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"I immediately got up and on my bike to lose as little time as possible. There was a chase to the leading group on the final climb - and it’s never easy to ride your best after a crash," Basso says

Photo: Sirotti

DAVIDE VILLELLA

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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16.05.2014 @ 13:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Ivan Basso was seen struggling at the back in yesterday's dramatic stage of the Giro d'Italia but the Italian had made a big effort to rejoin the first chase group after a crash. The veteran just managed to hold onto his rivals and so moved into the top 10 overall.

 

The Sixth Stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia, the 257km ride from Sassano to Montecassino, was the longest of the race. The length and profile make this a transition stage, a stage that is designed to take the race from one region to another. Reality doesn’t make it any easier for the peloton, who have to pedal the distance. And the weather continued to be uncooperative, providing a cool day that started in sun, then brought overcast skies, and occasional rain.

 

Cannondale Pro Cycling’s goals were largely the same as they were yesterday. Set up Elia Viviani for the intermediate sprint and protect Ivan Basso as long as possible going into the final 8km climb to Montecassino.

 

There was one change. With Viviani in the Red Jersey of points leader, they could afford to see all the points go up the road, provided none of Viviani’s sprint rivals were represented.

 

When a break of four disappeared up the road less than ten kilometers into the stage, Cannondale was happy to see it go. There are five places available at the intermediate sprint, and with four taken, the most Viviani could gain or lose was one point.

 

The break quickly rolled out a fourteen-minute lead while Orica-Greenedge set tempo in the field for Michael Matthews. The break was certain to take the first four spots in Maddaloni. And when the field showed up in Maddaloni six minutes after the break, Cannondale led out Viviani. Sprint rival Nacer Bouhanni started to pull away from Viviani, but Bardiani’s Nicola Ruffoni got the better of Bouhanni, taking the final point. This meant Viviani’s four-point lead was safe for another day.

 

As the race closed in on Montecassino, a number of teams decided to share the chasing duties with Orica. Team Sky took their turn, thinking of Ben Swift. As did Katusha, for Joaquim Rodriguez. As did Trek for Julian Arredondo. Cannondale always had Basso surrounded by three or four team riders, making sure he was in good position, and topped off with food and water.

 

As the skies darkened again, and the rain started to come down, the field, lead by Cadel Evans’ BMC team picked up the pace and absorbed the breakaway with twelve kilometers remaining. They were intent on leading the field to the start of the final 8.6km climb.

 

Coming to a traffic circle with ten kilometers remaining, two big crashes, probably due to nervousness, slick roads, and a peloton unwilling to give a centimeter, split the field. Lots of riders hit the ground, including Basso, Paolo Longo Borghini, Alan Marangoni, Moreno Moser, Michel Koch, and young teammate Davide Villella. BMC and Evans, and Orica and Matthews made it through unscathed and they kept the pace high into the climb. Basso got up quickly and raced up to the first chase group.

 

The lead group started with twelve riders, including Cannondale’s Oscar Gatto. But with Basso behind, Gatto dropped back to aid his captain while BMC set a furious pace. Evans in particular was intent on gaining time.

 

At the finish, Matthews jumped out of the final bend to win, while Evans stayed close in third. Matthews got to keep his pink leader’s jersey another day while Evans moved up to second. Viviani kept his four-point lead and Red Jersey for at least another day. Villella, sadly, had to abandon the race, his debut Grand Tour.

 

At the finish, Basso, who has seen this happen plenty of times before, accepted that fortune doesn’t always smile on him.

 

“There’s not many things to say about a day like this. All the peloton was waiting the final climb, I was in the front of the race and suddenly the huge crash happened. Few riders in front of me slid and I was involved. I immediately got up and on my bike to lose as little time as possible. There was a chase to the leading group on the final climb – and it’s never easy to ride your best after a crash. Crashes like this are a part of racing, something that can happen when the pressure in the peloton is high.”

 

Today’s stage, the 211km (131.1mi) trek from Frosinone to Foligno, the seventh of the race, looks fairly easy on paper. The climbs are at the start and it flattens well before the finish. An early break is certain to go, and almost as certainly is the chase down, as it will be the last opportunity for sprinters for several days. Cannondale will be keen to put Viviani in contention to win as well as pick up points for the Red Jersey. But the bigger challenge will be making sure that Basso has as easy of a ride as possible. Two long days before the mountains begin drains everybody, and the person who can get through the days as rested as possible might be the person who can make the biggest gains on the mountain climbs of the weekend.

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