Team Sky trio Juan Antonio Flecha, Rigoberto Urán and Sergio Henao all came home in the main group as Colombian rider Miguel Ángel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) claimed an impressive breakaway victory on the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia as the focus switched from sprinters to climbers.
Rubiano had gone away early in a big escape group and left what remained of his fellow escapees behind on the brutal ramps of the third category Montegranaro climb, around 40 kilometres from home in the 210km route from Urbino.
He built on his advantage on the run to the finish at Porto Sant'Elpidio, comfortably holding off the four-man chase group to cross the line one minute and 10 seconds ahead of Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) and Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
The 12 seconds bonus for second place proved crucial for Italy's Malori as it put him in the leader's maglia rosa, 15 seconds in front of Golas, with Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) a further two seconds back.
Flecha, Urán and Henao were all in the main pack which finished 1:51 behind and they are within 1:21 of the lead, with Flecha best-placed in 23rd.
Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh were 10:39 back, Ian Stannard was at 15:40 and dual stage winner Mark Cavendish battled well to come home just inside the time limit alongside Bernhard Eisel and Jeremy Hunt.
Afterwards we spoke to Sports Director Steven de Jongh who said: “It was a really tough stage today with hard climbs all day. At the front Flecha helped out Rigoberto and Sergio really well. They didn’t lose any time on the main GC guys so they did a good job there.
“Other teams controlled the pace and the break stayed clear. In the end Lampre took the jersey so I think we’re going to have a better-controlled race tomorrow.
“Let’s hope our three guys in the gruppetto recover a bit and we can have a better day tomorrow as it should be one for Rigoberto and Sergio.”
Change of focus
The toughest day of the Giro so far, stage six saw the riders challenged constantly with an undulating parcours.
Ahead of the 20km marker a significant break went clear, 15 riders pushing onwards to build up an advantage of 8:36 before the terrain caused the break to fracture.
The gravel ‘strade bianche’ roads made their third consectutive appearance in the race and the ascent of the second category Passo della Cappella thinned out the bunch significantly.
Among those struggling was Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda), the leader at the start of the day, who was repeatedly forced to chase back on during the day, finally dropped on the Montegranaro after a gutsy ride.
With a number of big teams represented out front Liquigas-Cannondale took up the pace-setting duties on the front over some tough terrain – the stage profile on paper belying just how difficult the climbs were.
The day also saw a number of high profile abandonments with Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) and Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing) leaving the race, the former following a crash.