André Greipel delivered a splendid sprint victory in the Giro’s stage 6 in Castiglio Della Pescaia, but the win was overshadowed by concerns that race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) may have suffered injuries in a sprint crash on Thursday.
Contador fell during the final sprint, but he remounted his bike to ride to the finish.
Reports indicate he might have injured his left arm. He pointed to his left shoulder on the podium and did not put on the leader’s jersey in the podium presentation, likely due to that injury. He may have also hurt one of his knees in the crash.
“I know he just fell here; I don’t know how it goes,” said Oleg Tinkov of his team’s leader. “We were in the car so I don’t know.”
Another team official told EuroSport that Contador will likely undergo X-rays to diagnose the injuries.
As for the day’s winner, Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) was cued up perfectly by teammate Greg Henderson in a wide-open, long finish straight.
“We said before we have to keep the position from three Ks to go,” Greipel said. “With these corners it was really like we planned. Lars Bak did a really long pull and kept us at the front.”
Then it was Adam Hansen to ride the front, and finally, Henderson took over for the finale.
“It was good, we had a big meeting last night,” said Henderson. “We found out it was a tailwind sprint. I said, ‘We can do this because Adam [Hansen] can get us to 500, 600 [meters] to go. I knew as soon as André stepped off my wheel — he came three or four K an hour faster than me — and I said, ‘No one could pass that.’”
Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling) finished second, and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) was third at the end of the 183km stage.
Five riders made the day’s breakaway. They were: Alan Marangoni (Cannondale-Garmin), Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC Sprandi-Polkowice), Marco Bandiera (Androni-Sidermec), Alessandro Malaguti and Eduard Grosu (Nippo-Vini Fantini).
As the race crested the day’s only categorized climb, a category 4 ascent of Pomarance and proceeded through some lumpy terrain, the break’s lead hovered around four minutes.
With 22 kilometers left, the gap went under two minutes.
Giant-Alpecin was helping with the chase, alongside Lotto-Soudal. Pushing into a crosswind, and with a bit of help from Team Sky, the gap went under one minute with 17.5km left to race.
The catch was made with just under 14 kilometers to go.
Entering the final three kilometers, Lotto-Soudal took charge at the front on behalf of Greipel, as they’d planned.
Then, Trek Factory Racing and Lampre-Merida began to barge in at the front.
With one kilometer to go, Giant-Alpecin’s Luka Mezgec moved up in the bunch, and Lotto wound up the pace.
Trek Factory Racing took to the front for a moment, but it was all Lotto-Soudal in the finale, with Greg Henderson driving the train ahead of Greipel.
Then, with about 500 meters left, Daniele Colli (Nippo-Vini Fantini) clipped the barriers on the right side, triggering a chain reaction and the crash that felled Contador.
Greipel opened up his sprint — but not too early, he noted after the stage — and none of the other speedsters could come around the German champion.
“We are working now with each other so long together, and also we are friends,” said Greipel of his lead-out train. “I think this also makes it easier to fight for each other, for the victory.”
On Friday, the Giro offers up its longest stage, a 264-kilometer slog from Grosseto to Fiuggi over a largely flat route, following the coast then skirting the eastern side of Rome. Contador will keep the pink jersey for that stage, as the GC remains unchanged after stage 6.