ARNAUD DÉMARE WINS SECOND STAGE IN CONSECUTIVE DAYS
As the old adage goes, you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once...
At the beginning of the fifth stage on Wednesday, Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) hadn't won a Grand Tour stage since the 2020 Giro d’Italia. Yesterday, however, the Frenchman ended that spell with an assured performance, and on the sixth stage today he followed up with another victory for two wins in two days.
Groupama-FDJ produced yet another brilliant lead out, navigating to the front of the pack for the final kilometre with two riders ahead of Démare. Impressively, he didn't panic once main rivals Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) had overtaken him, instead opting to launch at the perfect moment as he had to take a longer route round the aforementioned riders.
Executing a textbook throw, Démare's wheel crossed the finish line just fractions ahead of Ewan's as the race win came down to a photo finish. Securing his seventh career win at the Giro, Démare is now level with Bernard Hinault to become the joint-most successful Frenchman at the Grand Tour in terms of stage wins.
Retaining the points jersey for the seventh stage tomorrow, Démare will no doubt do everything he can to hold onto it for the remaining two weeks.
THRILLING END TO AN OTHERWISE QUESTIONABLE RACE AS PELOTON PREPARES FOR COMING DAYS
The final 2km of this race proved thrilling, with team's lead out riders all attempting to get into position to give their sprinter the most opportunity in the closing stages of the race. Cavendish, Ewan and Démare, arguably the top three sprinters in the race, all finished on the podium, with a hair's breadth separating the two wheels of Démare and Ewan.
However, the race did finish an hour later than projected by organisers, with riders leisurely cycling along at an average pace of less than 40km.
You'd have certainly been forgiven for switching off, especially when the intention of the peloton was to maintain a steady pace throughout the 192km race in preparations for the more difficult stages over the next three days. Riders also seemed bored with their efforts, with Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) both pretending to attack before immediately withdrawing and laughing at the TV camera.
Cavendish also had time to blow a kiss at the camera, showing their focus wasn't entirely on the increasing the pace for a more dramatic spectacle throughout.
The peloton taking it easy is perhaps understandable, though. The next two days are hilly affairs with plenty of climbing involved, and Sunday's high mountain stage across the Apennines could prove decisive in the GC battle. Finishing up Blockhaus, the riders will contend with double-digit gradients along a series of hairpin bends leading to the line, giving reason to the slow and largely uneventful stage today.
CALEB EWAN JUST MISSES OUT ON WIN AS STRUGGLES CONTINUE
Caleb Ewan came into the 2022 Giro d'Italia full of optimism that he would add to his five stage wins at the Italian Grand Tour and potentially even take the points jersey come the end of the race.
And while the Australian finished second today, he will no doubt be rueing this as a missed opportunity to take the win rather than taking solace in finishing on the second step of the podium. Ewan powered past Cavendish on the way to the line and seemingly had the win under his belt, but his throw just didn't prove strong enough as Démare's wheel just crossed the line first.
Today further compounded the difficult start he has endured. The Lotto-Soudal rider looked set to finish third on the opening stage in Hungary, but a slight touch of wheels with Biniam Girmay (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux) sent him skidding along the floor as he crossed the line in 76th instead.
Heavily strapped for the following days, he could only manage eighth on the third stage as Cavendish won, while yesterday's stage ended early for him as he needed a bike change at the bottom of the day's only climb, putting him out of contention at the front of the pack.
Undoubtedly, Ewan will be eager for the next sprint stage to turn his fortunes around.
CAVENDISH UNABLE TO HOLD ONTO FIRST AFTER DISRUPTED LEAD OUT
Mark Cavendish had a somewhat disrupted lead out on the way to third place in the stage today. Riding with his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl teammate Michael Mørkøv in front, the Manxman looked in prime position to take his second win of this year's Giro.
Things didn't quite work out as expected, though. Multiple teams seemed to get in the way of the Quick-Step riders, halting their progress. Despite this, their superior strength still took them to the front in the final 500m.
Opting to go early, like he did on the third stage which proved successful, Cavendish pulled out from Mørkøv's wheel as he powered on the pedals in that typical style of his. However, this time around he just didn't have the legs to hold onto the win, and instead had to settle for third place.
Both Arnaud Démare and Caleb Ewan proved too strong for him in the closing stages, a disappointment considering he missed out on a sprint in yesterday's stage as he fell too far behind the pack.
DIEGO ROSA SACRIFICED BY EOLO-KOMETA
The only action for the first 191km of the 192km race was seeing Eolo-Kometa rider Diego Rosa riding alone four minutes ahead of the peloton.
The Italian didn't seem too keen on the idea either, coming on the radio to ask his team "do I really have to do this?" Presumably for sponsorship exposure and to keep race organisers happy, Eolo-Kometa might just have sacrificed Rosa for the upcoming three days.
Recognised as a climber, Rosa would have had to work considerably harder by riding alone for over 100km of the race, potentially scuppering his ability to perform to the best of his abilities on the hilly and mountainous stages to come.
The only positive, depending on how you look at it, is that Rosa won both intermediate sprints on the day.
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