Giro Stage 6: An Epic Duel Begins to Take Shape
A brutal stage sets the stage for an epic duel of young talents while another rider defies the odds with a stage win
The young Swiss rider Gino Mader from the Bahrain-Victorious squad got an impressive solo stage win out of the breakaway while Egan Bernal and Dan Martin netted second and third on the day after leading home a surging group of GC favorites who had separated themselves from the rest. Hungarian Groupama-FDJ rider Attila Valter took the race lead after Allesandro de Marchi was dropped mid-stage and fell out of contention.
Bernal’s Ineos team stamped their authority on the race from nearly 70-kilometers from the finish after race leader Allesandro de Marchi’s Israel Start-Up Nation team cracked due to the difficult parcours and cold/rainy weather that seemed to plague the peloton all day.
In the race of the GC, Remco Evenepoel slotted into second place overall behind Valter after looking unshakable on the final climb, and Bernal jumped into third place and cut his deficit to Evenepoel to only 5-seconds. Depsite both riders facing health questions prior to the race, the dream scenario of a GC duel between the two young stars is starting to become a reality.
Stage 6 Race Notes:
67km: Ineos takes over at the front of the race. Strange since they aren’t the race leaders. They must sense ISN is cooked after sitting on the front all day up to this point for De Marchi and want to peg the break back for a Bernal stage win.
60km: Ineos accelerates and blows up the peloton and drops an isolated De Marchi. This shows that Ineos knew ISN was blown, couldn’t control the race, and were vulnerable and that they also sense an opportunity to put the other GC contenders under pressure before the final climb.
43.5km: Ciccone, Bettiol, and Bardet have attacked on a wet descent and are 40-ish seconds in front of the peloton and 2’15 behind the breakaway.
32.9km: Bettiol is really trying to get Ciccone rolling through as their gap increases to close to a minute. He is on the form of his life and could take the Maglia Rosa if they can stay away, but it makes total sense Ciccone isn’t committed since he knows they will most likely get caught and doesn’t want to burn his matches.
25km: Vlasov is struggling to get a rain jacket on in a really high-speed section. Not a good sign since it shows he is desperate and taking a big risk to get a jacket on at this point. Carthy can be seen shaking his hands furiously to warm them. This means both riders are really really cold and could crack on the final climb.
19km: Remco is bundled up with some great gloves. I’m surprised there are riders out there with bare hands. A lot of WT riders often seem to be poorly dressed. We saw this at last year’s Giro as well.
15km: Peloton is back together and break is 2’43 up the road. Matej Mohorič has been doing a great job of driving the break for his teammate Gino Mader, but, they likely don’t have enough time to stay away.
12km: Ganna driving the pace on the bottom of the climb. He is really flying.
11.6km: Serry from DWS hit from behind by BikeExchange car. Completely insane this would happen.
10km: Ganna is absolutely drilling it at around 550 watts, meanwhile, the break is going much slower. Gap down to 2’10.
9.8km: Ganna is done and Castroviejo takes over after Narvaez is dropped. Kind of an odd move there. He did have to take all the rain jackets, so perhaps he just never made it back. George Bennett is also dropped.
9km: Ineos is hungry for this stage win and must smell blood. They are really going all-in to press the advantage they perceive themselves to have.
8.3km: Castroviejo’s pace isn’t hard enough. We can tell because the break’s gap has stabilized and Bennett is back. Apparently, this is due to a flat tire
7km: The hardest part of the climb coming up in around 2kms, will Bernal attack? The current pace isn’t hard enough to do any damage and the entire day will be wasted. The last 5 km averages 7.6%. I expect Egan Bernal to attack at some point in that last 5km since his team worked hard today and they need to get something out of this.
5.6km: Bernal is talking into the radio a lot. He is probably asking what to do since he knows this pace isn’t high enough to do any damage. The gap to the break is 1’36. If he wants to attack, he still has to wait until at least 4.5km-to-go.
4.5km: DQS taking over from Ineos, this is quite a bit different than we’ve seen in the past when no other team could even think about coming around them.
4.4km: They hit the flattest section of the climb and the speed picks up. Ineos and Bernal getting swamped
4km: Ineos is down to just Bernal and one other rider. The team has kind of flopped here and Bernal will have to do it alone.
3.8km: DQS on the front and riding a harder pace than Ineos. The gap to the break is down to 1’10
3.5km: Bernal is sitting pretty far down in the bunch. He is either hurting or lurking before he attacks.
3km: Bernal’s teammate Dani Martinez attacks hard from the peloton. I like it. Makes DQS chase. But again, they didn’t really need to work all day to do this.
2.8km: DQS is keeping Martinez pretty close, which shows that it probably isn’t steep enough for Bernal to get away. He’s like the trial balloon for Bernal to show him if an attack would work or not.
2.1km: Jai Hindley dropped, doesn’t have the same form as last year.
2km: Mader has 55-seconds, he will probably win but it is also possible that he could get caught on the line just like Stage 7 of Paris-Nice.
1.5km: Bernal attacks from the front. Evenepoel and Ciccone are right on his wheel and are able to go with him, but Vlasov, in turquoise, isn’t able to follow.
1.3km: The gap isn’t big but they aren’t really closing it down. If Bernal keeps the pressure on, he can pry some time out of them.
1.2km: Bernal starts to sit up a bit and looks around, but they’ve dropped Carthy and Yates, he needs to keep the pressure on, this is a big mistake in my opinion.
1.1km: Bernal accelerates again, but he just needs to keep it constant here to put time into Yates and Carthy. It is foolish to play games here.
1km: Bernal still can’t focus and keeps looking back at Remco and asking for him to pull through. But he is the veteran, the GC favorite, and most importantly, can’t TT as well as Remco, who doesn’t have an obligation to put in any work due to being the ‘leader in the clubhouse. Bernal just needs to focus on putting time into Vlasov, Yates, and Carthy.
500 meters: Depsite the Vlasov dangling just behind and seemingly pulling them back, Bernal is still messing around and swinging from side to side. This shows a bit of inexperience since he doesn’t seem to understand that this responsibility is on him to set the pace.
400 meters: Bernal seems to realize no help is coming from the riders behind and starts to put his head down and push forward.
Finish: Mader crosses the finish line and gives an awkward victory salute while Bernal wins the sprint from the group behind to get a 6-second time bonus. Martin gets the final time bonus with 3rd place. Evenepoel is 4th and Ciccone is dropped slightly and gives up two seconds.
Stage Results Top 20
GC Top Ten
Gino Mader, the 24-year--old Swiss sensation, gets a great stage win.
This is big for his Bahrain team, who worked hard to get in and drive the breakaway after losing their leader, Mikel Landa, in a crash at the end of yesterday’s stage. It is nearly impossible to win from a breakaway in the first week of a GT but they executed the game plan perfectly today and get rewarded with an incredible stage win.
Attila Valter from Groupama-FDJ takes the Maglia Rosa due to the time he gained from the breakaway on stage 4. He becomes the first Hungarian to ever lead the Giro.
Tobias Foss on Jumbo finishes with Buchmann and Bardet and Jumbo must be realizing it was a mistake to have him wait for Bennett on Stage 4.
Filtered GC Standings:
Remco Evenepoel +0
Egan Bernal +5
Aleksandr Vlasov +13
Hugh Carthy +27
Giulio Ciccone +30
Dan Martin +36
Simon Yates +38
Vincenzo Nibali +92
Egan Bernal is slowly moving up the GC rankings and taking time back from those who beat him on stage 1. He lost 20-seconds to Evenepoel in the TT, but has already taken back 15 of those before hitting any high-altitude climbs.
Remco Evenepoel is as unproven as any rider in recent memory, but he proved today that he is the real deal and will likely be an issue for Bernal, or any other GC contenders, throughout this Giro.
We still don’t know how his body will react to a grand tour and the third-week mountain stages, but he looked incredibly comfortable today throughout the climb.
My only nitpick is that he lost the time bonuses to Bernal and Martin and didn’t seem able to counterattack or compete for a stage podium. Also, he has given away 15-seconds in two stages to Bernal.
But remember, if we went into the final 30km TT tomorrow, Evenepoel would easily win the overall. The responsibility is on the others to put time into him.
Dan Martin misses out on a stage win on a day that suited him perfectly. I thought he should have attacked in the final km, but we saw in the final sprint that he wasn’t being cagey but was on the limit. But making the lead group is a huge result for him.
Giulio Ciccone proves that his presence in the front group on stage 4 was no fluke. But I can’t understand why he invested the energy to go in that mid-stage breakaway, especially with Ganna pulling on a downhill false flat behind. Without spending that energy, he could have potentially won the stage today. Also, it is clear at this point that he needs to be the team’s GC focus, not Nibali.
Simon Yates, despite being the pre-race GC favorite, looks somewhat dreadful and has failed to show any signs of life so far.
On the flip side, he hasn’t blown up and is still in contention at only 38-seconds behind Evenepoel with some major mountain stages still to come.
Ineos worked incredibly hard all day, but did they get what they wanted? They wedged 17-seconds between Bernal and Vlasov, Carthy and Yates, got 6-seconds on Evenepoel, but could they have done the same without doing all the work and just riding the final climb hard? With Pavel Sivakov out of the race after his crash yesterday, they are a rider down and it could be prudent to ride more conservatively than they are used to.
The counter-argument would be that the last three grand tours have all been decided by less than a minute and even if you perceive the Dolomite stages as offering a chance to put minutes into rivals, it almost never happens that way and you need to fight for all the time you can get at any point along the route. If Jumbo had ridden the Tour with the mentality Ineos had today, Roglic would have stood a chance in the final TT.
But still, Evenepoel and his DQS team didn’t have to do a single thing all day and he finishes even with Bernal and is poised to take the race lead on Saturday.
The wisdom of this decision will be judged based on the outcome of the tough stages this weekend. If Ineos comes out strong on the tough stages on Saturday and Sunday, their decision to ride hard today was the right one, if they come out flat and Bernal is isolated, it was the wrong one.
Stage 7 Preview & Predictions
Tomorrow’s Stage 7 offers a little bit of everything. Flat at first, hilly in the middle section, then flat again.... before the finale serves up a spicy surprise with a punchy climb.
The peloton tracks south down the Adriatic coast to Termoli with one categorized en route.
But just as the peloton arrives at the finish and thinks things all is set for a bunch sprint, the riders turn right and head inland which takes them up the 150 meter-long Corso Mario Milano climb that hits steep gradients up to 12%.
The route then levels out to a false flat in the last 1.5km, but in my opinion, it will be too hard for the pure sprinters like Caleb Ewan and Tim Merlier.
I expect this to be fought out between Peter Sagan and Diego Ulissi. Ulissi has made an entire career on winning Giro stages exactly like this and even a slightly blunted Sagan will be able to hang on the climb and outsprint nearly anyone else who can also get over it.
And remember, this is the same region and terrain that launched Sagan to his incredibly impressive solo win on Stage 10 in last year’s Giro.
Prediction: Sagan wins a very reduced bunch sprint in front of Ulissi.
Where/When to Watch Stage 7:
Free: Tiz Cycling
Paid: GCN Racepass (USA), Eurosport Player (Europe, UK)
Broadcast Time: 6:45 a.m. – 11:35 a.m. EST