The Giro d’Italia’s first summit finish at Roccaraso proved more selective than anyone anticipated but, as is so often the case at this juncture of a three-week race, the haul through the Apennines still produced more questions than answers.
That said, the greatest conundrum since the start of this Giro – is Tom Dumoulin a viable contender for overall victory? – is a little closer to a resolution on Thursday evening after the maglia rosa’s confident attack with a little over three kilometres remaining, a move later joined by Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale). The Giant-Alpecin man put another 14 seconds into Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and another 21 into Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Mikel Landa (Sky).
Valverde, Nibali and Landa, the three pre-race favourites, are now already 41 seconds, 47 seconds and 1:08, respectively, behind Dumoulin. With the Chianti time trial still to come on stage 9, those gaps could be doubled – or more – by the time the race resumes on Tuesday after the rest day in Tuscany.
Regardless of whether Dumoulin views himself as a possible winner or not, the rest of the podium contenders had better start treating him as such and trying to find ways to discommode him long before the high mountains of the third week. After all, with so many stages climbing above 2,000 metres during the last throes of the Alpine spring, if the extreme weather protocol is rolled out, they could effectively run out of road.
All that is hypothetical, of course. In the here and now, Dumoulin is gamely insisting that he is living day by day, though his dismissals of the prospect of a podium place in Turin were notably softer in Roccaraso on Thursday evening. “Maybe the energy I’m using here will cost me in the last week, but the seconds I take now could help me in the last week, too,” he said.
Not the words of a man ready to lay down arms just yet.
Questions linger for Nibali and Landa
In Italy, of course, Nibali’s travails in the finale will be the headline news. Despite having teammate Jakob Fuglsang up the road, Nibali’s acceleration with 3.5 kilometres remaining – into a headwind on a shallow climb and from a fast-moving group – seemed ambitious at the time, and so it proved.
The effort was quickly snuffed out by Team Sky and, having burnt all of his matches there, Nibali was unable to even countenance following Dumoulin when he punched his way clear shortly afterwards. Indeed, by the time the chasing group fragmented near the summit, Nibali was already near the back, and he lost contact with in the final haul to the line. In the grand scheme of things, as directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli suggested, the seconds lost here might not count for much come Turin, but it is a dent to confidence nonetheless.
Nibali has complained that he felt isolated during the opening week of last year’s Tour de France, and he hardly did much for the harmony in the Astana camp here by complaining after the stage that his misguided attack had been the idea – and the fault – of team management. Mercifully for all concerned, Martinelli flatly dismissed the notion that Fuglsang – who finished with Dumoulin on the stage and is now 2nd at 26 seconds – might usurp Nibali as leader.
While Nibali was keen to blame mistaken tactics rather than any shortfall in condition for his time loss at Roccaraso, Landa admitted readily that he had struggled on stage 6, and the Basque was never near the front in the finale. “I didn’t have my best feelings today, for the last few days I’ve not been feeling too great,” he admitted.
Already more than a minute down on general classification even before a time trial where he stands to lose much more, Landa can ill afford his current travails to last any longer or he risks leaving himself with too much ground to recoup.
Zakarin the dark horse
Valverde effectively broke even by losing ground to Dumoulin by quietly leapfrogging Nibali on the general classification, and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) was best of the chasers to move up to 8th at 44 seconds, but the day’s big GC winners – along with Dumoulin – were Ilnur Zakarin and Domenico Pozzovivo.
After a poor opening time trial, Pozzovivo moves up to 13th, albeit still 56 seconds down on Dumoulin, while Zakarin is now third overall, just 28 seconds off the maglia rosa. The Russian made his Giro debut in search of stage wins last year, but he has expressly targeted a high overall finish this time around.
A cursory glance at his results over the past year and a half shows that Zakarin has hit just about every target his team has set for him since he graduated to WorldTour level. After his fifth place finish at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Nibali identified Zakarin as a potential dark horse for the Giro podium. His assured performance at Roccaraso seemed to bear out Nibali’s assessment.
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2016 Giro d'Italia results after stage 6 - overall contenders
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||24:22:15|
|2 (-7)||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team||0:00:26|
|3 (-5)||Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha||0:00:28|
|5 (-)||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo||0:00:38|
|6 (-1)||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||0:00:41|
|7 (+4)||Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - Merida|
|8 (-3)||Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge||0:00:44|
|9 (+3)||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:00:47|
|11 (-1)||Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:00:51|
|12 (-1)||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team||0:00:56|
|13 )-7)||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale|
|15 (-1)||Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Team Sky||0:01:08|
|21 (-6)||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Trek-Segafredo||0:01:38|