Giro D'Italia 2018: Stage 6 - Caltanissetta to Etna (164 kms)

A good friend of mine, who has done a Sub 10 IM, told me that he had climbed Etna last year with his bike. "Took me all day" he said.

Looking at this, I get him. I live in Switzerland, I've seen and climbed some tough climbs. I even idiotically tried to climb a 25% gradient climb with my bike(I have a 50-34T at the front, 11-28 at the back, which if you know bikes it great for flat roads and gentler climbs, works well till 15%).

Chainrings won't be a problem for these men, plus I think they're powerful enough to climb comfortably on my bike too. But when it comes down to a battle of equals, who would succeed?

I'll get some grief for mentioning Lance Armstrong, but I love the guy. He knows a lot about cycling and his content is great. He said on his podcast that Rohan Dennis(BMC) should actually take up leadership seriously, that he sees potential in him. And I think Dennis heard him, he has fought the last 2 days to stay with the front group. He has a good team with him and I heard on Eurosport that he's grooming to become a Grand Tour Winner (it is a 4 year plan, and he's on year 2 of 4).

Today that plan would be put to test. So would Chris Froome(Team Sky)'s form. I feel for Froome, I genuinely like him. I saw at Romandie last year, humble guy, infact almost too shy. I laugh at the double standards of the cycling world and Salbutamol jokes, but I do want him to do well.

Tom Dumoulin(SunWeb) seems to unperturbed so far. After that blazing TT, he has been very confident & among other British guys, Simon Yates(Mitchelton-Scott) has been very impressive. And so has been Michael Woods(EF Drapac; did you know he was a runner? he ran a Sub 4 mile in college! that's a great time). And the way Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain Merida) rode yesterday, he's in some incredible form. Etna is a live volcano, last exploded in 2017. It might see another explosion today, in the form of a Bike fight.

The riders would traverse from Caltanissetta to Etna, clocking 164k in the process.

The approach to Etna was different from last year, including a small climb before the main climb for 15k.

Nothing much happened in the beginning, there were attacks from the start but no team wanted to let anyone go. The result was a 1st hour speed of 46 kmph. It was incredibly aggressive, but fairly innocuous. A lot of attacking was happening, including Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) but let's be practical, at 46 kmph on a hilly course, there wouldn't be a big break until the peloton eased off.

After 54 kms, a major break (30 or so riders, basically all big teams included) formed at the front and separated from the peloton. With all the teams represented in the group, including some really good riders like Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), Sergio Henao (Team Sky) {both Colombians and both of whom I think are better than Quintana; 1 man's opinion}, and the dangerous Diego Ulissi(UAE Team Emirates). With the gap growing to 2 minutes in 4 kilometers, it seemed like the breakaway had finally formed. The problem of the Giro being in such a nascent stage was that there were many men in that group who, if they finished around 90 seconds ahead of Rohan Dennis would take the Maglia Rosa from him.

The 29 men in the breakaway were: Chad Haga, Sam Oomen (Sunweb), Alessandro Tonelli, Giulo Ciccone (Bardiani Csf), Mikal Cherel, Quentin Jauregui and Nico Denz (Ag2r LaMondiale), David De La Cruz, Sergio Henao (Team Sky), Marco Frapporti and Francesco Gavazzi (Androni), Manuele Mori, Jan Polanc and Diego Ulissi (UAE), Edoardo Zardini (Wilier), Robert Gesink (Lotto Jumbo), Ben Hermans, Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy), Sebastien Reichenbach and Jeremy Roy (Groupama FDJ), Jack Haig and Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton), Niklas Eg (Trek), Alessandro De Marchi & Dayer Quintana (Movistar).

With 84k to go, the gap was at 2:45, with BMC pushing but burning its matches. At that pace, Dennis might end up alone on the slopes of Etna. Crashes were coming thick and fast and Nathan Brown (EF Education Drapac) went down and had to stop for medical attention. With 60k to go, the gap was at 3:20.

With less than 50k to go, this sight really pinched:

Mr Froome hasn't had a good Giro and the poor guy was again catching up with the peloton, though he managed to catch up pretty soon. Astana, trying to make amends for Miguel Angel Lopez too took their turns at front. The gap came down to 2 minutes with 40k to go, and with Etna looming there was a lot of pushing going around at the back. 20k to go saw the gap at 1'38" and it was just 5k to go before the main climb started. Jack Haig took the pacemaking at the front of the break, and the gap was 1'23"with 3k to climb.

And as the riders hit the incline, immediate attacks were visible. 20 riders were left, Haig still leading at the front. DeMarchi attacked with 12.9k to go along with Hermans, opening a small gap at the front. The peloton was down 1'18", with no real fireworks starting there as yet.

11.7k to go at Henao decided he had enough and attacked, followed by his countryman Chaves. Robert Gesink was dropped from the group as Henao and Chaves set the rhythm and caught up with DeMarchi. The chase group was being lead by Oomens as the front 4 hit the steep 10% gradient, which lasted for 1.1k.

10k to go and the Peloton was almost there, 50" down the front group engulfing the dropped breakaway riders, one by one. 7k to go, and there were 5 men at the front: Chaves, Ciccone, Oomen, Henao and Hermans. Henao began to set the pace, he's was 50" down on Dennis and had a great chance to be the race leader. Ciccone began his acceleration, opening up a small gap but with 5.1k to go, and on a day like today, Esteban Chaves attacked.

I don't know if you know about Chaves, but his story is really really emotional. He is an incredibly talented rider(as most Colombians are). In 2013, the then 23 year old Chaves went down hard at the Trofeo Laigueglia, suffering life threatening injuries: compound fracture to his right collarbone, fractures in his left petrous bone, right cheekbone, maxillary sinuses and sphenoid bone, and also received pulmonary compressions, abrasions and suspected rib fractures.
All but 1 doctor told him that he would never race again, but he didn't give up. And in 2014 he made his comeback and has since been trying to do justice to his talent and 2nd chance.

You root for such a guy, a guy with great talent and a guy, who on the slopes of Mount Etna was tearing apart the group behind him after riding a lot of kilometers in the front.

Behind him, the fireworks started as Dumoulin began to climb hard, Rohan Dennis and white jersey holder, Maximilian Schchaman looked to be in trouble and so did Chris Froome. Seeing that Dumoulin along with Pozzovivo began to push even harder and for a brief period, Froome, riding all alone looked in serious troubles. Robert Gesink, who had dropped from the front, caught up with the favourites group and began to pull for his leader George Bennett(Lotto-NL Jumbo). Froome was really struggling.

Chaves meanwhile had 19" on Group 2 and 31" on the Peloton, but Dumoulin and Pozzovivo's sustained attacking along with Miguel Angel Lopez's accelerations meant that group 2 was quickly caught.

Froome and Dennis caught up but with 3.3k to go, another acceleration at the front broke Dennis as he began sliding backwards. Pozzovivo, Bennet, Yates and Pinot formed a small 4-man group at the front and pushed ahead. Dumoulin showed impressive climbing skills as he along with Rafael Valls(Movistar) caught up with the front group. And as soon as Froome joined the group, Pinot attacked.
The leaders smell blood and today was the day of constant attacks, one after the another just to break Froome. He sure managed to stay with the group, but he was suffering. Dennis meanwhile was now 30" behind the group of favourites, who in turn were 21" behind Chaves.

With 1.4k to go, Simon Yates, who has been in top form so far, attacked and while the others looked at each other's faces, Yates quickly opened up a big gap on them. So fierce was his acceleration, that with 1k to go, Yates was just 8" down on Chaves.

With 600 meters to go, the 2 riders from Mitchelton-Scott were at the front, Yates slightly ahead of Chaves. They rode together, Yates zipped up his jersey and then simply allowed Chaves to win the stage ahead of him taking 2nd place and the Maglia Rosa. Chaves with that win moved to 3rd overall and took the Maglia Azzura.

The peloton began to sprint for the finish and it was Thibaut Pinot who took the last of the bonus seconds, finishing 3rd. Dennis rolled in 1'03" behind Chaves and was visibly exhausted. 
Schchaman lost 1'46" and was replaced as the White Jersey leader by Richard Carapaz (Movistar).

Stage Results from today:

And the new leader of Giro D'Italia!

Quite a big shakeup today and i'll be honest with you, I really like Aussies and I really like Mitchelton Scott team and I really really like seeing a new talent like Simon Yates doing so well!

See you all tomorrow with a flat stage and a possible Viviani win. Thanks for reading.


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