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Post Stage 6 Analysis: Scarponi Contra Tutti
Scarponi wins the stage, Diluca holds the jersey

9 Big Photos from Stage 6sirotti

May 14 update: Today's stage 6 from Bressanone to Mayrhofen, begged for a breakaway, and a breakaway it received. An early move escaped from the main field on the first climb of the day, the Felbertauern. Only one survived to the finish. After 193 kilometers off the front, Michele Scarponi of Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni Androni celebrated in Mayerhoffen his first ever Giro d'Italia stage win.

In the first 40 kilometers of racing, both Stefano Garzelli of Acque e Sapone and race leader Danilo Diluca of LPR Brakes tried numerous times to escape, but they could not break free from the bunch. Indeed, constant attacks and counter-attacks animated the first 45 kilometers of the race. After 50 kilometers, a break containing five riders far from general classification contention formed and the big teams were at last content to let them go. Oscar Gatto of ISD-Neri, Kasper Klostergaard of Saxo Bank, Vasil Kiryienka of Caisse d'Épargne, Guillaume Bonnafond of AG2R-La Mondiale, and Michele Scarponi of Diquigiovanni-Androni comprised the lucky break, if spending more than 100 kilometers riding in the wind could be considered lucky.

The break cooperated until the final climb of the day, the Hochkrimml, which summited 40 kilometers from the finish. The 13 kilometer climb splintered the break. Scarponi and Kiryienka proved the best climbers of the group, and set off together toward the finish. Stefano Garzelli tried again to attack from the field, but could not gain enough ground to stay away.

On the descent off the Hochkrimml, Kiryienka flatted, and lost the wheel of Scarponi. The Italian continued on alone. Behind the break, Quick-Step and Katusha began a determined chase, hoping to set up their sprinters Allan Davis and Filippo Pozzato for the stage win. The headwind through the valley offered an advantage for the chase, though not a decisive one.

Just outside 15 kilometers to go, Kiryienka caught Scarponi. The two held approximately 2 minutes over the main field still led by Quick-Step and Katusha. The small curvaceous roads offered a slight advantage to the breakaway over the chase. Far easier for two riders to navigate the serpentine route than the main field.

With 9 kilometers to ride, disaster struck for Kiryienka. The Caisse d'Épargne rider cramped, and despite a valiant effort, could no longer hold the tempo of Scarponi. With 8 kilometers to ride, Scarponi held a gap of 1:22 over the field, where Columbia-High Road now began to contribute to the chase. The American team hoped to set up their young sprinter Edvald Boasson Hagen, who still sat in the front group. (Mark Cavendish rode the grupetto today.) Alessandro Petacchi, wearing the points jersey, also still rode in the front group, prompting LPR Brakes to join in the chase. Scarponi contra tutti, Scarponi against everyone.

As the finish line neared, the road serpentined and narrowed, giving Scarponi that extra bit of advantage he needed to survive. With 3km to ride, he still held a minute in hand. Quick-Step had only one rider left on the front, Kevin Hulsman, and for a moment, the chase turned disorganized. Passing under the red kite at one kilometer to go, Scarponi had over 40 seconds over the chase, plenty of time to celebrate his stage win, his first ever at the Giro d'Italia.

Behind, Edvald Boasson Hagen unleashed a furious sprint from sixth wheel, overtaking both Filippo Pozzato of Katusha and Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto, to take second on the stage. Allan Davis finished 3rd, followed by Pozzato, Matthew Goss of Saxo Bank, Gilbert, and Enrico Gasparotto of Lampre-Ngc. Pozzato said afterwards that his team had hoped for a sprint finish. "I hope to win a stage," he explained. Third place Allan Davis promised he would also try again. "The team worked well, it would have been a good win for us," he lamented. But Davis also complimented Scarponi, saying that the Italian "did a beautiful stage."

For Scarponi, the stage win marks his second victory of the season, after he won a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in Camerino, which is near his home town. Nicknamed the "Eagle of Filottrano," Scarponi returns to racing this season after a two year vacation compliments of CONI and Operation Puerto. The Italian dedicated his win today to his family. "I did not expect to succeed, but I gave the maximum. I have very happy," said the smiling Scarponi.

Alessandro Petacchi, who turned the points jersey over to his team-mate Danilo Diluca, did not contest the sprint today. He made it to the finish with the front group, but said later that he was too tired to sprint after the day's climbing. "The finale was very hard," said the sprinter from La Spezzia. Petacchi also complimented Boasson Hagen, saying that the young rider has "incredible speed" and a "grand future." "It will not surprise me if he wins," concluded the experienced Petacchi.

As for Diluca, he holds the jerseys of race leader, points, and mountains. Collect them all. Diluca said he would try to win another stage, as he need more time in hand before the monster crono at Cinque Terre. He expects American Levi Leipheimer to be a protagonist in the crono, but also noted that it is an unusual time trial. "We will see," he said. "It was a difficult stage today," the race leader admitted. Rather than try to control the stage, as many teams do when holding the race lead, Diluca went on the attack. We can expect him to try again, perhaps on the road to Bergamo stage 9 or the next day, between Cuneo and Pinerolo.

In other general classification news, Lance Armstrong dropped around 40 seconds today, finishing behind the main field. He now sits 25th at 4:13, and is largely out of the general classification game.

After the stage, the struggling general classification rider, Damiano Cunego, talked about his difficulties on yesterday's final climb. He said on the Alpe di Siusi, Liquigas rode "a very high rhythm," and he simply could not follow. Cunego will look for opportunities to attack as the course goes on, and remains optimistic as only a bike racer can. "Certainly, there are many days ahead, and I will have my day," he said. When pressed about the possibility of abandoning the grand tours and focusing on the classics, he refused to be drawn and rejected the suggestion that he could win Milano-Sanremo, the sprinter's classic. It's been a long time since Cunego's 2004 Giro win, but he promises that he hasn't "lost his passion." "You win, you lose, that's bike racing," he commented. After the Giro d'Italia, his main objective for the season is the World Championship road race in Mendrisio, a hilly course which should suit his characteristics to perfection.

Like today, the stage tomorrow running from Innsbruck to Chiavenna should tempt the attackers. It features a lengthy stretch of gradual climbing to the top of the Passo Maloja, at 1815 meters above sea level. From there follows a vertiginous drop to the finish. There are approximately 3 kilometers of flat riding to Chiavenna. The climbing may prove too difficult for the sprinters tomorrow, though Petacchi, Davis, and Boasson Hagen survived today's hilly stage just fine. The final descent is a tricky one, with tight corners, which will complicate any efforts to chase back an escape. Eight ball says: Breakaway likely.

Course Preview

Stage 6: Bressanone-Mayrhofen (Austria)
Date: Thursday, 14 May
Distance: 248 km.
Terrain: Mountainous, before descending to a flat finish.
GC Importance: Eight ball says: Ask again later. The terrain is mountainous, but much depends on how the teams choose to race on the day.

Felbertauern 15.1km, 657m, avg. gradient 4.4%, max. 9%
Hochkrimml 13km, 741m, avg. gradient 5.7%, max. 11%

More mountains appear on the menu for Stage 6. Though the Giro Centenario moves away from the Dolomiti, the climbing is far from over. Stage 6 begins in Bressanone, which lies up the river Isarco from Bolzano. Bressanone is just another lovely Alpine town, though with 20,000 residents, it’s a bit large to call a town.

From Bressanone, the course heads East, crossing the border into Austria. Once in Austria, the riders will pass through Lienz, then turn North toward Mittersill. Along the way, the course climbs up to the 5 kilometer tunnel through the Felbertauern. There are KOM points on offer just before the tunnel begins. From Mittersill, the course turns west again, climbing over the 1628 meter Hochkrimml, before descending to a flat finish in Mayrhofen.

Profile Details. The stage begins on the up and up, and includes two significant climbs. The course rises approximately 700 meters over the first 60 kilometers, a long gradual drag up to the border of Italy with Austria. Once across the border, the riders will descend to the medieval town of Lienz, which sits at the intersection of the Drava and Isel rivers and has often played host to the Giro d’Italia. From Lienz, there remains 243 kilometers and two major climbs before the finish.

Just outside Lienz, the climbing begins. Again, the riders must climb to get to the climb, approximately 30 kilometers of very gradual uphill. At kilometer 130, the climb to the Felbertauern tunnel begins. The Felbertauern climb is 15.1 km. long, gains 657 meters in elevation, and has an average gradient of 4.4%. The maximum gradient is 9%. After they cross the KOM, the riders enter the 5 kilometer Felbertauern tunnel, which passes through the mountain peak. Coming out the other side, the riders will drop down a 16 kilometer descent.

There follows 22 kilometers of false flat climbing from Mittersill to the base of the Hochkrimml. The Hochkrimml is a 13 kilometer climb, which gains 741 meters and has an average gradient of 5.7%. The maximum is 12%. The climb begins gradually. The first three kilometers climb at a lulling 1.7%, before stair-stepping to 6%. From kilometer 6 to the finish, the gradient is between 7 and 8%, with the short, biting 12% section coming near the summit. This steep section begs for an attack, but it’s still more than 40km to the finish.

From the summit of the Hochkrimml, the riders descend 4 kilometers, before attacking a short, 1.5 kilometer climb. They will hardly notice after the steep ramps of the Hochkrimml. There follows 22 kilometers of descending. The final 16 kilometers of the stage are a flat run-in to the alpine town of Mayrhofen.

Tactics Talk. The combination of mountainous terrain and a flat finish make this stage difficult to predict. The long descent and flat finish could lead to a sizable group reaching the finish. Much depends on the exigencies of the battle for the general classification. For a GC team looking for an easy day, this stage is a good one to let a break survive to the finish.

But with 45 kilometers to race from the top of the final climb, the Hochkrimml, a determined team could keep the race together. In these early mountain stages, the teams face some difficult tactical choices. Who will they allow to escape? How much time can they give up? And how much energy can they burn with still two weeks of racing to go? These dilemmas could make for some unpredictable moments in these early mountainous stages.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)

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