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by Shane Stokes
May 15, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
Benefitting from a perfect leadout by his Lotto-Soudal team, Andre Greipel blasted in to victory at the end of stage six of the Giro d’Italia, thus picking up his third career win in the race.
The big German rider led from the front and had enough muscle to hold off Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling), Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida), Manuel Belletti (Southeast) and the rest of the bunch.
The number of those in contention for the sprint win was limited due to a crash on the finishing straight. Daniele Colli (Nippo-Vini Fantini) was the most badly hurt, apparently colliding with a telephoto lens held by a spectator, and either broke his arm or suffered a bad shoulder dislocation.
A number of others were also caught up in the crash, amongst them the race leader Alberto Contador. Although the Tinkoff-Saxo rider initially appeared to be relatively unscathed, he looked much stiffer when standing on the podium and declined the chance to put on the Maglia Rosa.
His team said that he will undergo x-rays and other evaluations, but it is hoped that he can continue in the race.
Greipel’s success came after a sprint win in the Tour of Turkey and showed he is in fine form. However it also showed that his team is in great shape too.
“Everybody who is included in the team played his part today,” he said. “The last three kilometres were like we planned it in the bus this morning. Even Lars Bak – for him it is always not easy to stay in the front, to keep position, but he made it really good today. He was really strong and kept us in the front.
“With Adam Hansen, 1.1 kilometres to go normally it is not his spot, but I was quite proud of him that he could make it today and make this leadout so perfect. Greg Henderson made a really, really long leadout, a really long pull. When I looked up, when he went I thought, ‘this is going to be a bit too early,’ but he kept it up.
“He has so much experience and I trust him and the whole team 100 percent. I was really happy to finish it off today with victory.”
As for Contador, he ended the day with the same buffer on his rivals; he is two seconds up on Fabio Aru (Astana) and twenty clear of Richie Porte (Team Sky). His team and supporters will be glad about that, but the bigger question is if his injuries will prevent him continuing in the race tomorrow or affect his form for the remainder of the Grand Tour.
“We are assessing the nature of Alberto’s injuries with the team doctor,” said the team’s general manager Stefano Feltrin. “In the meantime, he is being treated with ice as a precaution. We will need to reassess his condition in the morning.”
Following on from Wednesday’s first summit finish, the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia was not expected to be quite so eventful, yet could end up having a major effect on the race’s outcome.
The 183 kilometre stage took the riders from Montecatini Terme to Castiglione della Pescaia and included just one official climb, the category four ascent of Pomarance (km. 90.3).
Very early on two riders broke the elastic and were able to gain time on the bunch. Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC Sprandi) and Eduard Grosu (Nippo-Vini Fantini) initially got almost two minutes, but chasing by the Cannondale-Garmin team brought this down and enabled its rider Alan Marangoni, Marco Bandiera (Androni) and Alessandro Malaguti (Nippo Vini Fantini) to jump across.
After 25 kilometres this quintet had extended their lead past four minutes and then upwards of five. The five man group was of no threat as the best-placed rider, Marangoni, was 56 minutes back in the general classification.
Malaguti took the points on the category four climb and the break continued onwards. With 100 kilometres covered they had just over four minutes, and this was hacked down to less than three inside the final 30 kilometres due to chasing by Lotto-Soudal and Lotto NL – Jumbo.
Giant-Alpecin, Tinkoff-Saxo and Sky then started contributing and with 14 kilometres left the break was reeled in.
Both the general classification riders’ teams and the sprinters’ squads continued to drive forward, keeping the pace high, and this ensured that the stage was settled in a big bunch sprint. Greipel’s team played things to perfection, with each of the riders helping him to be where he needed to be.
Henderson then set up the final surge by launching a long, and very effective, leadout. Greipel then went and Pelucchi, Modolo, Belletti (Southeast) and the others were unable to get past him.
Further back a large number of riders ended up on the deck. Colli was worst hurt, suffering a compound fracture to his humerus, and Contador was also left needing medical attention. The latter will try to continue tomorrow, but the former now faces a period of time off his bike and, most likely, surgery.
The Giro d’Italia continues Friday with the longest stage, an undulating 263 kilometre race from Grosseto to Fiuggi.
Also see: Report: Dislocated shoulder for Contador, but team hopes rider can continue