Mäder lays ghosts of Paris-Nice to rest with Giro d'Italia summit win

TOPSHOT Team Bahrain rider Switzerlands Gino Mader celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win during the sixth stage of the Giro dItalia 2021 cycling race 160 km between Grotte di Frasassi and Ascoli Piceno San Giacomo on May 13 2021 Photo by Luca Bettini AFP Photo by LUCA BETTINIAFP via Getty Images
Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious) celebrates his stage 6 win (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

If Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious) was determined that one thing would not happen to him again as he closed in to win stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia, it was that his personal history of the 2021 Paris-Nice would not repeat itself.

On stage 7 of Paris-Nice, Mäder was pipped to the line by Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) as the Slovenian star shot past him to claim the win.

And in the Giro d'Italia on the stage 6 summit finish at San Giacomo, with another top champion like Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) closing in fast on the last kilometre, the Swiss rider was all too aware it would be touch and go.

"I started to think maybe I could win the stage with 5 k's to go, but I was really not sure and then with one kilometre to go I was worried that the same thing would happen again as in Paris-Nice because I didn't have the legs any more," Mäder said about the first WorldTour win of his career and his first victory since a stage of the Tour of Hainan in 2018. 

"Then with 100 metres to go, I really started to believe that maybe this was the day. And with 10 metres to go, I was sure.

"But I was thinking about Paris-Nice, and I knew I had to go as hard as possible all the way to the line not to have any regrets."

It was vital, he confirmed, for Bahrain Victorius to recover their low morale after such a tough day on Wednesday when their overall GC contender Mikel Landa ended his race early because of a bad crash.

"Absolutely. We wanted to bounce back as quickly as possible and today was a really good stage to try something. So that's what we did and we were really glad that it played out so well."

Having attacked fellow breakaways Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Dario Cataldo (Movistar) two-thirds of the way up the climb, as the freezing rain teemed down, Mäder opened up a respectable gap of nearly a minute. However, his margin then began shrinking again as Bernal and the favourites group bore relentlessly down on the Swiss rider, but, it emerged, he had only a general idea that was the case.

"I had no idea about what was going on because I knew what I had to do. It was just me and my pain. And I looked back once to make sure I had it or not, but I knew I just had to go to the finish and nothing else was in my power. This was me, my suffering but it could also be my honour today."

While Pello Bilbao and Damiano Caruso will go for the GC, Mäder said he and his other teammates had been given the green light to hunt for stages from breaks for the rest of the race.

Mäder, though, had one name to single out among his teammates, which was Matej Mohorič, present in the breakaway and key to keeping it ahead of the Ineos Grenadiers-led pursuit behind thanks to his hard work early on the stage.

"He was incredible today, probably the strongest rider in the race. He dedicated himself to the breakaway and it was incredible to have him there."

For Mäder to win in the Giro d'Italia was special enough, but given his parents, both keen cyclists, called him Gino after Italian legend Gino Bartali, it surely made his breakthrough victory on Italian soil even more memorable.

"I'm honoured to have the same name as him and to have something in common. I'm still far from him and will probably never reach his level or status but that's not my goal. I'm just honoured to be called Gino," he concluded.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.