Giro d'Italia stage 6: Pelayo Sánchez wins epic gravel stage ahead of Alaphilippe and Plapp

Tadej Pogačar keeps maglia rosa on another dramatic day at the Giro d'Italia

Clock15:01, Thursday 9th May 2024
Pelayo Sánchez (Movistar) wins stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia

© Getty Images

Pelayo Sánchez (Movistar) wins stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia

Pelayo Sánchez (Movistar Team) took the biggest win of his pro career on stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia, beating Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal QuickStep) and Luke Plapp (Jayco AlUla) in a three rider sprint after an epic day of racing across the gravel roads of Italy.

The winning group escaped from the main break of the day on the second of three main gravel sectors with just over 42km to go and built up a lead of over a minute on the chasing peloton, with Plapp at various points becoming the virtual maglia rosa on the road.

Coming into the final 5km the leaders held less than 30 seconds' advantage over a group of GC contenders including Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers). On the final unclassified climb before the finish the gap dropped to just 20 seconds, but Sánchez held his nerve, coming around Alaphilippe with the line in sight to take the first Grand Tour stage win of his career on his Giro d'Italia debut.

The Spaniard could barely believe the outcome of the stage, shaking his head as he crossed the line ahead of former two-time world champion Alaphilippe, with Plapp trailing in third.

The Movistar rider was immediately asked if he had realised the magnitude of his victory after stopping at the finish.

“No, to be honest. This is amazing, I don’t have words. Crazy day for me. Since the start of the Giro I tried to save energy, I knew I didn’t have the shape to be at the front the first day, I tried to save energy for today. Today I could be in the breakaway but I could never imagine to win the stage here – it’s crazy," the stage winner said.

“I knew that it was going to be a really hard day, full gas for the whole day. I tried to save energy and wait for my moment. When we had done almost two hours of racing then everyone started attacking. I did my move, I was in a big breakaway so I tried to be calm and try to eliminate some rivals. At the end I worked with Plapp and Alaphilippe, I tried to collaborate with them and also try to drop them but it was impossible for me. So I tried at the end at the sprint and luckily I was the fastest.”

Race leader Pogačar came through the stage relatively unscathed, avoiding several crashes and incidents to maintain his 46 second lead over Thomas ahead of the crucial stage 7 time trial on Friday.

Relentless action

After the break’s success on stage 5, there was no shortage of candidates willing to go on the attack during the early phase of stage 6 as the race rolled out towards three sectors of Strade Bianche-style white gravel roads.

The fact that it took almost 100km of racing before the break of the day formed spoke volumes of the intensity on show as wave after wave of attacks were reeled in by the peloton only for fresh moves to be made almost instantly.

Alaphilippe was among the early aggressors with the Frenchman part of an assault that managed to gain 16 seconds on the main field, but that move was shut down before a breathless peloton reached the lower slopes of the Volterra climb.

The 8.6km ascent would provide the perfect launchpad for a series of further attacks as Alaphilippe went on the march once more and several groups of sprinters were distanced from the peloton.

UAE Team Emirates appeared reluctant to take control of the race in the first few hours but Pogačar’s team eventually came to the front of proceedings to set a brisk tempo on the climb.

The move continued and with 91km to go Plapp - 2:32 down on Pogačar’s maglia rosa - bridged across to a gaggle of splintered groups that included Alaphilippe, Sánchez and several other potential stage victors.

Volterra failed to provide the terrain to form the day’s break but on the following unclassified climb Plapp once more stamped on the pedals and this time the Australian champion was rewarded as Andrea Vendrame (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Matteo Trentin (Tudor Pro Cycling), Filippo Fiorelli (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), Sánchez and Alaphilippe bridged across with 86km to go. This time UAE Team Emirates relented with their pursuit and the seven leaders extended their advantage to 2:53 with 64km and the three gravel sectors remaining.

Read more: Tadej Pogačar was willing to lose Giro d’Italia lead on the gravel ahead of critical TT

Vidritta opens the gravel adventure

Heading into the first gravel sector of the stage at Vidritta, the break held just over three minutes on the field as Ineos Grenadiers moved to the front and set about upping the tempo. Filippo Ganna was instrumental in the plan, setting the pace and lining out the GC group as the gap quickly tumbled by 30 seconds - but it wasn’t until the next sector and the climb to Grotti that the race situation truly exploded.

At that point the leaders’ advantage had been whittled down to 2:13 as, with the road rising and peaking at almost 20 percent, Ineos pressed on the accelerator once more.

With 43.7km to go and on the toughest part of the climb Plapp kicked clear, with Sánchez and Alaphilippe the only riders able to match him as Thomas’ Ineos teammates continued to look for holes in UAE’s armoury.

A crash held up Ben O’Connor and several other GC candidates but the damage caused by the sector was relatively light as the peloton breathed a collective sigh. Sánchez, Plapp and Alaphilippe quickly built a lead of over a minute on their former breakaway companions ahead of the final sector at Pievina.

With 17km to go a crash in the bunch took down several riders including Damiano Caruso. There was a general regrouping once the sector was finished but the Italian missed out and lost a huge 15 minutes on the stage.

Up ahead the break maintained a 1:07 gap with 11.3km to go and although there were several attacks from all three riders, they arrived inside the final kilometre together and with the stage win up for grabs. Plapp hit the front first before Alaphilippe opened up his sprint with around 200m to go. The Frenchman looked the likely winner until Sánchez turned on the speed to come around the outside and take a memorable victory.

Keep up to date with the latest tech news on the GCN website. For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

Race Results

1

es flag

SANCHEZ Pelayo

Movistar Team

4H 01' 08"

2

fr flag

ALAPHILIPPE Julian

Soudal Quick-Step

"

3

au flag

PLAPP Lucas

Team Jayco-AlUla

+ 1"

4

it flag

PICCOLO Andrea

EF Education-EasyPost

+ 24"

5

ec flag

NARVAEZ Jhonnatan

INEOS Grenadiers

+ 29"

6

si flag

MEZGEC Luka

Team Jayco-AlUla

"

7

be flag

HERMANS Quinten

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

8

au flag

SCHULTZ Nick

Israel-Premier Tech

"

9

co flag

MARTINEZ Daniel

BORA-hansgrohe

"

10

kz flag

LUTSENKO Alexey

Astana Qazaqstan Team

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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