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Double success: Laverde Stage and Pinotti Rosa

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Laverde with the stage

Laverde with the stage (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile)

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Kisses

Kisses (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Liquigas

Liquigas (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Di Luca

Di Luca (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) in the maglia ciclamino.

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) in the maglia ciclamino. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) reads the paper.

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) reads the paper. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The start line of stage 6.

The start line of stage 6. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The escape of five.

The escape of five. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) in the maglia bianca.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) in the maglia bianca. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Di Luca jokes around.

Di Luca jokes around. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rosa and Verde. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

Rosa and Verde. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Liquigas controlled the tempo.

Liquigas controlled the tempo. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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ProTour Leader Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner).

ProTour Leader Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) rides in pink.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) rides in pink. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Di Luca gets situated.

Di Luca gets situated. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rosa and Bianca. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).

Rosa and Bianca. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Liquigas on the front.

Liquigas on the front. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Di Luca in the Maglia Rosa.

Di Luca in the Maglia Rosa. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) rides in the escape.

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) rides in the escape. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The escape of five.

The escape of five. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) leads the escape of five.

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) leads the escape of five. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton climbs.

The peloton climbs. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) looked good but he let the leader's jersey out of his hands so that he could relax before the Giro's finale.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) looked good but he let the leader's jersey out of his hands so that he could relax before the Giro's finale. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The riders climb the first GPM of the day.

The riders climb the first GPM of the day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) climbs with the peloton.

Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) climbs with the peloton. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A day of climbing for the peloton.

A day of climbing for the peloton. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cold temperatures greeted the peloton on the day's first climb.

Cold temperatures greeted the peloton on the day's first climb. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Clear and cold for the sixth stage.

Clear and cold for the sixth stage. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pinotti and Laverde lit up the stage.

Pinotti and Laverde lit up the stage. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) drives the final escape duo.

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) drives the final escape duo. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pinotti and Laverde in the stage finale.

Pinotti and Laverde in the stage finale. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Laverde with the stage and Pinotti takes the Maglia Rosa.

Laverde with the stage and Pinotti takes the Maglia Rosa. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Laverde wins stage 6.

Laverde wins stage 6. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) takes the stage.

Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) takes the stage. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole) in third.

Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole) in third. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Hubert Schwab (Quickstep-Innergetic) gets fourth.

Hubert Schwab (Quickstep-Innergetic) gets fourth. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit Systems) in fifth.

Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit Systems) in fifth. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Laverde the stage winner.

Laverde the stage winner. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pinotti in the Maglia Rosa.

Pinotti in the Maglia Rosa. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) takes the race lead.

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) takes the race lead. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) with the stage and Pinotti takes the Maglia Rosa.

Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) with the stage and Pinotti takes the Maglia Rosa. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) takes his second career Giro stage.

Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) takes his second career Giro stage. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) lets the bubbly fly.

Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) lets the bubbly fly. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pinotti puts on the Maglia Rosa.

Pinotti puts on the Maglia Rosa. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Kisses for the new race leader Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile).

Kisses for the new race leader Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) waves in the maglia Rosa.

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) waves in the maglia Rosa. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) gives a thumbs-up after taking the maglia rosa.

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) gives a thumbs-up after taking the maglia rosa. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) moved into the Maglia Verde.

Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) moved into the Maglia Verde. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Petacchi kept the Maglia Ciclamino.

Petacchi kept the Maglia Ciclamino. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Waves from Alessandro Petacchi (Milram).

Waves from Alessandro Petacchi (Milram). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Hubert Schwab (Quickstep-Innergetic) took the Maglia Bianca.

Hubert Schwab (Quickstep-Innergetic) took the Maglia Bianca. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pinotti after the stage.

Pinotti after the stage. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Pinotti enjoys the moment.

Pinotti enjoys the moment. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Di Luca looks tired.

Di Luca looks tired. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton rolls out of Tivoli at the start of Stage 6.

The peloton rolls out of Tivoli at the start of Stage 6. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riders navigate the spectacular Monte Terminillo region.

Riders navigate the spectacular Monte Terminillo region. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton faced a solid 12 percent gradient on the Stage 6 climb.

The peloton faced a solid 12 percent gradient on the Stage 6 climb. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riders reach the top of the Monte Terminillo climb.

Riders reach the top of the Monte Terminillo climb. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile Team) and Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Ceramica Panaria - Navigare) push towards the finish line.

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile Team) and Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Ceramica Panaria - Navigare) push towards the finish line. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile Team) may have lost the sprint, but he took over the leader's jersey.

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile Team) may have lost the sprint, but he took over the leader's jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italian Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile Team) took the lead from countryman Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas).

Italian Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile Team) took the lead from countryman Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) out of the seat on the 177 kilometre Stage 6.

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) out of the seat on the 177 kilometre Stage 6. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italy's Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) reachs for a drink during Stage 6.

Italy's Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) reachs for a drink during Stage 6. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Colombia's Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Ceramica Panaria - Navigare) rolls in with Pinotti.

Colombia's Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Ceramica Panaria - Navigare) rolls in with Pinotti. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italian fans were out in full force on the sixth stage.

Italian fans were out in full force on the sixth stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riders weave their way through a local town.

Riders weave their way through a local town. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Media bikes and cars follow close behind the bunch.

Media bikes and cars follow close behind the bunch. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Liquigas eases its stranglehold

Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) and Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) have scored a double success in the 177-kilometre stage to Spoleto. With an attack on their three escape companions on the slopes of the Forca di Cerro, the duo moved free towards the finish in southern Italy, where the Colombian won the stage and the Italian took the Maglia Rosa. Danilo Di Luca's Liquigas squad controlled the pace all day but released its stranglehold on the leader's jersey for an earned rest.

"When one believes in something I think that they can make it happen," said the 31 year-old Pinotti, who lives in Bergamo. He was the only one of an early escape of five (Christophe Kern, Daniele Contrini and Hubert Schwab) who could stick with the attack of Laverde, who attacked at less than 22 kilometres to race, four kilometres before the summit of he days final climb.

Already quasi-secure of the Maglia Rosa due to Liquigas loosing its control, Pinotti worked in harmony on the downhill run to the Umbrian town of Spoleto. The duo had a pact and 'Pino' did not contest the sprint by Laverde.

"Today went really well in the escape, I am very happy with this win," said the 27 year-old, winner of stage 14 (Domodossola) in 2006. "The rules were respected, in that I took the stage and he took the jersey. It is not written this is always the case but it was great gesture."

The Colombian rider who makes his home in Imola remarked on the original escape, which went free at kilometre 61. "When we were in five it was a little more risky. When I attacked it was great to have him [Pinotti] with me because he was going for the jersey."

The acid-green Liquigas team controlled the pace all day with a tempo that allowed the leader's jersey to move out of its camp. Di Luca is now 4'12" back on compatriot Pinotti and plans for a classification shake-up in stage 10, to Santuario Nostra Signora Della Guardia.

"It is normal in cycling," commented the 31 year-old rider, still in the Maglia Rosa that he would soon release. "Cycling is beautiful, with all of these tactics. I think back in the cars that all of the directeurs must have been busy talking and deciding what to do," he joked.

"We will look forward to the tenth stage." The team also lost the Di Luca's Maglia Verde to Laverde and Vincenzo Nibali's Maglia Bianca to Schwab (Quickstep-Innergetic).

Pinotti reckons he should be able to keep his first ever leader's jersey for another 631 kilometres, or three stages.

"It is my first leader's jersey to ever take," continued 'Pino.' For me it was a good gesture to let Laverde win the stage, I was secure to take the Maglia Rosa, so we both got something."

The team is now down to only six riders with the abandons of Barry, Hansen and Ziegler. "I think my team will be able to defend the jersey. I know we have had some bad luck but we should be able to keep the jersey for two or three days."

How it unfolded

Almost one half hour after mezzogiorno (midday), 188 riders started on via Quintilio Vara in the enter of the ancient Roman hill town of Tivoli, 30 kilometres east of Rome. Non-starters were Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole) and Thomas Ziegler (T-Mobile).

It was a beautiful, clear day with temperatures in the mid-twenties. After a bit of a warm-up, the Giro came alive with attacks from the usual suspects, with Tinkoff and Ceramica Panaria-Navigare very active. 42.5 kilometres were covered in the first hour of racing across the beautiful rolling terrain through the Province of Rieti. Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) crashed in the first hour, but chased back to the gruppo.

After 50 kilometres as the Giro proceeded along the Strada Statale 4 through the green heart of central Italy towards Rieti, there was an attack by Ricardo Serrano (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) which was pulled back, then another by Serrano, which was a set-up for a counter move by another Tinkoff rider, Daniele Contrini, winner of the first stage of the 2007 Tour of Georgia.

Contrini was joined by Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile), French rider Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole), Hubert Schwab (Quickstep-Innergetic) of Switzerland and once again Luis Laverde. The quintet got away on the outskirts at Rieti and at the Garibaldi sprint in Rieti, after 67 kilometres, it was Kern who took the points ahead of Contrini and Pinotti, with the gruppo, led by Petacchi at 1'40".

A few kilometres outside of Rieti, the 21-kilometre long ascent of Monte Terminillo began. Know as Rome's ski resort, the ascent was via the southern face, also called the Sella di Leonessa and had a average gradient of 6.6% with some pitches up to 12%.

The break was working well together, as the Liquigas team of the Maglia Rosa was barely chasing behind, riding at a gentle tourist pace. Leon Van Bon (Rabobank) abandoned after 77 kilometres, while in the break, halfway up the climb, Pinotti at 46th on GC at 3'11" and then became Maglia Rosa Virtuale.

The temperatures had cooled considerably as stage 6 pierced the enter of Italy. At the back of the peloton, World Champion Paolo Bettini was struggling next to the race doctors car with a sore left knee from his crash two days ago.

As the front quintet neared the GPM atop Monte Terminillo, non-climber Contrini, who was zigzagging to stay in contact, lost his balance and went off the side of the road for a moment but stayed upright and got to the summit with the other front-runners.

Atop Monte Terminillo, with 83 kilometres to race to Spoleto, Laverde took the GPM and the lead was 6'18", while the four degree temperatures had the riders don their wind jackets for the 18-kilometre descent to the feed zone in Leonessa. By the time the five escapees hit the zone for lunch, their lead had soared to 7'25" with 55 kilometres to race.

The stage had entered the region of Umbria and the Province of Perugia as the roads traversed more beautiful scenery. But only the Liquigas-led peloton had a chance to look around, as the break was riding hard up front. Laverde was looking for the Maglia Verde and possibly another stage win, while Pinotti was hoping for the Maglia Rosa in Spoleto, and Kern and Contrini were hoping to hang on over the last climb for a shot at the win in Spoleto.

After three hours of racing on the hard percorso, the front riders had covered 33.2 kilometres, while the gruppo was still cruising along about five kilometres behind the break. Atop the Forca di Capistrello, with 45 kilometres to race, it was Colombian climber Laverde who took the points again ahead of Schwab and Pinotti, putting the Panaria rider within reach of the Maglia Verde.

The break swooped down the 16-kilometre descent to the tiny Umbrian mountain village of S. Anatolia di Narco in the Nera River valley, the began the final ascent of the day, the Forca di Cerro. A 12-kilometre ascent through a beautiful chestnut wood, with nine kilometres of climbing at 7% and a steep ramp called "La Geppa" after four kilometres.

Pinotti was keeping the pace high and the pressure on, with Contrini and Kern suffering. Smooth Schwab took over the pace and as La Geppa ramp began, Pinotti hit the front again and kept the pace steady and the break slowed considerably, then Laverde made the logical move and punched it to try and dump speedy Contrini and Kern.

Pinotti was suffering like a dog, but the T-Mobile man was motivated by the possible Maglia Rosa. Atop the Geppa, Pinotti went right to the front and hammered harder. Schwab and Kern were 15" behind, Contrini at 30" and there were still five kilometres of climbing to the summit.

At the GPM on the Forca di Cerro, with 17 kilometres to go, it was Laverde and Pinotti in the lead, with Schwab and Kern trying to get back to the front of the race at 32" behind, with Contrini at 1'45".

Local lad Fortunato Balliani (Panaria) felt lucky and attacked on the final slopes of the Forca di Cerro, a road he knows well from training and passed over the GPM in 6th place, at 6'46" to cheers of "Vai Ballio," while Liquigas still on the front of the gruppo, 7'13" behind. It was looking good now for the front duo to realize its dreams with a big gap and the road downhill all the way to Spoleto.

Pinotti, nicknamed "The Engineer" because of his degree, is not the best descender in the peloton and had some problems staying with the Colombian climber on the road to Spoleto.

At 10 kilometres to go, the front duo was holding off the two chasers with Contrini stuck in no mans land, and Balliani hoping to hold off the onslaught of the peloton on the road to Spoleto. Located on the ancient Roman road via Flamina and founded in 400 BC, Spoleto is practically in the geographic enter of the Italian boot.

Each summer, the former Umbrian capital hosts the world famous Festival dei Due Mondi music and arts festival, founded by the late Maestro Giancarlo Menotti which celebrates it's 50th anniversary this summer.

After five hours of racing at the stage six finish on viale Trento e Trieste, in front of F1 driver and local VIP Jarno Trulli, Pinotti and Laverde came in together and the Colombian took his second career Giro d'Italia stage win, while Pinotti took the race lead of the Giro d'Italia and donned his first career Maglia Rosa.

The two chasers Schwab and Kern duked it out for third with the Frenchman getting the final place of honour, 1'31" behind Laverde. Tinkoff tough guy Contrini came over the line in fifth, at 3'46", with local-yokel from Trevi "Lucky" Balliani managing to staying ahead of the gruppo for sixth at 6'55" and Milram's Petacchi winning the bunch gallop, 7'15" behind the two front riders.

Stage 7 - Saturday, May 19: Spoleto - Scarperia, 254 km

The weekend starts with a long flat stage, the longest of the 2007 Giro d'Italia. It races due north through the fertile plains of Umbria, past Lago di Trasimeno near Perugia then into Tuscany to the finish in Spoleto-Scarperia.

There is one climb with 55 kilometres to go, plenty of time for the sprinters' trains to pull back any escape. Petacchi will be looking for a win here, near Firenze, where the stage ends on the Mugello track, where there is the famous 15-turn racetrack used for F1 and MotoGP.

The last time the Giro d'Italia finished at the Autodromo di Mugello, it was World Champion Freddy Maertens and perhaps World Champion Bettini will take the victory three decades later. Whomever the winner is, he will undoubtedly chomp down a delicious bistecca fiorentina and have a glass of Brunello di Montalcino to celebrate.

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