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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 6: Mads Pedersen breaks escapees’ hearts with late sprint

Pedersen completes sweep of victories in all three grand tours after Simon Clarke, Alessandro De Marchi caught 200m from the line.

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Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) roared to sprint victory in Napoli to win stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia in what was a nailbiting final.

Breakaway riders Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) and Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-AlUla) had hit the finish straight with just a few hundred meters of a gap after they spent the final hour of the race looking on course for a rare win from the escape group.

The sprinter teams left it extra-late to commit to the chase Thursday, meaning the peloton only swallowed up Clarke and De Marchi within sight of the line in what was a heartbreaker end to the stage.

Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) went early in the sprint but was overhauled in the drag-strip kick, leaving Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) and Pascal Ackermann (UAE Emirates) to complete the podium.

Victory in the Giro sees Pedersen complete a sweep of victories across all the grand tours after he also won once at the Tour de France and three times at the Vuelta a España.

“I’m pretty happy, it’s what we came for. It was a tough day for the team so it’s good to pay them back with the victory,” Pedersen said at the finish.

“It was pretty close in the end,” Pedersen said of Clarke and De Marchi. “It was not easy to catch them, for a long time they had two minutes, we really had to use everyone, and all the sprinters had to use all their team too.

“What was it, 300m we caught them? I feel sorry for those guys, but I’m really happy to take the win.”

Clarke would also have completed the grand tour stage-win set if he’d scored Thursday.

“It’s devastating,” he said at the finish. “It’s not nice to lose in that way, I’d have preferred to be caught 10km to go than with 200m. You can’t win them all, but if you don’t try you’ll never know … tomorrow’s another day.”

Clarke was distraught after coming so close to the win,

Andreas Leknessund (DSM) retained the pink jersey after he finished in the peloton.

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) started the stage looking chipper and even playing with a soccer ball. He told reporters he was stiff and banged up with some significant bruising to his back, but otherwise happy with his condition.

The 23-year-old finished safe in the bunch and remains second overall at 28 seconds.

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was forced to swap bikes with a mechanical around 15km from the finish and seemed to have crashed at some point in the stage.

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) also had a mechanical deep in the final, but both he and his GC rival Roglič made it back to the bunch without losing time.

Evenepoel warmed up his stiff back before the stage with a bit of football. (Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Tracking a long loop in and out of Napoli and south past Pompeii and Vesuvius, the 162km stage packed two tough categorized climbs in the first 100km before a flatter final tracking north along the Amalfi coast.

With more than 35km between the day’s final uncategorized bump and the Napoli beachfront final, all expectations were on a win from a strong breakaway or out of a bunch of fast-climbing sprinters.

And the race played per expectations. Veteran strongmen Clarke and De Marchi attacked out of the day’s five-rider break on a cat.3 climb around 65km from the line.

The former teammates went all in on their two-up time trial toward Naples.

With twisting coastal roads and only Trek-Segafredo and pink jersey squad DSM committing to the chase, De Marchi and Clarke took more than a two-minute gap into the flat final.

De Marchi and Clarke made it hard for the sprint teams. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

It wasn’t until Bahrain-Victorious and the GC teams added horsepower to the front of the peloton that the gap to De Marchi and Clarke began to fall.

The pair took one minute of a lead into the final 10km and the tight technical streets of Napoli further played into their favor.

Movistar and Bahrain-Victorious piled on in the late chase, and De Marchi and Clarke were denied agonizingly close to the finish arch.

Mark Cavendish (Astana-Qazaqstan) was dropped early in the stage after Ineos Grenadiers and UAE Emirates lit up the race on the cat. 2 Valico di Chiunzi, and despite support from teammates, never made it back to the bunch.

The GC is likely to see a significant shake Friday when the peloton hits the mountains for the first time. Stage 7 finishes on the Gran Sasso d’Italia in what will be by far the biggest climb of the race so far.

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