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Nothing is ever simple at the Giro d’Italia, and the first real mountainous stage proved to be almost as much about the weather as the terrain itself.
In the GC battle, Ineos Grenadiers looked to stamp its authority on the race with a domineering ride in the conditions. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) finished it off by putting some more time into his rivals, leading home a group that contained Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), and Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo).
A day after his teammate Mikel Landa was put out of the race in a horrible crash, Gino Mäder gave the Bahrain-Victorious team something to smile about with the stage win. Meanwhile, Attila Valter became the new race leader after Alessandro De Marchi was dropped under the pressure of Ineos.
So, what did the stars say after stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia? Here’s what:
Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step)
Whatever questions we had about Evenepoel’s early fitness were answered on Thursday. Evenepoel passed the Giro’s first major test, soaring into the lead GC group alongside Bernal and Martin to finish fourth on the stage and vault into second overall on GC.
Evenepoel and his entire team got a scare on the final climb when teammate Pieter Serry was knocked off his bike after being rear-ended by a BikeExchange team car. Serry remounted his rig to finish.
“I fell really happy with how I felt on the final climb. During the stage I was really cold and I was really suffering and shivering because of the temperature and the rain. In the end, the guys supported me really well. At the bottom of the final climb, we were five, or maybe even seven. The guys kept riding around me, kept reminding me to eat and drink, and that’s what I did. In the end, the energy was still there on the final climb. It was really hard because of the weather. The climb didn’t look that hard, but in the end, with the weather, everything was much harder. It’s a perfect situation for us. Second in GC, was not the biggest goal to take the jersey today but in the end, we are safe. Everyone passed the stage except for [Pieter Serry], which was unfortunate, but luckily he’s OK and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ): New pink jersey
Attila Valter started the day in fourth place overall but with his eyes set firmly on the maglia rosa. His chances of assuming pink rose dramatically when Alessandro De Marchi was dropped but he still had to hold onto some of the world’s best climbers.
He did just that and, in doing so, became the first Hungarian to wear the fabled jersey.
“I cannot be more surprised and happier with this. I was planning to do it, I know I have the climbing legs this Giro be better than the first riders (in the GC), I just had to hang on with the best climbers today. I was really motivated to do it. It was not an easy day with the weather conditions, but I could cry I’m so happy it’s incredible.
“I tried to keep my eyes on everyone. I knew that Vlasov was 24 seconds and Remco was [at] 29 and Bernal was [at] 37 and then I see they are all in front of me and I felt in my legs that I had the power to be in this gap and finally it happened. Of course, the motivation gives extra power and I just hope to enjoy this jersey with the team as much as possible.”
Gino Mäder (Bahrain-Victorious): Stage winner
It has been a rollercoaster couple of days for the Bahrain-Victorious team but Gino Mäder gave them something to smile about with his win. The 24-year-old is riding just his second grand tour and probably didn’t think he would have a shot at a stage win.
Riding through the final kilometer, Mäder had the group of favorites hot on his tail. It was reminiscent of the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice where he was overtaken by Primož Roglič in sight of the line. There was no déjà vu, however, and Mäder was able to ride to his first professional win.
“Yesterday was such a sad day with what happened to Mikel and today we said that we’re going to ride in honor of Mikel’s lost Giro. We put everything into getting into the breakaway and luckily Matej [Mohoric] was super strong. It’s such a nice feeling after Paris-Nice and missing by so little and now being on the top step is super nice.
“As soon as I was alone and the last survivor of the breakaway, the only thing I could think of was Paris-Nice. There was that sharp doubt in my head that the same thing was going to happen. With 100 meters to go, I could finally celebrate and enjoy the moment.”
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech): 10th on the stage
Aleksandr Vlasov went into the stage as the best-placed of the pre-race GC favorites, but the Russian rider time on some of his rivals on the final climb after suffering in the wet and cold conditions.
Vlasov gave away about 15 seconds in the end and now rests just behind Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel in the overall standings. While he lost time, he jumped two places to fourth.
“It was a very hard day, especially with the cold weather. I really couldn’t feel my arms or legs, so I suffered a lot. On the downhill I didn’t want to push too hard and then on the final climb, I gave everything I had. I had great support from Harold Tejada, so I was able to save some energy going into the final kilometers.
“It was not easy as I didn’t feel anything, but I just tried to stay with the best as long as possible. I was able to answer the first attack, but the second time Bernal went, I wasn’t able to stay on the wheel so I just held my own rhythm until the finish line. I did my best and in general, I am happy. Now we just keep taking things day by day and see what happens.”
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo): 5th on the stage
Trek-Segafredo put in an aggressive ride on stage 6, sending Bauke Mollema up the road earlier on, followed later by Giulio Ciccone – who attacked with Alberto Bettiol and Romain Bardet. While it did all eventually come back together, Ciccone held on for a solid fifth place.
Ciccone is currently the best placed of the Trek-Segafredo riders in the overall classification at 41 seconds back, while his team leader Vincenzo Nibali is almost a minute further back.
“Today was an important test for my condition. My feeling is more than good, I would say almost beyond expectations, despite a hard day with rain and cold. I didn’t expect to be able to be so brilliant on the last climb because the feelings at the beginning of it were not the best. When Bernal moved, I instinctively followed him. I knew that it was a risk, but I wanted to try. Happy to have kept his wheel.
“My only regret is the tactical error, on the descent from Forca di Presta, when I followed Bettiol and wasted too much energy. I instinctively followed, when it might have been better to immediately wait for the peloton. Looking at how the stage went, I recognize that it was a mistake.
“My approach to the race doesn’t change from the initial plans. It’s still a Giro to be raced day by day. I’m aware of the fact that I’ve spent energies, but that’s ok. I was looking for positive sensations and I’m happy to have found them.”