Stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia is likely to cast a very different shadow to stage 5, which was won with an electric sprint from Caleb Ewan, more than making up for his no-show on stage 2. Giacomo Nizzolo had to settle for his eleventh runner-up spot at the Giro d'Italia, whilst Elia Viviani sprinted to third.
The day was overshadowed by multiple crashes in the final 15km which notably put Mikel Landa out of the race. A nasty crash with Joe Dombrowski, the current maglia azzurra, means the Spaniard leaves the Giro d'Italia early. Pavel Sivakov also crashed and is now out of GC contention.
Giro d’Italia Stage 6 profile
After the Giro d'Italia visited the Adriatic Coast for the first time in this year’s race, the roads return to the mountains and we have the longest climbs yet. Stage 6 departs in Grotte di Frasassi, where the road immediately ramps uphill at an average gradient of 7.5% for 2km. This provides the perfect platform for those looking to join the early breakaway to make their move.
Forca di Gualdo climb profile
The intermediate sprint occurs with 105km remaining, which could tempt the maglia ciclamino hopefuls up the road early — Peter Sagan could be among them. The foot of the first major effort begins just inside the final 100km. The Forca di Gualdo is over 10km in length and averages 7.3%. The first half of the climb is more difficult than the second half with gradients touching 12%. The lead-in to the climb is a false flat too, the legs will feel this effort and we could see a heavily reduced peloton by its peak.
Two short climbs follow, including the Forca di Presta. Any stragglers that are clinging on following the Forca di Gualdo can be pushed out the back here if the tempo remains high. The riders will have almost exclusively been climbing to this point in the stage, but will enjoy descending for the next 44km. The stage is far from over, though. The riders will arrive in Ascoli Piceno where bonus seconds await the first few riders. These could be taken by the breakaway and many GC riders will want to save everything they have for the following effort.
San Giacomo climb profile
With an average gradient of 6%, the climb is not the steepest of the Giro d'Italia. There are some relatively easy pitches in the first half of the climb — the first 10km average 5.5%. After a short flat section, the final 5km are where we are likely to see the bulk of the action. Averaging over 7.5% with some steeper pitches, this looks like the ideal spot for the GC favourites to try an attack. With over 3,500 metres of climbing spread over 160km, it will be a gruelling day in the saddle.
Alessandro De Marchi in the maglia rosa (Image credit: DARIO BELINGHERI/AFP via Getty Images)
The San Giacomo climb will be the scene for the second GC battle of the race thus far. It could be a cautious day from the GC favourites, though, with the main gaps most likely not created until the final kilometres of the stage. Another element that must be considered is the current status of the maglia rosa which is held by Alessandro De Marchi. The Italian, who will be 35 by the conclusion of the Giro d’Italia, is not a GC contender. He fought his way into the pink jersey from the breakaway on stage 4. It’s unlikely that Israel Start-Up Nation will ride to keep the jersey, which poses the question: who will?
We can look at stage 4 for some guidance. Ineos controlled much of the day with Filippo Ganna, who was in pink at the time, before Deceuninck-Quick Step and Bahrain-Victorious later decided to send their domestiques to the front. In the end, this comes down to who of the GC contenders are feeling good on the day and how aggressively they will look to ride. Depending on this dynamic, the breakaway could have another chance at stage victory.
Egan Bernal looked to be in sumptuous form on the Colle Passerino, he bridged a gap to the earlier attacks with unnerving ease. He’s disproving any concerns regarding his back which cost him at the Tour de France last year. Bernal is the man to watch in the GC, if he attacks the rest of the favourites need to respond.
The other four riders that were the strongest of the GC contenders on stage 4 were Mikel Landa, Alexandr Vlasov, Hugh Carthy and Giulio Ciccone. Mikel Landa has sadly had to leave the race, but the other three riders here will start with their stock rising and may look to push on again. Ciccone has shown his attacking nature already despite the limited opportunities at the Giro thus far and if anyone looks to make a move early, he is the most likely.
As ever, there'll be a lot of eyes looking to Remco Evenepoel of Deceuninck- Quick Step, too. The young Belgian was a wildcard entering the Giro having not raced for eight months, but is proving the doubters wrong thus far. He is currently second of the GC favourites following his top 10 in the Turin TT. DQS are now fully focused on the Belgian after both João Almeida and Fausto Masnada suffered setbacks.
Like Remco, Simon Yates lost minor ground in the GC on his way to Sestola. It won't be of great concern to the Brit, but he'll be keen to demonstrate his Tour of the Alps legs here.
We think the breakaway could have a good chance at claiming the stage win yet again. There could be another large fight for the breakaway early on, reflecting stage 4, and there is now a larger pool of riders that will be allowed up the road.
Among them, Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema. The Dutchman claimed that he would give-up on the GC to hunt stage wins and has followed his word — he lost 13 minutes on the stage to Sestola. Mollema has the breathing space to attack now and will be a favourite in any mountain stages where a breakaway win is plausible. If he’s in the early breakaway with support in the form of teammates he has a great chance.
Harm Vanhoucke is another of the better climbers who is not on a leash, he lost over 20 minutes to Sestola which will give him offensive freedom. This will be his first opportunity on a long climb which is the terrain best suited to the young Belgian climber — he was third on Mount Etna at last year’s Giro, a climb slightly longer but not too dissimilar to the San Giacomo effort. Lotto-Soudal don’t have a GC leader at the Giro and should have the resources to support Vanhoucke in the breakaway.
Bora-Hansgrohe were one of the few teams not present in the stage 4 breakaway and it wasn’t a disastrous day for their GC leader Emanuel Buchmann. The German team may again wish to keep their lieutenants behind to help Buchmann, however, if Felix Großschartner is afforded the chance to go into the breakaway he is capable of winning the stage.
Some of the other breakaway candidates that we think stand a good chance include Simon Carr, Matteo Jorgenson, Sébastien Reichenbach, Geoffrey Bouchard, Jefferson Alexander Cepeda and Einer Rubio.
Whilst Alessandro De Marchi has his second and most likely final day in the maglia rosa, we think it will be cagey in the peloton which will provide the breakaway with another opportunity. It’s always challenging to predict who will make the breakaway, but Bauke Mollema is our pick. He’ll have opportunities aplenty throughout the Giro considering his GC position and there will be few stronger than him allowed into the break at this stage. Mollema would become the 102nd rider to win a stage at all three grand tours, is this the Dutchman's day?
Cover image: Tim de Waele/Getty Images