A thrilling day on the Giro d’Italia resulted in a popular victory for the Swiss tyro Gino Mader for Bahrain-Victorious as the Ineos Grenadiers team of runner-up Egan Bernal caused chaos in the pack with some devastating tempo-setting in a sodden and eerily desolate corner of the Apennines.
Filippo Ganna’s wrecking-ball destruction of the main field on an exposed plateau between the day’s first two climbs made for compulsive viewing and set the balls in motion for a double-whammy attack from the Colombian duo of Dani Martinez and Bernal on the final climb.
Twenty-four-year-old Mader was the last-man standing from an eight-man breakaway that also included teammate Matej Mohoric in the 160-kilometre sixth stage from Grotte di Frasassi to the summit of San Giacomo above the city of Ascolo Piceno.
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Mader rode clear of his remaining companions – the Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Italy’s Dario Cataldo (Movistar) – inside the closing kilometres to take his first win as a professional on the first summit finish of this year’s Giro. The win came one day after his Bahrain-Victorious team leader Mikel Landa was forced to retire from the race with a broken collarbone after a nasty high-speed fall at the end of Stage 5.

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In the thrilling fight for pink behind, Bernal used Martinez’s softener as a launch pad to build on the solid groundwork laid down earlier by Ineos. The 2019 Tour de France champion showed his form by leading home a chasing trio containing Ireland’s Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Belgian sensation Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck Quick-Step) 12 seconds down on Mader.
British duo Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) and Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) finished a further 17 seconds in arrears alongside Russia’s Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) and the Hungarian youngster Attila Valter of Groupama-FDJ, who took over the pink jersey.
Valter now leads Evenepoel by 11 seconds and Bernal by 16 seconds in the new-look general classification after overnight leader Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation) finished the stage a whopping 25 minutes in arrears after Ineos lit the torch paper with around 70km remaining.

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Mader’s victory came two months after he was agonisingly beaten to the line in the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice by Primoz Roglic. It also saw the exciting Swiss prospect take over the blue jersey as the race’s best climber.
After a fast and furious opening 25km, Mader joined Slovenian teammate Mohoric in a five-man move off the front alongside Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Fenix), Simon Guglielmi (Groupama-FDJ) and Cataldo. If Simone Ravanelli (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) managed to bridge over with relative ease, the same could not be said for Mollema and Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2R-Citroen).
The chasing duo fought tooth and nail for 30km before they eventually made the connection ahead of the intermediate sprint at Pieve Torina. With the heavens opening, the eight-man move tackled the first of three uphill tests with Frenchman Bouchard cresting the summit of the Cat.2 Forca di Gualdo climb in pole position.
What was a five-minute lead soon came tumbling down as Ineos Grenadiers put their plan into action on the remote and exposed planes around the ancient hamlet of Castelluccio. In driving rain and blustery wind, Ganna, the winner of the opening time trial in Turin, joined forces with Gianni Moscon, Salvatore Puccio and Jonathan Castroviejo to wreak havoc on the pack.

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Race leader De Marchi and the Italian veteran Domenico Pozzovivo (Qhubeka-ASSOS) were among the casualties as a huge split occurred ahead of the second climb in the Sibillini Mountains, the Cat.3 Forca di Presta.
On the descent, a brief lull in the Ineos tempo-setting saw Italian’s Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segefredo) and Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Nippo) go clear alongside Frenchman Romain Bardet (Team DSM). This move came to nothing, however, with Ciccone refusing to jeopardise the chances of his teammate Mollema further up the road.
Mollema had managed to ride back into contention with Cataldo after the Bahrain-Victorious duo of Mader and Mohoric went clear on the long descent towards Ascoli Piceno. With the quartet’s lead down to less than two minutes going onto the final 10km climb, Mader still had it all to do.

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The Swiss made his move with 3.5km remaining after his teammate Mohoric – who had put in an almighty shift – finally dropped back after emptying the tank. Behind, Bernal followed teammate Martinez’s attack with an acceleration of his own to whittle down the group of race favourites.
For a moment it looked like Mader would experience another devastating loss so close to the finish. But the charismatic climber held on to secure a maiden Giro stage win on his debut as the GC favourites traded minor blows behind on what was quite a gentle climb made all the more arduous for the brutish conditions.
Indeed, the time gaps over the finish line were not huge and the top 10 of the race are still only split by 49 seconds after the first – and easiest – of six summit finishes on the 104th edition of the Giro.
The Giro continues on Friday with the 181km Stage 7 from Notaresco to Termoli which, while including some rolling roads in the middle, should culminate in another battle between the sprinters.
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