s route still suits him but he’s no longer the certain pick we saw in the Netherlands. That’s no bad thing either as it gives something to look forward to in an otherwise linear stage. The flat finish suits him and his team perfectly.
André Greipel‘s won his stage but remains a formidable contender while Arnaud Démare wants a stage and also has his eye on the red points jersey, he trails Kittel by 18 points, a significant gap but if Démare keeps collecting in the hope Kittel abandons… well that’s a story for the coming weeks rather than today.
There’s a race of Italian sprinters in Elia Viviani, Giacomo Nizzolo and Sacha Modolo. Viviani’s told RAI on Wednesday his legs are not good, Nizzolo has yet to look convincing and Modolo was prolific last year but with Greipel and Kittel around it’s hard to find the opening.
Caleb Ewan‘s Giro debut hasn’t worked out so well but this finish sits him perfectly and Orica-Greenedge will surely do they can for him. Finally Moreno Hofland could feature, he has the power and acceleration but seems to need some luck too.
|Marcel Kittel, André Greipel
|Arnaud Démare, Caleb Ewan
|Modolo, Viviani, Hofland, Nizzolo, Porsev, Sbaragli
Weather: sunshine and clouds with a top temperature of 19°C and a chance of rain late in the stage.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time. Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe. beIN SPORT has the rights in the US and France while Italian host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage with experienced commentators as well as roving reporters on motorbikes to add extra coverage. As ever cyclingfans.com, cyclinghub and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.