Giro Stage 6 Preview

The “strade bianche” gravel road stage even if there’s only a few kilometres of the dust roads. Today’s stage suits the breakaway.

Lucky Lucques: so much for the sprint stage, the course with the finale that suited the sprinters most in the opening week saw a breakaway take the win. Alpecin-Deceuninck drove the pace up the Passo Bracco to sap other sprinters but it reeled in the day’s early breakaway which meant there was open road for fresh attackers.

A quartet went clear with 70km to go… and stayed away with the chasing teams coming up short. You could see riders taking a pull on the front of the peloton and theatrically looking over their shoulders for the next rider to come through, only nobody was. Alpecin’s activity earlier probably left a lot of sprint trains and workers rinsed.

In the streets of Lucca Andrea Pietrobon attacked the quartet just before the flamme rouge and got a gap and Enzo Paleni seemed to be the first to crack and chase which got Michael Valgren in touching distance of Pietrobon only for Thomas to come around like a crafty fox, the kind of skills he’s honed on the track for years. He told the Bidon podcast the other day his dream would be to “play” for a stage from the breakaway. It came true.

It’s also overdue. Thomas is a talented and versatile rider but without the palmarès or impact on the road so far, even if he’s been French TT champion. Today he got Cofidis’s first win of the season. If someone had to lose, spare a thought for Michael Valgren who got his best result after a horror crash in 2022, the final stage of the Route d’Occitanie where he came close to needing a hip replacement and endured a long rehab to get here.

The Route: 180km and 1900m of vertical gain. There’s 70km to the first climb, a procession but increasingly scenic and the climb to Volterra marks the change in terrain but little more.

The first gravel sector is approached by a gentle downhill and by itself the 4.4km section is nothing scary, it’s flat and regular in surface, with even a tarmac portion along the way. The difficulty is moving up, anyone out of position here is going to struggle to recover as the road isn’t wide and everyone will be thinking of what is up next.

There’s only a brief passage on the main road before the second section begins and this is very different, the road plunges down and then rises after and it is much more technical and twisty, it’s the Bagnaia sector from Strade Bianche.

Once the gravel is done the roads are hard going, plenty of unmarked climbs that pitch up steeply and twisting roads, it’s not easy for dropped riders to be towed back. The final section of gravel isn’t so bad and runs along top of a ridge.

The Finish: a tough wall to tackle 4km from the finish including the Via dei Poveri, a steep and narrow road that does get close to 20%, a real “leg breaker” before a gentle descent and into Rapolano for the finish.

The Contenders: let’s start with Tadej Pogačar (UAE) because while a breakaway is probably going to win, if things work out such that the move doesn’t work or the GC teams are stressed to the point of trying to out-ride each other for position then he’s the obvious pick to clean up in a sprint from a small group.

However today should suit the breakaway and many riders will have marked today as such, there should be a good fight to get in the move as opposed to some riders from wildcard invitees floating away.

For the breakaway most of the field are over four minutes down so a move can go without even posing a threat to Pogačar’s maglia rosa and of course he and his team can always “lend” it to the best placed rider up the road if they don’t look much of a threat for the overall win. Is Filippo Ganna (Ineos) allowed to go away or is he going to be reserved as a luxury bodyguard for Geraint Thomas and resting for the TT tomorrow? Jhonatan Narvaez is a good match for the course here.

Christophe Laporte (Visma-LAB) looks suited but the form is unknown, plus he had a hard crash yesterday, likewise team mate Attila Valter. Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) is a classics kind of rider with a fast finish but he’s making his grand tour debut after a long spring campaign so no pressure to win. Max Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe) will like the climbing. Andrea Vendrame (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) is a crafty rider who was looking strong in Romandie recently. Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep) will be up for today but his win rate is low these days. With no sprinter and no GC contender EF Education-Easypost will want to be in the action today so after Valgren yesterday, perhaps it’s Andrea Piccolo today.

Wider range picks include Kevin Vermaerke (DSM Firmenich-PostNL) who is due a result, Nicola Conci (Alpecin-Deceuninck) who was fifth in Torino and because Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) was going to be a pick today, maybe team mate Stefano Oldani doubles up instead?

Vendrame, Narvaez, Pogačar
Schachmann, Alaphilippe, Pithie, Conci

Weather: sunshine and 22°C, a NE breeze will be a headwind at times in the finish.

TV: KM0 is at 12.55pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in by 4.00pm for the sterrato, earlier to watch the fight for position.

Postcard from Rapolano
Thanks to the Eroica cycle ride and the Strade Bianche the dust roads of the Sienese hills have a vintage feel about them. One dusting and today’s riders are teleported back to the good old days.

Yes they are romantic but there’s nothing too special about the sterrato roads. They are just roads with the usual Italian nomenclature, like Strada Provinciale 46. They maintained by municipal road crews rather preserved by volunteers tasked with protecting cultural heritage. School buses pick up kids every morning, commuters drive home on them in the evening and all with normal cars, no 4x4s required.

They’re not limited to this corner of Italy. Just to the south the Marche region has as many if not more of these roads but you can find them all over Italy, in the Veneto to the north-east we have the late-season pro races as a promotional pitch to attract gravel cyclists. Piedmont, the host region of the start has plenty, both amid vineyards but also into the Alps with old military roads like the Via del Sale and the Strada dell’Assietta –  which includes the Finestre pass – although these are very different, “old military roads” rather than everyday things. Either way there are a lot of options in Italy for gravel and we’ll see if future editions of the Giro can embrace this, or does organiser RCS have a duty to promote the Tuscan versions because it owns the Strade Bianche race?

29 thoughts on “Giro Stage 6 Preview”

  1. “…does organiser RCS have a duty to promote the Tuscan versions because it owns the Strade Bianche race?”
    You don’t see Coca Cola saying how good Pepsi is … 🙂

    Thanks again for the previews and reviews! Barring a mechanical, this has a Pogacar win written all over it. Maybe not from 80 km out!

  2. The wall at minus 4km, and as described by our host, looks demanding for some of his ‘from a breakaway’ picks (Pithie…). What about Zana or Cepeda?

  3. “Either way there are a lot of options in Italy for gravel and we’ll see if future editions of the Giro can embrace this, or does organiser RCS have a duty to promote the Tuscan versions because it owns the Strade Bianche race?”
    There have been unpaved sections elsewhere over the years and of course the race was run before there was a lot of paving anywhere so I don’t get why RCS would have a duty and why would they care – Stage 6 being some sort of promo for their Strade Bianche race that’s already happened for 2024?
    W Il Giro!

  4. Perhaps the biggest chance the break won’t win is the fact that so many will have marked this stage down as a break win. It may take a couple of hours of furious action before a break forms leaving those who manage to finally get in a bit tired and not enough time to get a margin.
    My fav team has 2 good riders for a break today and i hope they try to get on. Zana and De Marchi.
    But overall i look at Alaphilippe as this is the sort of profile which i may lend him a chance to get a bit of the old feelings back. At least i hope so and i will be disappointed if he does not try to get in the break.

  5. I don’t believe Ganna will try to go for this one, that climb at the end is a massive effort with no guarantee at all of coming out at the front, and energies surely will be better saved for tomorrows ITT.

    This screams old school Alaphilippe, but these days… maybe Stuyven is feeling well and wants to give it a go?

  6. Yesterday I got carried away writing about the romance of the seemingly futile breakaway, but dreams do come true. Thomas or Valgren – either winner would have been perfect, in this sense the result didn’t matter from a romantic’s point of view. But now a more readily recognised bit of cycling romance in the dust of Tuscany. I’ll continue with the theme and hope-over-hope that Alaphilippe takes the win.

    I love Tovarishch’s idea (above) of C. Swift going in the break – a past T-B-L winner? – but I can’t see him doing anything other than bodyguard duties for Thomas AND Ganna with TT’s in mind.

    • Enjoyed you posts and thought it was a pleasant surprise to see outcome following it!

      It was actually pretty remarkable given the amount of sprint teams, it’s almost a shame it’s not worth more and gets forgotten too quickly. At least Cofidis are finally getting some time to shine between this and last yearsTDF.

  7. How exciting for gravel?

    A strong first few stages and an okay sprint, a breakaway and one dull stage?

    That’s not a terrible start to the Giro – take Pogacar out in the coming few weeks and this route (to this point) could actually be much better than everybody feared? Long way to go but my jury’s out still.

    I guess complaints will always come in any sport and I have many gripes about certain things in cycling but not sure what in the current system/calendar the Giro’s done hugely wrong to this point.

    Things can always be better, and maybe a lot is down to Pog’s incredible star power but I’m happy and looking forward to today.

    • The organisers have certainly done something right with the first few stages…ok, the riders make the race and all that, but we’ve just had 3 nailed-on sprint stages in all of which a sprint hasn’t been a foregone conclusion!
      Having some kind of launchpad for attacks, that offers hope of victory to other riders, while still favouring sprinters, certainly makes for much more suspenseful racing…

      • Yep, in contrast to how many who declared La Corsa Rosa 2024 (in advance) would be dull and uninspiring.
        I’m still laughing about Sunday’s stage – I suggested that morning Pogacar have some sort of mechanical issue at the bottom of the Oropa climb so he could thrill us like Pantani 1999.
        W Il Giro!

    • It probably would have been great also.
      Instead of sitting up Alpecin and whatever sprinters left at the top of the hill would have smashed down the slope to attempt to stop the dropped sprinters from coming back. Instead they got the top realised that there’s over 100 km to go and sat up.

  8. Yesterdays stage was a classic reminder of how much I enjoy the sport. On paper a ‘boring’ stage to look at the scenery until the sprinters turn up to battle it out. Of course races are not ridden on paper and teams and individual riders can all have other plans. From my perspective Alpecin, in looking to hurt the other sprinters teams, damaged themselves and let the door ajar for the new breakaway to exploit – which they did with aplomb. The tension created by them, the way they rode cohesively and with utter commitment, the panic behind, the romance of them succeeding. Just fantastic.

  9. As much as I’d like to see Alaphilippe win, I think his days of winning big races are over. Usually, once a rider’s talent wanes, it doesn’t come back. And, unfortunately, usually once Lefevere starts pointing out that one of his riders is not so good anymore, he’s usually right. I think Ala should have cashed in at the end of last season and moved to a French team that was willing to pay him the big wages – his worth is unlikely to remain as high. (Total did the same with Sagan and don’t seem to have learned.)

    I see the same for Caleb Ewan, although with him, the ability is still there, but he doesn’t seem to want to ‘mix it’ with the other sprinters (possibly after all those crashes, which he was generally the cause of). He did come second in the bunch sprint behind the winners yesterday, so maybe that’s a good sign. At Lotto, he would repeatedly pull up once he saw he wasn’t going to win, even though they needed points, which much have added greatly to the team’s frustration. I think this is a make or break season for him.

        • Seems even more obvious with the new Pierre Baguette team. Recent team publicity photos show Sagan all sponsor-correct in Specialized gear.

          The rest of the team seems to be on different bikes and gear. As in, not just some different brand, but some riders have different bikes to others. 😉

          Pretty clear Spesh are only paying for Pete.

          • I got curious to enough to search for pics, but I had no luck: I did find one photo of a Pierre Baguette rider on a Lapierre time-trial bike, naturally in a jersey boasting the team´s bike sponsor, Time.

            That, to me, is still fairly straightforward and easy to understand, if – as it appears – Time has no TT bike and putting decals on some other manufacturer´s bike belongs in the past.

            Put if it truly is so that the team´s riders – apart, of course, from Peter Sagan – are not riding on the same brand, I´m flabbergasted!

  10. Thoughts.
    Welcome back Larry!
    The Giro has produced some exciting racing so far, and today was no exception.
    I wonder if Luke Platt will pay for today’s efforts in tomorrow’s time trial.
    I am always pleasantly surprised at the number and type of spectator in Italy. Not just older men, even on a working day!
    Discovery + in Europe is certainly the place to go for uninterrupted bike racing coverage.

    • Thanks! If you could figure out a way to see the Giro, I’m betting your boss in Italy wouldn’t object too much…he/she might be at the roadside too.
      Now that our live, in-person viewing is done I’m switching back-and-forth between Eurosport streaming and RAI over-the-air coverage.
      As I wrote elsewhere the main RAI coverage with Pancani and Cassani I like while the other bits I mostly don’t. With Eurosport I like Gregorio and am a big fan of Magrini but something about Walker annoys the hell out of me and I find Voight just OK..(bring back Wiggo!) so it’s a mixed bag o’ choices there too..but none of ’em can ruin La Corsa Rosa for me so — W Il Giro!

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