Welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia from Sassano to Montecassino. Today's stage finishes with an 8.6km climb to Montecassino.
Welcome to stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia.
After five rain soaked stages the riders can finally enjoy the sunshine. It looks beautiful at the start in Sassano
There are plenty of fans out enjoying the sunshine too, as the riders finish signing on and begin lining up on the start line.
Unfortunately this good weather might not last. It is expected to rain from around midway through the stage and at the finish. With the summit finish, however, it shouldn't prove to be as much of a problem as it was on Tuesday's stage 4.
The riders have just rolled out to ride the 5.9km neutralised section.
At 257km, today is the longest stage of the race. It was originally planned to be 247km, but they had to add an extra 10km to negotiate their way around a landslide. This is why they had to start a little early today.
Some riders had an earlier start than they would have liked. The Lotto-Belisol team were woken up by fire alarms in their hotel at 6am this morning, not what you want before such a long day in the saddle.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep also got an early wake-up call, with Wout Poels and Thomas de Gendt being woke up at 6:15 by doping controllers.
Local weather reports say that there is a 50% chance of rain at the finish. The riders will be praying that it stays dry. It's been a particularly wet start to the Giro this year.
Today's finish on Montecassino is around 8.6 kilometres long, with an average gradient of 5.1%. However, there is a little section of 10% at the start, which could cause some problems.
While we wait for the flag to drop and racing to begin let's have a recap of what happened yesterday. Lampre-Merida rider Diego Ulissi won the uphill sprint to Viggiano. Here's a look at yesterday's top 10.
1 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 5:12:39
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
3 Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing
4 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
5 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
6 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
7 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
9 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team
The flag has dropped and we are now racing.
Cadel Evans was the big GC winner yesterday. The bonus points that came with finishing second has boosted him into third in the general classification. Michael Matthews, however, still holds onto his maglia rosa.
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 17:41:23
2 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge 0:00:14
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:15
4 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:19
5 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:26
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky 0:00:35
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:37
8 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:41
9 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team Sky 0:00:49
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:52
Matthews is looking to keep hold of his pink jersey for another day today. He finished sixth in yesterday's stage and should be strong again today. Cyclingnews spoke to him after yesterday's stage. You can read what he had to say here.
We've been racing for less than 10 minutes and a break has already formed. We'll bring you the names in a moment.
The four escapees are Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli), Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF), Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli) and Edwin Avila (Colombia).
242km remaining from 257km
The four riders have a gap of 1:53 already on the peloton.
You may have noticed that each of the four wildcard selections are represented in this break. There are a few regular names in the break again today.
Fedi was in the break on stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia with Maartin Tjallingii. He wasn't able to get the mountains classification jersey on that day. With only two classified climbs, including the finish, he would have to get to the finish ahead of the pack if he wants to get it today.
Colombia are reporting that their rider in the break is not Avila as was reported. It is in fact Rodolfo Torres.
If you were watching the Giro del Trentino you might recognise the name Zardini. The 24-year-old Italian went on a daring attack on stage 2 to take his first professional victory. On that day, he beat the likes of Cadel Evans and Domenico Pozzovivo.
237km remaining from 257km
The four escapees now have 5 minutes on the peloton.
Today is a much tougher prospect for Zardini, with this stage being around 90 kilometres longer than the one he won.
Zardini is the best placed rider in the break. He started the day in 77th, 4:53 down on Matthews. With the gap as it stands, the Italian is the virtual maglia rosa. It's unlikely that he'll finish the stage in that position.
Yesterday was the first test for the riders, we caught up with a few of the riders at the finish, including Tosh van der Sande and Sander Armee. Watch what they had to say here.
You can watch all of our Giro d'Italia videos right here, in our Giro 2014 playlist. Don't forget to subscribe to the Cyclingnews YouTube channel.
222km remaining from 257km
The gap has now extended to a huge 10:25 for the four leaders, who have complete 35 kilometres.
With so few climbs before the finish in Montecassino, it's possible for a sprinter to take victory today - although it's a tough ask. Pink jersey Michael Matthews has said that this stage suits him and he will be gunning for victory today. Sky's Ben Swift is also on the hunt for a stage win. He was in the break yesterday and Cyclingnews caught up with him right after the stage.
The average speed of the peloton has been 41.2kph over the first hour of racing.
213km remaining from 257km
The advantage to the escapees has come down a little bit to 10 minutes.
The extension of the stage means that there will actually be two feed zones in today's stage. The first of which comes at the 88 kilometre mark.
The peloton are currently on the revised part of the route, to bypass the landslide near Polla. They will come back onto the original route at the 51.7km mark, which is in around 10 kilometres time.
Our jersey wearers today are Michael Matthews (pink and white), Elia Viviani (red) and Maarten Tjallingii (blue). Here is a shot of Matthews signing on this morning, resplendent in his maglia rosa.
After finishing second yesterday, Cadel Evans is top of the tree in terms of the overall classification riders. He sits in third place, 15 seconds off the lead. Cyclingnews spoke to his former sporting director, now UnitedHealthcare directeur sportif, Robert Damiani about the Australian's chances this week. You can watch the video here.
202km remaining from 257km
The peloton are back on the original route now and the gap to the four escapees has gone up to 14 minutes.
Joaquim Rodríguez has had a bit of a rocky start to the Giro d'Italia. He lost the most of all the GC riders in the team time trial, if you discount Garmin's disaster, and is well over a minute down on the maglia rosa. His Katusha team were strong yesterday and Rodríguez says today could be a good stage to make up some of that time. You can read the full article here.
191km remaining from 257km
The gap has levelled out for the escapees at 14 minutes. The peloton clearly feel comfortable with the stage being so long. We're likely to see them get caught just before the final climb.
A reminder of the four riders in the break today. They are Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli), Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli), Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) and Rodolfo Andres Torres (Colombia)
185km remaining from 257km
It's still a long way to go for the four men out front but they still hold a significant advantage of 14 minutes.
Yesteday's stage winner Diego Ulissi signing on this morning.
Don't forget, you can watch all of our Giro d'Italia videos and more right here.
Today is a day of firsts at the Giro. It is the first time the Sassano and Montecassino have been stage towns at the race. The short climb at the finish has a restored Abbey at the top, which should make for a beautiful backdrop.
The local boy for today's stage is Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF), who is from the region of Frosinone where the stage finishes today. He was born an hour up the road in Alatri. Pirazzi won the mountains classification at last year's Giro d'Italia. Will he try something today in front of home crowds?
177km remaining from 257km
We are now into the second hour of racing and the pace has dropped a little bit. The average speed for that second hour is 38kph. The gap has also dropped and not stands at 12:16.
The riders are nearing the first feed zone of the day, which is at 88km. The second will be at 179km as they pass through the town of Casapulla
The first of the two climbs, the Cava de’ Tirreni, comes up about 20km after the feed zone. It averages a gradient of 3.5% with a maximum of 8%.
Orica-GreenEdge are doing the work on the front to protect the race leader Michael Matthews. They have brought the gap to the escapees down to 10 minutes now.
Orica-GreenEdge have held onto the leader's jersey since the first day. Svein Tuft got to wear it for a day, not that he really got to show it off under his rain cape, after they won the team time trial. Tuft then handed it over to Matthews, who has won it since then, on the second stage. The Australian team are obviously pleased with how it's gone for them so far. Cyclingnews reporter Alasdair Fotheringham spoke to team directeur sportif Julian Dean about the team's success. You can read the full article here.
As the escapees ride to the first feed point of the day, let's have a more detailed look at who each of them are.
First up is Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli). The 22-year-old turned professional with the team this season. His best result was a stage win at the Tour of Slovakia last season. He came fourth in a stage of the Tour of Turkey in the week before he travelled to the Giro d'itali.
We've already told you a little about Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF). He is a second year professional with the Italian Pro Continental squad and this is his second Giro d'Italia. Zardini announced himself to the cycling world with his impressive victory on the mountaintop finish to Alto Adige on stage 2 of the Giro del Trentino, his first professional victory.
As we run through the four men in the peloton, the gap has come down a little more. They still have a sizeable 8 minute advantage over the main group. Sky have come to the front to help Orica-GreenEdge with the chasing duties.
167km remaining from 257km
The escapees are currently riding through the first feed zone, so we can expect the gap to go up a little bit once they've passed through it.
The third Italian in this leading group of four is Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli). At 29, Bandiera is the elder statesman of the breakaway. He turned professional back in 2008 with Lampre. He moved to Androni this winter, after a year with the IAM Cycling team. He is yet to take his first professional victory, but has had some good top 10 finishes at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2013 and the Giro del Piemonte in 2008.
Last but not least is Rodolfo Andres Torres (Colombia). Torres turned professional this season with the Colombia team. He has a number of victories in his home country, including a stage of the Vuelta a Santander last season.
152km remaining from 257km
They've passed over the first KOM and the gap is no at 8:18 over the peloton. We'll bring you the results of the climb when we have them.
The results at the KOM are 1. Torres, 2. Zardini, 3. Bandiera
As we approach the half way point of this stage, why not send us in your predictions. Do you think it will be a sprinter, a climber or none of the above? Who will win today?
We've seen a little bit of climbing over the last few days, but nothing to really test the riders. This Saturday's finish in Montecopiolo could be the first proper shake-up in the GC. You can watch our preview of the stage here, along with previews of the other key stages.
143km remaining from 257km
With the peloton heading through the feed zone, the gap has been allowed to go back up again. The four escapees now have an 8:40 advantage.
There is one birthday in the peloton today. Giant-Shimano's Tom Stamsnijder turns 29. His teammate Marcel Kittel won on his birthday on stage 2.
133km remaining from 257km
The gap is edging out once again and is now at 9 minutes.
Diego Ulissi's victory yesterday was the first for the Italians this year. Italian cycling has been struggling of late and they have only taken four WorldTour victories this season. Two of which we at the hands of - or perhaps feet - Ulissi himself. You can read this and more in our Giro short right here
Shimano report that the birthday boy Stamsnijder is struggling on with gastroenteritis today. There are a few riders who have been ill over the first week, several blaming the poor weather.
Speaking of the weather, the clouds have come in and the peloton could be in for a soaking. Let's hope it doesn't happen.
123km remaining from 257km
For those of you just joining us, a reminder of the situation out on the road. We have four men out front. They went at kilometre 11 and have been out front since then. The gap went up to 14 minutes, but is now at 9 minutes. The four men are Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli), Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli), Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) and Rdolofo Andres Torres (Colombia).
114km remaining from 257km
The Orica-GreenEdge lead peloton have upped pace and the gap has come down to eight minutes for our four leaders.
It is currently dry at the finish, but the wind is blowing pretty hard, which could cause a few problems for any late escapes attempts. There is also a 50% chance of rain at the finish.
Away from the Giro d'Italia for a moment. Bradley Wiggins is still in the leader's jersey at the Tour of California. His recent form has reignited the Tour de France question and whether he'll have to ride in support of Chris Froome. Team Sky are still adamant that the 2012 winner will support the defending champion. You can read what the team told Cyclingnews here.
The Giro d'Italia promised so much for Dan Martin, but the Garmin-Sharp rider wasn't able to make it out of Belfast. He crashed on stage one, but we still got to have a look at his bike. Click here for a gallery of his Cervelo S3. InCycle also followed the team around in the build-up to the team time trial. You can watch that here.
105km remaining from 257km
GreenEdge get a break as Sky take up the work on the front. They have cut the gap down to just 5:14.
Katusha and AG2R-La Mondiale are also near the front as they ride through Cicciano.
100km remaining from 257km
The second feed zone of the day is coming in 22 kilometres. The riders were given an extra feed zone today, due to the extra 10km added to the race route.
Sonny Colbrelli looks to be having problems with his left shoe. The Bardiani rider takes it off and fixes it on the move, before putting it back on his foot.
It is now raining at the finish. It is pretty dark over the peloton at the moment, as the clouds continue to rumble in.
Adam Hansen is riding his eighth consecutive grand tour at the Giro d'Italia. He won a stage here in grand style last year. The Australian has already pinpointed a few stages where he might try to attack this time around. You can read the full article here.
89km remaining from 257km
Riders are going back to the cars to pick up their rain gear. They want to be prepared when it eventually comes down.
The intermediate sprint is coming up. Sky are still on the front of the peloton and may be looking to get the red jersey points. He's currently 5th in the point classification, 33 points behind the leader Elia Viviani.
82km remaining from 257km
The rain has arrived and the rain jackets are going on, as the escapees reach the intermediate sprint.
There is no contest for the sprint from the four escapees. Fedi crossed first, with Bandiera in his wheel. Zardini takes third and Torres in fourth.
Miguel Angel Rubiano crashes in the bunch after he gets a plastic bag stuck in his front wheel. He's now chasing back onto the peloton
Cannondale lead out the intermediate sprint. Bouhanni goes for it, but he's out-sprinted by Nicola Ruffoni from Bardiani, who takes the final point.
The race is passing the Reggia di Caserta, the stunning building and park that were the constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century.
The Reggia Borbonica, the Belvedere Reale di San Leucio and the Caroline Aqueduct were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997.
Caserta has hosted four stage finishes in the past: in 1964 won by Giorgio Zancanaro; in 1982 by Urs Freuler; in 1994 by Marco Saligari and in 2002 won by Mario CIpollini.
The sun is shining on the break of the day but the peloton has been caught in a shower.
The break has passed through the second feed station of the stage. Initially only one station was scheduled but the extra kilometres added to the stage created the need for a second one.
68km remaining from 257km
The peloton has also taken on board the feed and will no doubt accelerate the pursuit of the break very soon.
Team Sky is still leading the chase. They are working for Edvald Hoasson Hagen, who is suited to the climb to the finish in Montecassino.
Some traffic furniture squeezes the peloton but they make it through without problem.
A storm has hit the finish area, with strong winds and heavy rain. It could make the finale very interesting.
62km remaining from 257km
The peloton has eased as many of the rider take a natural break. Others are taking on board drinks and food. With the break under control, there is no need to rush the chase.
The Trek Factory Racing team has taken up the chase after Team Sky refused to return to the front.
There was a moment of bluffing in the peloton, with Lampre-Merida refusing to do any of the work.
The gap has risen to 6:30 due to the peloton taking a natural break. The race has yet to come alive but the peloton will soon have to get serious in their pursuit of the four breakaways.
52km remaining from 257km
Orica-GreenEdge and Giant-Shimano is also helping with the chase now and the gap is falling below five minutes.
Bernhard Eisel (Team Sky) seems to be organising the chase and is doing some work on the front.
A roundabout has caused a split in the peloton with several Trek riders up front, while Redondo has flatted and needs a wheel change.
The Trek Factory Racing team has pointed out that it was Robert Kiserlovski who was delayed by a mechanical problem. He's now back in the bunch.
The break is tiring after a long day out front. The gap is down to 3:50 now.
It is starting to rain on the breakaway and the peloton.
The rain has been on and off for much of the day, so it could well stop again before the finish.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep have made one of their first appearances at the front of the peloton. They've been fairly quiet today.
38km remaining from 257km
The rain is looking much heavier now and Elia Viviani drops back to the cars, presumably for his rain jacket.
The gap to the peloton continues to drop. They quartet have 3:05 on the main bunch now.
The peloton are around 30km from the start of the final climb. It averages 5.1%, but it has a little section of 10% near the start and flattens out as it reaches the top. The twists and turns will make is an interesting and tricky climb, along with the wind.
It may be too hard for the sprinters, but it may not be hard enough for some of the climbers. The Giro has never finished here so it is something of an unknown quantity.
After his performance yesterday, Diego Ulissi could be a possible contender for today. However, Joaquim Rodríguez has put his name forward today. He's on the hunt for bonus seconds, but it might not be steep enough for him at Montecassino.
31km remaining from 257km
The peloton are brining the escapees ever closer. They've reduced the gap to 2:42 now and the days are numbered for the escapees.
We've got plenty more Giro d'Italia videos coming after the stage today, including a tour of the Trek Factory Racing team bus and an interview with Wilco Kelderman. Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don't miss them. You can find all of our Giro videos and more right here.
Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) pulls over for a wheel change. He could be a potential contender for a stage win later in the race
26km remaining from 257km
1:10 is the latest time check for the escapees. Expect things to light up when the peloton get them in their sights.
The peloton are only a kilometre down the road and the legs must be getting tired for the four out front. They've been out front for over 200 kilometres
20km remaining from 257km
And the rain is back. The peloton might not like it, but it shouldn't cause a problem. It's fairly flat up to the foot of the final climb.
Several teams represented at the front of the peloton. They're not going too fast, but they're still catching the leaders. The gap now 1:06
One of the flag marshals getting a little closer than he would have liked to the peloton, as a rider dodges him at the last minute.
15km remaining from 257km
Zardini has upped the pace in the break, but it's all but over for them with only 46 seconds separating them from the baying peloton. Bandiera realises this and congratulates all his break companions.
Rafal Majka has said that he might try something at the finish here. Montecassino was the site where so many Polish soldiers died in the battle of Monte Cassino in 1944. Majka is wearing the white jersey today.
11km remaining from 257km
Omega Pharma-QuickStep and BMC lead the peloton as they catch the four escapees.
There is a huge crash as the peloton enter a roundabout. Tyler Farrar and Paolo Tiralongo are two of the riders down.
It looks to be a very heavy crash. Giampaolo Caruso is lying on the ground as the cars try to negotiate him. It looks like that's his race over. We'll bring you more names as we get them.
In the peloton BMC are driving the pace on
Caruso is in a very bad way. He hasn't moved for some time. They're waiting for the ambulance to get to him.
8km remaining from 257km
The peloton are onto the final climb, lead by BMC
Caruso is concious, but he's grimacing hard and is still in the spot he fell.
A lot of riders have been caught out by that big crash and there is 40 seconds between the first and second group.
Daniel Oss is on the front of an 8-man group at the front of the race. Cadel Evans and Michael Matthews have made it into this group.
Big names who have missed out on this split are Rodriguez and Quintana. Movistar are chasing hard now
Rodriguez looks like he is much further back than this chasing group. This could be the end of his GC battle if he can't get back on.
Movistar are working hard to try and bring this leading group back. There is around 37 seconds between the two
It's thought that Rodriguez may have come down in the crash that took out his teammate Caruso. Svein Tuft has clearly been down. He's got a lot of abrasions along his side.
3km remaining from 257km
Omega Pharma-QuickStep are now on the front, they've got Rigoberto Uran to think about. The gap is now 32 second
AG2R La Mondiale are also sharing the work in this chasing group. It looks like damage limitation for this group.
More injured riders coming through Rick Flens (Belkin) has more skin showing that jersey. Looks like local boy Steffano Pirazzi has been down too
2km remaining from 257km
Oss and Durbridge have done their work and they have been dropped from the front group. The gap has gone up slightly to 35 seconds.
Robert Kiserlovski attacks
Michael Matthews looking relatively comfortable in this front group, he's obviously got the sprint to win if he can hang on.
1km remaining from 257km
More attacks coming from the peloton. Yesterday's winner Ulissi has a go.
Evans takes the front of the lead group and drops Santaromita
The lead group is down to four riders, Evans, Wellens, Matthews and Rabbotini
Matthews in the wheel of Evans
We wait for the times back to the chasers
The group containing Uran, Quintana and Pozzovivo crosses the line about 50 seconds down
The riders are coming across in small groups after that big crash before the final climb
Evans is sitting pretty now in the general classification. He was already well ahead of most of his rivals, but has just given himself a big cushion.
Here is the top 10 for this stage
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
2 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
4 Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Neri Sottoli - Yellow Fluo
5 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge
6 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
8 Mauro Finetto (Ita) Neri Sottoli - Yellow Fluo
9 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10 Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia
Big time loss for Niemiec, whose GC battle is surely over now. He has just crossed the line
There is going to be a lot of revising plans tonight from the directeur sportifs. Today was supposed to be a relatively simple day for them, but that crash has thrown a spanner in the works for many
Matthews has retained his pink jersey and has extended his lead to 21 seconds. Cadel Evans has moved into second place. Nairo Quintana is now 2:08 down in the general classification
Here is the top 10 in the GC after that stage
1. Michael Matthews
2. Cadel Evans +21
3. Rigoberto Uran +1:18
4. Steve Morabito +1:25
5. Matteo Rabottini +1:25
6. Ivan Santaromita +1:47
7. Fabio Aru +1:51
8. Tim Wellens +1:52
9. Ivan Basso +2:06
10. Nairo Quintana +2:08
You can get all the latest results and the full stage report
Report coming through that Joaquim Rodriguez came through 7:23 down on the leaders.
Remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can get all the latest stuff from the finish today. You can do it right here
That's it for today. Join us later for the Tour of California live and tomorrow for stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia.
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