Start location: Napoli
Finish location: Napoli
Start time: 12:55 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:13 CEST
In the novel My Brilliant Friend and its three sequels, Elena Ferrante tells the story of two intimate childhood friends growing up together in post-war Napoli, whose lives diverge as they both attempt in their own way to transcend the impoverished limitations of their neighbourhood. For all the beauty of its Bay and historic centre, all of which will be on display during stage six, the Napoli of these novels is a harsh, uncompromising place, one in which its desperate inhabitants are up against the forces of class, patriarchal structures and the local Camorra mafia.
Indeed, after being devastated worse than most during the second world war, Napoli has suffered from poverty during the 20th century, even compared with other towns in the south. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, its struggles, there is a fierce sense of local pride and identity among Neapolitans, who see themselves as feisty underdogs compared with other snootier Italians, and many of whom still speak in a local dialect that’s unintelligible to other Italians.
It’s a local pride manifested in sport, particularly the football team S.S.C. Napoli, for whom Maradona played in the eighties and nineties and became a local legend. With his poor upbringing and belligerent attitude, he was the kind of street fighter that embodies everything Neopilitans love, and he also brought the team unprecedented success: he inspired them to win the Serie A title for the first time in history in 1987, and then again in 1990.
Maybe professional cyclists couldn’t quite get away with Maradona's diet and lifestyle habits, but the same gritty attitude that made him such an icon is one they also share. There are few sports where the participants have to dig quite so deep and go through so much pain so regularly, and that’s the kind of tough competitor that Neopolitans watching from the roadside during this stage will admire.
Stage six profile sourced on the Giro d'Italia website
The riders won’t need to dig as deep as they did when the Giro came to Naples last year, however. Whereas that stage consisted of a tough, punchy circuit with lots of steep ramps, this out-and-back route gives the riders more time to enjoy the scenery. All of the climbing is condensed within the first two-thirds of the stage, starting with the category two Valico di Chiunzi after the peloton has transversed around Mount Vesuvius, followed by the milder Picco Saint Angelo towards the southern end of the Sorrento peninsula.
From there the route follows the flat roads by the coast back to the finish in Naples, for a finale on the Via Caracciolo boulevard. It’s certainly the kind of run-in that suits a bunch sprint, but the amount of climbing early means there is a chance of a repeat of last year’s outcome, when the breakaway made it to the finish with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Dstny) claiming his second career Giro stage win.
A similar day to stage five, stage six is hard to predict as the flat run-in to the finish could be an opportunity for the sprinters, but the two categorised climbs in the first two thirds of the race could provide the breakaway with a chance to get away. However, this is the last of the sprint stages in the opening week of the Giro, so those sprinters hunting stage wins will be determined to sink their teeth into the day.
This is another opportunity for a rider like Michael Matthews (Jayco Alula), who took victory on stage three of the race. The Australian rider flourishes in tougher stages which finish in reduced bunch sprints after some of the pure fast men have been distanced. Another rider who could be in contention if it it comes down to a sprint is Trek-Segafredo's Mads Pedersen who finished in second behind Matthews on stage three. After taking victory in the crash-marred stage six, Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) could carry confidence if this stage ends in a sprint, as could the likes of Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) who has proven to be a worthy winner if it does come down to a sprint and consistent fast-finisher Alberto Dainese of Team DSM.
If we have another break who can make it to the finish line, we could potentially have breakaway specialists such as Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) or Toms Skujinš (Trek-Segafredo) battling it out for the win. Vincenzo Albanese of EOLO-Kometa put in a strong showing in stage four's breakaway and managed to finish fourth the day before in a reduced bunch sprint, so this could be the perfect stage for the young Italian to take victory. Stefan Küng of Groupama-FDJ put in a strong fight to get into the breakaway on stage four and could try again here, as could Ben Healy of EF Education-Easy Post.
We think the stage will boil down to a bunch sprint with Kaden Groves snatching the stage win.