A calmer stage after yesterday’s volcano action, today’s stage offers a parade along the Mediterranean coast, an interlude for the sprinters ahead of tomorrow’s uphill finish.
Stage 6 review: as mentioned a year ago the thing about volcanoes is that they don’t erupt very often, instead they sit quiet for most of the time and last year’s stage up Etna felt inert and as cold as granite. This time the stage went positively Plinian from the start. It took an age for the breakaway to form and then finally a maxi fuga of 28 riders went clear including GC contenders like Esteban Chaves and Sergio Henao. Usually riders of this calibre are not be allowed to escape but the stage had a lively start and BMC seemed ready to chase rather than Astana who’d missed the move. So if the move went clear it was quickly contained and never got much more than three minutes despite the hard work of Jack Haig at the front of the race, it was kept under control rather than panic-stations in the peloton. It must have been improvised but it was still textbook stuff from Mitchelton-Scott, to place one contender up the road with a helper too.
Come Etna and the long climb ensured the main group of contenders was quickly shrunk. Miguel Angel Lopez was the first to attack after his Astana team had worked so hard but it was premature and he got countered. There was a flurry of moves from the big names but each move was contained until with two kilometres to go Simon Yates jumped clear with ease and quickly got across to Chaves. This was a risky move, to jump with a team mate up the road risked ruining Chaves’ day but this was no half-measure, the others were left standing. Yates could have a future in politics, his gesture to ensure Chaves got the stage win might have cost him four seconds in a surrendered time bonus but it ensures Chaves got the reward for the risk of going in the breakaway and may buy more than four seconds in loyalty.
Among the main GC contenders there’s little to separate them. Those needing to take time didn’t but as mentioned yesterday their first goal was probably not to lose time so the likes of Chris Froome and Fabio Aru satisfied here even if they’ll both wonder how they can take back time on Yates. Lopez tried but lost, his attacks didn’t deliver much and it was on the kind of terrain where he could barge away normally. Froome didn’t have his habitual mountain train but remember both Henao and De la Cruz were up the road, two important engines. The proximity among the main contenders is a good thing, as much as we want to know the pecking order it’s too early for the reveal. Yates is now in the maglia rosa after a flawless start to the Giro but there’s a long way to go. For starters he’s only got 16 seconds on Tom Dumoulin and could lose ten times that in the time trial stage to come; besides he’ll be haunted by losing Paris-Nice this year having started the final stage in the lead. That day in March was a fine day’s racing, this stage was another to add to the shortlist of the finest days of racing this year.
The Route: 159km north up the Mediterranean coast along the Strade Statale 18 all day, an express road that’s wide and if there are bound to be bumpy sections, it’s the still main road and doesn’t twist and turn through town squares and around villages so there’s little of strategic importance.
The Finish: Praia a Mare has featured before but in 2016 it had more climbs before and a spicier finish with a steep and narrow climb before the finish. Today it’s much more straightforward, some bends through the town and once back down by the seaside there’s a two kilometre long finishing straight, not quite a straight line with the finish only being visible to the riders in the final 250m.
The Contenders: Elia Viviani again? He’s got everything going for him, his two wins for starters, a strong Quick Step team and already Andrea Guardini has gone home and Jakub Mareczko has been on the ropes and struggling to meet the time cut in Sicily. Watch the fight to be on his wheel in the finish among the other sprinters.
Sam Bennett is another contender, an outside pick but capable of big wins and his Bora-Hansgrohe team need a result more than Quick Step so they’re bound to chase. It’s this hunger that seems to be a problem though, it’s making Bennett jump too early.
Sacha Modolo has been close so far and has a strong lead out from his EF Education First-Drapac team so he could be close.
Otherwise there’s a long tail of outsiders. Danny Van Poppel (Lotto-Jumbo) ought to have been up there in the results has has struggled, “Kuba” Mareczko (Wilier-Triestina) has been struggling to the point where he and five team mates are last on GC because the team is trying to keep him afloat for now. Niccolò Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) would prefer a hillier finish.
|Bennett, Bonifazio, Van Poppel
Weather: cloudy and the chance of rain, a top temperature of 20°C.
TV: this isn’t the stage to watch for hours on end, remember that the Giro must Tour Italy first, it can’t always provide action every day so ration your viewing. Host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage, Eurosport has the rights for many countries across Europe and Australia and it’s streamed via Fubo in the US and Dazn in Japan. The finish is forecast for 5.15pm.