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Giro d'Italia 2018: Esteban Chaves wins Stage 6 on Mount Etna

Martin James
10 May 2018

Chaves wins stage ahead of new pink jersey Simon Yates in dream 1-2 finish for Mitchelton-Scott

Colombian Esteban Chaves headed teammate Simon Yates over the line to claim a dream result for Mitchelton-Scott at the end of Stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia at the top of Mount Etna.

Chaves went solo on the final climb after being part of the day's main break, with Yates making a late move from the peloton to join his teammate at the front of the race and claim the race leader's pink jersey.

The pair crossed the finish line side by side, with Thibaut Pinot leading home a select group of GC contenders 26 seconds later. Overall, Yates now leads Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) by 16 seconds overall, with Chaves now third overall.

Team Sky's Chris Froome finished alongside Dumoulin in the select group, despite looking to have trouble matching some of the attacks towards the end of the stage.

Australian Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), who started the day with a 1-second advantage over Dumoulin, only lost contact with the leaders in the final 4km of the stage, and remains sixth overall, 53 seconds down on Yates.

How the stage unfolded

Nearly a full week into the 101st Giro, and still the race hasn’t touched down on the Italian mainland. After three days in Israel, this was the third of three days on the island of Sicily, a ride of 164km culminating in the first-category summit finish on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna.

With only a pair of intermediate sprints to fight for along the way, it seemed the perfect stage for a decent-sized break to go clear and build a gap, with the climbers and GC contenders preserving their strength for the business end of the stage.

After a fast-paced first hour of racing, a big break of 28 riders did indeed go clear. The surprise name among them was Chaves, second in the Giro in 2016 and tipped as a genuine contender for the pink jersey again this year.

Was this an opportunistic roll of the dice by Chaves? Or a sign that Mitchelton-Scott’s GC hopes were pinned on Yates, third overall at the start of the day, and Chaves had been sent down the road ready to work for Yates on the final climb?

The team could scarcely have dreamed at this point that the answer would end up being the best of both worlds, but either way the peloton initially let the group go and the gap quickly shot up to three minutes. Then Dennis’s BMC Racing troops took control in the peloton, and the gap was pegged.

BMC’s decision to work was strange given that nobody was expecting Dennis to be anywhere near the front by the end of the day, plus they had a rider in the break in Alessandro de Marchi.

But as we edged towards the base of the final climb, the gap to the lead group steadily started coming down, with Astana now helping BMC with the chase effort.

With 30km to go the break still had an advantage of more than two minutes. By this point the riders were already gaining altitude steadily, although the final climb officially only began with 15km to go, topping out at a height of 1,736m, with an average gradient of 6.5% but several ramps at more than twice that.

By now the lead group was down to around 20 riders, with Chaves' Mitchelton-Scott teammate Jack Haig doing the pacesetting. Once they started the climb proper, however, it quickly broke apart.

The catalyst was an early attack by Lotto-NL Jumbo's Robert Gesink, one-time GC hope but well down in the overall standings. De Marchi was next to have a go, with Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy) quickly jumping onto his wheel followed by two real danger men – Chaves and Sergio Henao (Team Sky).

Astana were now controlling the pace in what remained of the peloton, now barely a minute behind the leaders on the road. As yet, nobody had tried their luck among the favourites, and the pink jersey was still very much present, though with still 10km to go there was plenty of time for that to change.

It was a different story up front, where the race was animated by a string of attacks by Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF). With the peloton about to swallow up the remains of the lead group, Chaves decided this was the time to make his move, quickly catching and passing Ciccone and going clear on his own.

Meanwhile, fellow Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) built on his team's hard work in chasing down the break by pushing clear to try and make up some of his deficit to the other favourites.

Dumoulin raised his pace in response, as did Froome – belatedly – but the accelaration proved too much for Dennis, finally dropped after holding on valiantly in defence of his pink jersey.

Then Yates, having sat patiently in the peloton while teammate Chaves forged on ahead, finally made his move for a dream finish for Mitchelton-Scott.