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It's time to go up in the mountains! Stage six of this year's Giro d'Italia is the first “medium mountains” stage, and it also pays tribute to Jacques Anquetil and his two Giro victories.
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' continued live coverage of the Giro d'Italia. Today we head into the mountains for the first time, with two category two climbs and a category three climb just 11km before the finish line.
There have been a number of attacks so far, but none have been successful. Right now Rubens Bertogliati (Androni Giocattoli) and Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) are giving it a try.
There was a crash a few minutes ago, with Pozzovivo (Colnago), Le Floch (Bbox), Szmyd (Liquigas), Weening (Rabobank), Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne) and Merlo (Footon) all going down. But as far we know, everyone is ok.
Bertogliati and Lloyd were able to establish their break and now have a gap of 1:22 on the peloton.
The weather today is still not what it could be. It is warmer – 15° Celsius – but there is an 80 percent chance of precipitation. There have already been thunderstorms this morning and we understand it is raining at the finish.
Neither of the two riders in the break looks to be a great threat for the maglia rosa. Lloyd is 11:13 down in 102nd place, whieh Bertogliati is close behind him in 105th, at 11:23.
Today's stage is a tribute to Jacques Anquetil and his two Giro wins, the first of which was fifty years ago.
We are having our usual trouble of getting up-to-the-minute information, so please bear with us.
There were 196 riders at the start today. The only two who have abandoned so far are BMC's Martin Kohler and Garmin-Transition's Christian Vande Velde.
Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R) have taken off in pursuit of the two leaders, but have only an extremely narrow lead over the peloton, which is now four minutes behind the leaders.
Everyone is on their way up the day's first mountain. Today's first climb is the Passo del Brattello, a category two at km. 77. It offers an average gradient of 5%, with a maximum of 10%.
CN's Les Clark took a look-see at some of the climbs in this race. He tells us that today's first climb, the Passo del Brattello, “isn't an overly difficult” one. More here.
Bertogliati is no stranger to Grand Tours. He won a stage in the Tour de France in 2002, and wore the yellow jersey for two stages while riding for Team Lampre.
That was his first pro year, as a matter of fact. The now 31-year-old Swiss rider turned pro with Lampre in 2002, joined Saunier Duval in 2004, before joining his current team last year.
Matthew Lloyd is a 26-year-old Australian, who joined the Lotto team in 2007. His career highlights include three stage wins in the Herald Sun Tour, the national road title in 2008, and the overall win in the Tour of Wellington 2005.
As the two leaders approach the top of the climb, Liquigas moves to the head of the peloton to organise the chase.
Rain may be forecast, but it isn't around at the moment. In fact, we see bright sunshine!
The gap is now five minutes. We don't know what has happened to the other two chasers.
This was the first ever Giro start for Fidenza, which s very close to Parma (think cheese).
The peloton seems to be all together. The climb and the pace aren't bad enough to drop anyone off the back.
One km to go to the top for our two leaders. The road here is in excellent condition, it appears to have been newly paved.
Lloyd dashes off to take the first five points for the mountain ranking.
Did the sprinters' teams blow it yesterday, or were the escapees clever enough to make it to the end? Good question, and the answer seems to be a bit of both. Read here what a few riders and DS's have to say about it.
Three riders have attacked out of the peloton, no doubt looking to claim mountain points. One is a Milram rider, so it may be Paul Voss. They have only a few metres on the field, though.
Stefano Pirazzi took third place at the mountain ranking, taking two points.
Actually, Pirazzi only got one point.
We have a crash, with and AG2R rider, Bonafond, and an Astana rider. The Frenchman is getting llooked at, but is up. The AStana rider is down and not getting up. It is Paolo Tiralongo.
The peloton flies down the climb, strung out in single file.
Tiralongo is being taken off in an ambulance, we are sorry to report.
Tiralongo is sitting up on the stretcher. Don't know what he has hurt, though.
The AG2R rider is sitting at the ambulance and is having a cut around his right eye examined. The helpers with Tiralongo have to shoo him away to load the Italian.
We hear that Tiralongo has a suspected broken wrist, and that Bonnafond has also abandoned.
Lloyd drops back to the team car and gets something which he stuffs in his jersey pocket.
The gap is now 5:20.
The race took off this morning from the Fidenza Village Outlet Shopping mall, a collection of 100 “luxury outlet boutiques.” Do you suppose the riders had a chance to do any shopping before they took off?
There was sunshine earlier, but we don't see it now. In fact, the road looks rather wet.
obbie McEwen of Katusha broke his leg in a dreadful crash last year, and defied the odds to come back in 2010. He won the Trofeo Mallorca in February, but has been having troubles since then with his left knee. He now says he doesn't know if the will be able to finish the Giro or not.
We had no changes in the overall rankings coming into today' stage. The Liquigas trio of Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso and Valerio Agnoli continue to lead ahead of the HTC-Columbia duo of Matthew Goss and Andre Greipel.
The sun is now shining again.
Yesterday's stage winner Jerome Pineau wears the points jersey today. The Quick Step rider is tied in the number of points with Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Transitions, with Graeme Brown of Rabobank now third.
The weather has changed enough that a number of riders have decided to shed their jackets. But not all of them.
Milram's Paul Voss built up his lead in the mountain ranking yesterday, so that he is once again in green. He still leads Stefano Pirazzi and Rick Flens.
Agnoli leads as best young rider, ahead of Goss and Saxo Bank's Riche Porte.
Lunch time for the peloton, as they hit the feed zone.
Let's finish off the rankings. Pineau took the lead in the intermediate sprint competition ahead of Voss and Rabobank's Tom Stamsnijder. The Quick Step rider also leads the Azzuri d'Italia rankings, and took the lead in the combativity classification.
Liquigas Doimo leads the team rankings, over HTC-Columbia and Astana. For the Super teams, it is HTC-Columbia leading Garmin-Transitions and Rabobank.
An HTC-Columbia rider does some stretching exercises at the back of the field.
The gap is holding pretty steady, now at 5:38.
The stage ends today in Cararra, famous for its marble. Many ancient buildings were made of the precious marble, and Michelangelo used for his statue of David.
Actually, teh gap is grwoing, now up to 5:48.
A Rabo rider and two HTC-Columbia riders are off the back of the field, but working their way back.
Cararra also holds the distinction of three Giro winners in one day. Back in 1960, two half-stages were held here. The first part was a short road race, with one winner, of course. But the afternoon's second half was a 2km long uphill time trial, with Anquetil and Miguel Poblet tied for the win.
As we said earlier, neither of the two escapees is any threat to the leader, so Liquigas may be happy to let them go -- but for how long? And some of the sprinters' teams may think they can bring the sprinters successfully over the climbs, so they would want to catch those two.
Tyler Farrar finished fourth in the stage yesterday and thought he would take over the red jersey for the points ranking. It didn't work out for the Garmin-Transitions rider – he is tied on points with Jerome Pineau, but ranked second.
Dan Benson is now moving in to take over for a while.
The last climb goes up to marble caves today. The marble dust on the road could make the descnt very slippy. Brown's Rabo boys and Farrar's Garmin workers are on the front with the four points up for grabs at the intermediate sprint.
And Farrar takes it.
The bunch are climbing the Spolverina. It's gradual at the start but kicks up to 10 per cent. But Bertogliati has a puncture. He slows down and out comes Savio. Cool as you like from the maestro who helps with the wheel change.
The Androni rider is chasing hard but Lloyd is on his own now. He'll wait. And wait he does. The question is just going to be how much has that taken out of old Rubens.
As you would expect Liquigas are on the front of the bunch, setting a steady, not spectacular tempo. Lloyd is a better climber that his breakaway partner but we'll see who cracks first. Still a long way to go.
Nice contrast. We've got Lloyd spinning along, looking comfortable with Bertogliati gripping the bars, arms pumping up and down.
I'm guessing we'll see some attacks here from the bunch. There another 8K to go on the climb.
Tyler Farrar won the sprint for third place at the intermediate sprint and so takes the lead in the points competition. He will pull on the red jersey at the end of the stage.
The gap is now just under five minutes, Liquigas still on the front. The Climb is 10K long in total. The gradient will suit both leaders here, and they've got a slight respite as the road dips down before kicking back up again. Klimov from Katusha nips off the front. What did I tell you about the attacks?
The Katusha ride is joined by two other riders. Acqua & Sapone and Bbox providing support. Tschopp and Sarmiento. Then Petrov makes it over and that's two Katusha riders in this group of four.
Acqua & Sapone rider on the floor. He hit the deck hard but he's up and looks okay to continue. It's Francesco Masciarelli.
Matteo Bono also joins and that's five riders in between the lead group and the peloton.
Two leaders are still working together, still looking good.
Another two riders are trying their luck. An AG2R and Milram rider, as news reaches us that Michele Merlo (Ita) Footon-Servetto has quit the race.
Martin Pedersen has a flat and needs help from the team car.
Problem for Sastre who has a puncture. Quick change with a teammate and he's chasing. He should get back on without too much work.
Sastre is just getting back to the bunch now.
Millar has also punctured. I think that's Dan Martin with him. Both riders are making it back to the bunch now.
Klimov has been dropped and he's joined by Efimkin who has moved clear of the bunch. Meanwhile Liquigas are still setting the pace. This is a tough climb. The Italian team will be watching all the main rivals but they wont be too worried about the majority of riders who have moved off the front so far.
Petrov ups the pace and splits that first chasing group. Katusha are racing hard today. Bono goes off the back first. Meanwhile the two leaders have 30K to go. Sarmiento leaves Bono too.
Lloyd continues to set the pace has he has down for the last few kilometers. He's looking tired but the pace is still pretty healthy. Remember we also have a third cat climb to come later on in the stage.
We have a splattering of riders off the front on this climb. Perhaps the most dangerous is Efimkin. The pace is increasing with Nibali's men adjusting the pace upwards.
All the gaps are starting to come down now though. The two leaders have been out for a long time and the three chasers next on the road are starting to bring them in. The two leaders have 500 meters left to climb.
Lloyd makes a little move. He wants the point and Rubens lets him take them. Fair play considering the Australian set the pace for most of the climb. Wonder how useful he'd be if Evans had him on his team this year? A good climber is Lloyd.
Lloyd leading now on the tricky downhill. Lots of tight bends on this one.
All the favourites are together but we still have riders off the front. The bunch are on the long descent now. But we've just seen the two leaders take a corner way too quickly. They almost ran off the road but just kept it together. Bike races take risks and don't you forget it.
Twenty kilometers for our two leaders with three riders behind them now.
Bertogliati and Lloyd scream through an Italian village. Such a thin road but they take a perfect line.
Petrov is based placed on GC, but he's over ten minutes down so Nibbles won't be too worried by that.
Have the two leaders been saving any engery? Daniel Friebe from Procycling Magazine thinks they have. He's joined me in the CN blimp.
Two leaders are on the final third cat climb now. Petacchi, that's right, Petacchi has attacked. He's from here so he knows the roads. Nice work from the veteran sprinter.
Lampre have come under fire in this Giro - they've not won a stage and Cunego has lost time nearly every day. So that's why Petacchi has given it a dig.
Im sorry the leaders are about to hit the final climb now. That was just a little bump before.
Here we go. They're on the final climb now. I promise. Who has what in the tank? Who has been holding pack? We're about to find out.
We cant see Petacchi. Maybe he just went home?
Liqugas continue to lead the bunch. They'll be happy to make it through a stage without any major efforts from the main favourites. However, they've had to do most of the work on the front.
Petacchi is on our sights. He's about to swallowed up by the bunch.
The three chasers are still together but Petrov is doing a lot of work. Meanwhile Lloyd has broken free. He's on his own and had left Bertogliati
Textbook attack from the Aussie who is now out of the saddle and stamping on the pedals. Can he hang on?
Whatever happens Lloyd will take the lead in the mountains jersey from Paul Goss (Milram). The Lotto rider has crested the top of the climb.
Petrov continues to set the pace with the chasers. Lloyd on the downhill now. He has to be careful. He can't take too many risks or it could all go wrong for him.
We cant find Bertogliati but he'll be hot on Lloyd's heels. It's down to these two now. Who can hold their nerve? Rubens has a better sprint to Lloyd has to make this stick. He has to stay away on the descent.
Out of the saddle for Lloyd. He has to give this everything.
Gritted teeth from the Aussie here. He has to leave everything on the road here. His team car comes alongside him. He wont be able to hear them. Totally focused. The gap is 32 seconds.
Meanwhile Cataldo has caught the three chasers and gone right by them.
But back to Lloyd and the gap is going out. Lloyd is within touching distance. He's won the Australian national but this will be his biggest pro win. If, if he can hang on.
Hands over the bars, trying to tuck up as much as possible in these final few minutes. Lloyd is soloing to the biggest win of his career. Under 3K to go. Can Bertogliati fight back?
Sprinting out of the saddle now, Lloyd has this one in the bag now. The peloton still have 3K to go.
This must be really hurting as Lloyd enters the final 1,000 meters. No show-boating, still totally committed.
400 meters to go. 300, 200, 100. Matthew Lloyd has it!
Bertogliati, can he hold on for second as the peloton close in. He looks back. He should be fine. He's got second.
Third goes to...
Danilo Hondo gets third as he beats Farrar into fourth.
Nibali keeps pink.
Hats off to Rubens Bertogliati. He rode a good race today. Lloyd had too much for him on that final climb.
Before we go please remember that Will Frischkorn will be joining us for live on Sunday's tough mountain stage.
That's it for today. Thanks for tuning in! We'll see you all tomorrow.