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After a perfect lead-out by Hansen and Henderson, Greipel held off Pelucchi and Modolo to win the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia in a bunch sprint; Contador crashed in the finale but defended the overall lead

Photo: A.S.O.












14.05.2015 @ 17:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) proved his status as the fastest rider in the Giro d’Italia when he powered clear to a sprint win on the sixth stage of the race. Having been given a perfect lead-out by Adam Hansen and Greg Henderson, he held off Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) to take his third ever win in the Italian event while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) defended the lead despite going down in the finale.


Going into the Giro d’Italia, there was general consensus that André Greipel is the fastest rider in the 2015 edition of the Italian grand tour. The German was expected to add to his tally of two stage wins in the event during the six sprint stages in the race.


However, Greipel came up short in the first sprint stage where he hit out too early and saw himself getting passed by Elia Viviani and Moreno Hofland. That left him eager to get his revenge in today’s stage which had a much flatter finale as was better suited to his immense power.


In stage 2, he had started his sprint early to avoid getting boxed in as he was slightly out of position in the finale. Today there was no such issue as his team led him out perfectly and so there was no one coming around the German who held off Matteo Pelucchi and Sacha Modolo to take the victory.


Going into the final 10km, it was very windy and this made for some nervous racing. Tinkoff-Saxo were doing their best to keep Alberto Contador safe and it was Ivan Rovny and later Matteo Tosatto who strung the peloton out.


Giant-Alpecin and Sky moved up too and for a long while those three teams were lined out next to each other. Tosatto, Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant) and Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) rode on the front to keep their captains in a good position while several riders were dropped in the windy conditions.


While Simon Geschke (Giant) and Michael Rogers (Tinkoff) took over for their teams, Maxim Belkov came to the fore for Katusha before Sam Bewley also took a turn for Orica-GreenEDGE. Meanwhile, it was a vry impressive Kiryienka who was riding on the front for more than 5km.


Roman Kreuziger took over for Tinkoff-Saxo but drifted slightly backwards as Giant and Sky went head to head. That’s when the British team took complete control with Bernhard Eisel, Richie Porte, Salatore Puccio and Elia Viviani lined out on the front.


Lotto Soudal timed everything perfectly as they moved into the first positions with 3km to go. Lars Bak took a huge turn for the team before a single Trek rider gave the Belgian team a small breather.


Roberto Ferrari took a turn for Lampre-Merida but passing the flamme rouge, Adam Hansen put Lotto Soudal back into the first position. The Australian did everything perfectly until Boy van Poppel came to the fore for Trek.


However, he had lost contact with his sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo and instead Greg Henderson and Greipel were quick to move onto his wheel. From there, the Kiwi did the lead-out, going head to head with Maximilano Richeze who was positioning Sacha Modolo.


It came down to a sprint between Greipel and Modolo and here the outcome was never in doubt. The German was in a class of his own and took the win while Matteo Pelucchi came fast at the end to take second ahead of Modolo.


In the finale, a spectator with a camera caused a big crash that ended the race for Daniele Colli (Nippo). Several riders went down, including race leader Alberto Contador. The Spaniard had clearly hurt his arm and would go to the hospital after the stage to have x-rays.


Nonetheless, he defended his 2-second lead over Fabio Aru (Astana) and if he can continue the race, he will be back in pink tomorrow in stage 7 which is a mammoth 264km affair. After a flat start, the terrain gets significantly lumpier. In the final 20km, there is an uncategorized climb followed by a 5km uphill drag that leads to the rolling final 5km. The final kilometre is uphill at 2-4%, setting the scene for the puncheurs or an early breakaway.


One for the sprinters

After three dramatic days in the hills, it was back into flat terrain for stage 6 which brought the riders over 183km from Montecatini Terme to Castiglione della Pescaia. After a completely flat first half, the riders tackled a lumpy middle section that started with a small category 4 climb before the descended to the final 40km that were again completely flat.


The riders had great weather condition when they gathered for the start in Tuscany and all riders who had reached the finish yesterday were present when they headed out on their neutral ride. With everybody expecting a bunch sprint, it was no surprise that the first attack was the one that worked as Eduard Grosu (Nippo) and Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC) escaped straight from the gun.


Three riders bridge across

After 4km of racing, they were already 1.44 ahead but a few teams regretted that they had missed the move. Hence, they brought if down to 1.30 at the 8km mark before they sent Marco Bandiera (Androni), Alessandro Malaguti (Nippo) and Alan Marangoni (Cannondale) across to the break. At this point, Grosu had already beaten Rutkiewicz in the first intermediate sprint.


The trio made the junction at the 20km mark at a point when the peloton was 2.20 behind. They were in no hurry and when they got to the 26km mark, the gap had been extended to 4.38.


A concerted chase effort

The gap reached a maximum of 5.15 at the 38km mark before Tinkoff-Saxo started to control the situation. With 118km to go, they had brought it down to 4.30 and now the sprint teams were coming to the fore.


Calvin Watson (Trek), Jerome Pineau (IAM), Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL), Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal) and Cheng Ji (Giant-Alpecin) worked very well together in a big alliance between the sprint formations and they kept the gap around 4.30 for a while. As they hit the categorized climb, Fabio Silvestre took over from Watson and they took it rather easy on the slopes, allowing the gap to grow to 4.48 by the time, Malaguti led Bandiera and Marangoni over the top.


Lampre-Merida come to the fore

On the descent, they accelereated again and brought the gap down to 4.15 where they kept it stable for a while. With 75km to go, Lampre-Merida also lent a hand as Diego Ulissi started to work.


The gap dropped to 3.50 but as they entered the final 50km, it had gone back out to 4.10. That was the signal for both the break and the peloton to go full gas as the climbing part was now over.


A sprint for the points

Pineau stopped his work but Lindeman, Ji, Ulissi, Silvestre and Armee had brought the gap down to 3.15 with 40km to go. A little later, Bandiera sprinted ahead to win the final intermediate sprint ahead of Rutkiewicz and Malaguti. Further back, Elia Viviani and Giacomo Nizzolo sprinted for the remaining points, with the latter coming out on top.


Ulissi and Silvestre stopped their work and instead Louis Vervaeke (Lotto) and Watson took over. With 30km to go, the gap was only 2.30 and the windy conditions now made the peloton very nervous.


Tinkoff-Saxo try to split the field

Lindeman was the next rider to swing off and later Ji, Watson and Vervaeke also ended their work. Lotto Soudal put Stig Broeckx on the front and together with Kiryienka and Tom Stamsnijder (Giant-Alpecin), he joined forces with Armee.


With 20km to go, the gap was only 1.20 and now Armee had finished his work. However, the hard-working domestiques were passed by Tinkoff-Saxo who briefly tried to attack in the wind with Christopher Juul and Rovny. Only a few riders were dropped though and so Stamsnijder, Kiryienka and Broeckx went back to work.


The nervous racing made it impossible for the break to stay away and with 14km to go, it was back together. Tinkoff-Saxo again hit the front with Juul before Sky took over with Kiryienka. Tinkoff briefly took control again before Etixx-QuickStep riders Fabio Sabatini and Tomo Boonen tried to accelerate in the wind. That didn’t pay off though and instead Tosatto and Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front, setting the scene for the exciting finale.



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