Bitter disappointment for Alaphilippe: Frenchman loses sprint to Sanchez after exciting gravel stage, Pogacar retains pink Cycling

Bitter disappointment for Alaphilippe: Frenchman loses sprint to Sanchez after exciting gravel stage, Pogacar retains pink

Bitter disappointment for Alaphilippe: Frenchman loses sprint to Sanchez after exciting gravel stage, Pogacar retains pink

Pelayo Sanchez won the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia. After an entertaining stage on gravel roads, the Spaniard of Movistar was the fastest in the sprint from a small breakaway group. Julian Alaphilippe seemed well-positioned but finished second. The leader's jersey remains on the shoulders of Tadej Pogacar.

Seventy kilometers flat, followed by a climb to Volterra lasting nearly ten kilometers. Once at the top, a rolling terrain towards the finish, featuring three gravel sections. That was the sixth stage in a nutshell, at least on paper. In practice, it was uncertain who harbored which ambitions for Thursday's stage. Was it a stage for the breakaway? Or an opportunity for the GC contenders to gain time on their rivals?

Prolonged battle for the breakaway, fine group with Groves and Alaphilippe takes the lead

From the very start, we watched a fierce battle for the breakaway unfold. Riders attacked sporadically, and almost no team held back. The pace was incredibly fast, averaging 53 km/h in the first hour. However, no one got away... No rider or group managed a lead of more than ten seconds. Simon Clarke, Julian Alaphilippe, Mikkel Honoré, Tim van Dijke and Giulio Pellizari were just some of the riders that tried but didn't get far.

Ultimately, the climb to Volterra, which began after 70 (!) kilometers of racing, was needed to break open the race. The sprinters were dropped, and more men made their moves. We saw Gijs Leemreize participate, and Alaphilippe tried again. This time, his attempt was successful. The Frenchman looked strong and took six men with him: Filippo Fiorelli of Bardiani, Matteo Trentin of Tudor, Luke Plapp of Jayco-AlUla, Kaden Groves of Alpecin-Deceuninck, Pelayo Sanchez of Movistar and Andrea Vendrame of Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale. They had a three-minute lead after fifteen minutes. And then the Strade Bianche sections were still to come...

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Grueling work by INEOS Grenadiers on the Strade Bianche paths, where Cian Uijtdebroeks crashed

As the gravel roads came increasingly into play, they stirred up a lot of nervousness both in the breakaway and the peloton. Plapp, realizing he had lost his virtual lead, picked up the pace at the front, resulting in Trentin, Vendrame and Fiorelli falling behind. Sanchez and Alaphilippe managed to keep up, forming a leading trio. At the same time, INEOS Grenadiers accelerated in the peloton. This move seemed not only to protect team leader Geraint Thomas but also to position Jhonatan Narváez for a stage win. Quickly, a significant part of Alaphilippe and co's lead was erased, setting off an exciting chase. Thymen Arensman was particularly noticeable for his strong efforts at the front.

And as if that wasn't enough excitement, there was also a crash among the group of favorites. The main victims, at least those who were delayed, included Cian Uijtdebroeks, Daniel Felipe Martinez and Ben O'Connor, who all managed to quickly rejoin the race. Interestingly, the INEOS team eased off their hard push when the lead was cut to just one minute, which greatly benefited the three leaders. Their advantage quickly grew to about two and a half minutes.

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Numerous crashes and captivating cat-and-mouse game, Alaphilippe loses the sprint to Sanchez, Pogacar remains in pink

It looked like a certain victory for the breakaway, but once again, INEOS made a strong push on the third and last gravel section. They cut another big chunk off the lead, reigniting the fight for the stage win. Heading into the last twelve kilometers, the lead was down to about a minute. There was also a significant crash, which involved Juan Pedro Lopez (Lidl-Trek), Will Barta (Movistar) and Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious).

The tension was high at the front too. Alaphilippe looked strong, but had to really push after a small error by Sanchez allowed Plapp to break away. The duo eventually managed to catch up, although it seemed like the French former world champion had used up much of his energy. On the final climb of the day, a steep 700-meter stretch averaging 10 percent, the breakaway's lead was down to 45 seconds. The attacks came one after another, but no one could break away.

Just before the summit, Bardet made a move from the peloton, with Martinez, Pogacar and Uijtdebroeks quickly following. With just three kilometers left, the leading trio still had a twenty-second lead. That was enough, as the pace soon dropped again. This led to a three-way sprint for the stage win, with Alaphilippe as the favorite. However, he was outpaced by a very fast Sanchez, who clinched an impressive victory in his first year with Movistar. Plapp finished third, and Andrea Piccolo, who had broken away from the peloton, came in fourth. Pogacar remains in the pink leader’s jersey.

Results of stage 6 Giro d'Italia 2024

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