It couldn't have got any better for Mitchelton-Scott
1. Mitchelton-Scott’s perfect day
After Wednesday’s stage Mitchelton-Scott sports director Matt White promised that the team would be aggressive in the mountains, but he can’t have imagined in his wildest dreams that 24 hours later he’d be celebrating a 1-2 for the Australian team and Simon Yates in the pink jersey.
From start to finish the team rode a blinder. Esteban Chaves was a surprise feature in the day’s early break which took a decent lead onto the slopes of Mount Etna, before he followed moves by Giulo Ciccione and Sergio Henao prior to his solo own bid for the line.
As for Yates, while the likes of Miguel Angel Lopez, George Bennett, and Domenico Pozzovivo launched multiple attacks from the main group, he bided his time before launching one big effort with 2.2km to go, immediately opening a gap and riding across to him team-mate.
As the Brit moved into the pink jersey, he let Chaves take the stage glory as the Colombian also moved up to third to cap a dream day for Mitchelton-Scott
2. Froome looks shaky, but doesn’t lose time
Even when he’s been leading the Tour de France in the past Chris Froome has looked in trouble on the climbs, but today he looked in trouble more than ever as he yo-yo’d off the back of the group of main contenders.
With only team-mate Kenny Elissonde for company for most of the climb, Froome was isolated early on before starting to swing off the back of the group as Miguel Angel Lopez launched the first of the numerous attacks with five kilometres to go.
However, despite never looking comfortable Froome was able to come back to the group time and time again, and even put in a little dig to bridge across a small gap when Dumoulin was off the back further up the climb.
In the end Froome crossed the line at the back of the group of main contenders 26 seconds back from Yates and Chaves, and will be glad to get through today without further time loss and hopeful of finding better form as the race heads into the second weekend.
3. Whittling down of the GC outsiders
The first summit finish of a Grand Tour always helps to shape the GC and whittle down the list of potential contenders, and Mount Etna proved no different.
Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data), Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) all came into the Giro with the hope of achieving a decent position in the GC but were all dropped with 11km remaining.
Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac), Maximllian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors), and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) were also among those to lose time and now the top 10 looks a lot more like you’d expect it to look nearly a week into a Grand Tour.
4. Finally a fast start
Looking ahead to this stage you might have expected all the action to come on the final climb to Etna, but in fact the early stages provided plenty of action too.
While in previous days the break has simply rolled off the front as soon as the flag dropped, stage six saw a real dogfight as pretty much every team tried to get a man up the road.
That meant an average speed of 46kph for the first hour – not incredibly high but still pretty quick for the rolling Sicilian roads that the race was covering.
5. Big teams in the break
And when the break did eventually go clear there were a whopping 28 riders involved, including riders from almost all of the teams of all of the major GC contenders.
That included a team-mate of pink jersey Rohan Dennis, with Alessandro De Marchi strangely taking turns at the front of the break even as the rest of the BMC squad were on the front of the peloton trying to chase the break down, but no one from Astana, meaning that the been in light blue had to do a significant amount of chasing on behalf of Miguel Angel Lopez.
You might have thought that putting men up the road was part of a ploy to have domestique available on Etna for the big GC riders to ride up to, but the pace was so high that many, such as David de la Cruz, were simply dropped like a stone when they were caught by the peloton and only Robert Gesink was able to do any sort of work for team leader George Bennett.