Giro d'Italia: Looking back at Mount Etna - Gallery

Sicily's imposing volcano has featured four times before

Thursday's sixth stage of this 2018 Giro d'Italia once again features a summit finish on the magisterial Mount Etna. It will be the fifth time that the volcanic ascent has featured in the race, adding to the 2017, 2011, 1989 and 1967 editions.

Italian Franco Bitossi holds the honour of being the first rider to win atop Etna. He had pedigree, too: as the winner of the Giro's mountains jersey at the three previous editions of the race, his win on stage 7 from Catania to Etna was no great surprise. Bitossi had already won Tirreno-Adriatico that season, and would win the Tour of Lombardy later in the year.

But in 1967, his Etna stage victory was as good as it got, as he faded to finish 15th overall in Milan, some 35 minutes in arrears of winner Felice Gimondi. In the green mountains jersey competition, dominated by Spain's Aurelio Gonzalez, Bitossi was a disappointing third, on equal points with Gimondi and a 21-year-old Eddy Merckx.

Portugal's Acacio Da Silva would take the stage win at Etna at the 1989 Giro. It was the race's second stage, again starting in Catania, and Da Silva out-sprinted Luis Herrera and Tony Rominger for the victory – and with it, due to the stage coming so early on in the race, the pink leader's jersey, which he'd lose to Italy's Silvano Contini after the team time trial the next day.

The Giro's 2011 climb up Mount Etna was arguably the most exciting of them all so far. Alberto Contador took the race by the scruff of the neck on stage 9, and only Venezuela's José Rujano, having attacked lower down the slope, could stay with him. And he, too, would be shaken loose with 1.5km to go.

For arguably the first time, the climb was key to the final GC: Contador took the pink jersey there, and held it all the way to Milan. He was then disqualified nine months' later, having tested positive for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France. Michele Scarponi was handed the 2011 Giro title, and Rujano was awarded the stage win for his efforts.

Last year, stage 4 set out towards Mount Etna from Cefalu, with the prospect of seeing who might emerge from the favourites as real contenders for the Giro title. And while UAE Team Emirates' Jan Polanc will quite rightly dine out on the day he conquered the volcano, having escaped from a four-man breakaway that had established itself just two kilometres into the 181km stage, it was all considered a bit of a damp squib as a headwind discouraged attacks and the GC favourites chose to keep their powder dry.

Just like in 2017, this year's visit to Mount Etna provides the first real test for those riders with designs on a high overall placing in Rome on May 27. Although some would say that last year's stage to Etna didn't live up to its billing, might it be a different story during stage 6 on Thursday?

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