What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro06 St06: It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3.

Take advantage of it while you can, all ye sprinters! Today’s 227k Stage 6 provided all the fixin’s for a bunch gallop: dead flat, barely a turn all day, and a 2.5k final finishing straight. Davitamon-Lotto and T-Mobile did their parts controlling the front all day, so only one question remains: Who took whose cookies at the finish on Forlм’s Corso della Repubblica?

The easiest stage of this year’s Giro, until the final stage into Milano, started just before noon, and the day-long break left only a few minutes after that. The trio of Andoni Aranaga (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sergiy Matveyev (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), and Christophe Edaleine (Credit Agricole) got away only 6k into the stage and started the necessary sequence of events for a traditional field sprint stage.

1.) Unmotivated field lets break go.

2.) Break rides hard, gets TV time, gets mentioned in PEZ report.

3.) Break continues to ride like hell, while the top sprinting team(s) as well as the team defending the GC lead lends a hand.

4.) Break caught within the final hour – exact point varies on the mathemeticians of the sprinters’ teams.

5.) The pace gets REALLY fast, and all hell breaks loose after the catch.

Today’s break enjoyed 205 km of freedom from the confines of the peloton. They’ll remember that time with a certain nostalgia when they hit tomorrow’s climbs.

Following The Script
It’s incredible how well the race followed the script for the first road stage actually in Italy in this year’s Giro. The break encountered a rather motivated controller in Davitamon-Lotto, as the break never managed more than six and a quarter minutes. Robbie McEwen’s boys were leaving nothing to chance in Stage 6 – there could be no errors – who knows when there will be another field sprint?

T-Mobile was more than happy to ride at the front and aid in the pace-making throughout the entire day – they had two motives: 1.) Protect Gonchar’s lead, and almost as important – 2.) Ensure a sprint for the race’s #2 sprinter, Olaf Pollack, as a high placing would see the Maglia Rosa to Pollack’s shoulders.

Life After The Break
The break finally met its doom with 17k to go – they had quite a go of it though: 205 km off the front. That’ll hurt tomorrow. Interestingly, after the catch of the break, Davitamon faded back and let some other teams come to the fore, and there were many takers: AG2R, Liquigas, CSC, Milram, Rabobank, Quick.Step, Selle-Italia, Bouygues-Telecom, and T-Mobile. Even Jan Ullrich was trading pulls at the front toward the in – quite a sight.

No team was able to or willing to take complete control though, due to the wide, wide, flat, straight road. If there was ever a case of ‘argy-bargy’ it was on the run-in to the finish in Forli.

Davitamon-Lotto, with the help of T-Mobile, controlled the proceedings for most of the day.

Bouygues-Telecom came to the fore late in the game around 4k to go and lined it out big time bringing the speed to 60 km/h, but unfortunately, there wasn’t enough firepower from the French squad to keep it going and they faded badly, but did manage to egg on the bigger teams like Quick.Step, then Milram, as well as AG2R, seemingly every team had a sprinter for Stage 6.

Davitamon-Lotto’s Perfect Strategy
Where was Davitamon-Lotto though? Robbie McEwen has probably the best lead-out plan in the business – his team works most of the stage to keep the break in check, then they reel it in, afterwards, the team fades into the field and you don’t see them much. Henk Vogels then gets hold of McEwen, guides him around the chaos of the bunch and gets him where he needs to be – usually on some big sprinter’s wheel – after that, McEwen does his thing and Vogels celebrates. Today was no different.

What looked like a dead-straight run-in to the finish was apparently not, as the field hit a tricky right-hander inside the final 2k, which left a few riders on the ground, two T-Mobiles: Korff and Kessler (who has already spent some time on the ground in this year’s Giro), as well as Andy Flickinger of Bouygues-Telecom. The crash split the field, but as it was within the final 3k – it really didn’t matter.

The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For
Heading into the final straight, Milram was on the front, and had been on the front for a little bit, but suddenly they ran out of riders and poor Alberto Loddo of Selle-Italia had his chances go from very, very good to nil, as the final Milram rider swung off the front and Loddo was left out front with about 300 meters to go.

That’s how you take care of business – Robbie McEwen is on quite a roll at the moment. You won’t be seeing too much of him over the next few days though.

AG2R’s Tomas Vaitkus didn’t hesitate one second and launched from way out. The big Lithuanian hit hard, taking the ever opportunistic Robbie McEwen with him. McEwen used Vaitkus to perfection, jumping him easily and winning the sprint by half a bike over a hard-charging Olaf Pollack who got the better of Vaitkus in the closing meters.

McEwen wasn’t going too fast on the line…just 70.99 km/h, which equates to what, 44 mph?

Whew, That Was A Wild One
So McEwen netted his third win in three tries at the 2006 Giro, equalling his total from 2005, and making it known, without a doubt, that he is the best sprinter in the race. Davitamon-Lotto would do well to meet McEwen’s contract demands in the future, as he has almost single-handedly turned their season around.

Olaf Pollack was probably the happiest guy in the race though, as his 2nd Place, which normally would have only brought irritation was cause for celebration, as the strong German swiped the Pink Jersey from his teammate Sergei Gonchar. T-Mobile now holds three of the top 4 positions, with only Jens Voigt in 3rd to mess up a clean sweep after six stages. A million dollars says that changes tomorrow.

Olaf Pollack wrested the Maglia Rosa from his teammate Gonchar’s back today, but he’ll lose it, 100%, tomorrow.

Tomorrow Will Be A Menace
Tomorrow’s 236 km brute of a Stage 7 will be the first stage that should leave riders very, very happy to be done. Make sure to check out PEZ’ in-depth preview of Stage 7, a three-part series: Part 1 – Stage 7 Preview, Part 2 – The Catria, and Part 3 – The Monte Cesane.

The tough climbs of tomorrow’s stage should sting a bit, considering that it’s the first time into the mountains for the race, but then again, 20% always hurts.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, the logical bet is for a small group finish with all of the main favorites finishing together. That is of course, the textbook preview, but of course, if a lower-placed contender, say someone like Gilberto Simoni or Jose Rujano, wants to have a go – he could perhaps get a little leash and wreak some havoc. Simoni pulled off a comparable feat back in 2003 when he took the Maglia Rosa right off of Stefano Garzelli’s back on a semi-mountainous stage a lot like Stage 7. Let’s hope for an aggressive race.

Stage 6 Results
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 5.24.13
2 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team
3 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) AG2R Prevoyance
4 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone
5 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
6 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems
7 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic
8 Elia Rigotto (Ita) Team Milram
9 Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare
10 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir

General Classification After Six Stages
1 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team
2 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile Team 0.02
3 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.18
4 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile Team
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 0.23
6 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.32
7 Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team CSC 0.41
8 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.43
9 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.45
10 Josй Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.50

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