Giro d’Italia: Dan Martin moves up as Gino Mader takes stage six

Irish rider came home in third place to give his hopes a boost in the battle for pink

Riders take a hairpin bend during the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP

Riders take a hairpin bend during the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP

 

Dan Martin had his best showing yet at this year’s Giro d’Italia on Thursday, finishing a strong third on a cold, wet day where the general classification battle really heated up. The sixth stage was won by Gino Mäder (Bahrain-Victorious), who was the strongest of the day’s long-distance breakaway riders on the final climb of Ascoli Piceno.

The Swiss rider crossed the line 12 seconds ahead of 2019 Tour de France winner Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), who pipped Martin (Israel Start Up Nation) for second. Talented young Belgian Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was third, two seconds ahead of Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo).

Importantly for Martin, other general classification riders such as Hugh Carthy (EF Education - Nippo), Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana - Premier Tech) and Simon Yates (Team Bike Exchange) all lost time, finishing 17 seconds further back. Yates had been arguably the top favourite heading into the Giro.

Martin said afterwards that the weather and a fall both complicated things; he passed those two hurdles with flying colours. “With the cold, the rain, and the wind, this turned out to be a big test. The last 65-70 km were really difficult,” he said. “On the descent, I was so cold I could barely control my bike.

“It was a big help for me that the guys did such a good job for me, always keeping me in a good position. Just before we started the final climb, one of the Bora riders crashed right in front me and I couldn’t avoid going down as well. However, I got up quickly, and Paddy [Bevin] did a great job to bring me back to a good position near the front of the group.”

He said that he was surprised how well things worked out. “I didn’t really plan to do anything today. I just wanted to stay in the wheels and watch the other guys and that’s basically what I did. I felt pretty good though. Usually, these are not really conditions that suit me, so when I have good legs in these conditions, it also shows how good my shape is. This gives me a lot of comfort going forward; and now, we just want to continue this amazing start to the Giro we have had.”

The reshuffling saw Hungarian rider Attila Valter (Groupama - FDJ) take over at the top of the general classification, 11 seconds ahead of Evenepoel and 16 in front of Bernal. Martin surges 10 places to ninth overall, and is now just 47 seconds off the maglia rosa (pink jersey) of race leader. He will hope to continue advancing on the race’s third summit finish on Saturday, and on the higher mountains later in the Giro.

Stage winner Mäder said that the victory was all the sweeter after he was pipped at the line on stage seven of Paris-Nice earlier this year. “I managed to do this only because [teammate] Matej Mohoric was so strong. In the finale I was scared to be caught like in Paris-Nice, but it’s a beautiful win in the end.”

There was also jubilation for Valter, who ends the day as leader of the second-biggest stage race in professional cycling. He had gained time in a breakaway on stage four of the race and then profited from that buffer on Thursday by finishing in the Carthy/Yates group. “I knew that I had good climbing legs at this Giro, but I had to hold on to the biggest riders on the climb,” he said. “I was very motivated to do it.”

Valter’s showing saw him replace Martin’s teammate Alessandro De Marchi in the pink jersey. The overnight race leader cracked with just over 60 kilometres remaining, being distanced after pressure was applied by Bernal’s Ineos Grenadiers team on the slippery descent of the Forca di Gualdo climb and then up the category three climb of Forca di Presta. He ultimately finished over 24 minutes back, dropping to 58th overall.

Martin, though, is going in the other direction. He was 108th in the opening time trial, and has improved his general classification position each day since then to now sit ninth overall. If he can continue building his momentum over the next fortnight, he may well surpass his fourth overall from last year’s Vuelta a España.

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