Silvan Dillier times it to perfection
Few would have predicted a win for BMC Racing‘s Silvan Dillier at the start of today’s Giro d’Italia stage, but the Swiss rider produced a perfect display in the final few kilometres to take his first Grand Tour stage win.
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After a long day in the breakaway and with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) the biggest name in the break, Dillier produced a first show of power when he quickly closed down an attack from Stuyven with 5.5km to go.
For a rider with only one professional win on his palmarès, he then played it incredibly cool in the final drag towards the finish, forcing Stuyven to close a gap to the wheel of stage one winner Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) with 800m to go, then refusing to be coaxed onto the front.
Finally, his sprint for the line was perfectly timed, resisting the urge to jump early even with the finish in sight, catching Stuyven by surprise and edging him out by half a wheel.
Stuyven misses out
Despite taking the stage win, Silvan Dillier probably wasn’t the strongest rider to contest the finish, a title that should instead go to Jasper Stuyven.
Stuyven had benefited greatly from the work of young team-mate Mads Pedersen, who had been putting in bigger turns than anyone else in the break for much of the day, enabling the Belgian to reach the end of a fast 217km stage still with enough energy to attack with 5.5km to go.
That move didn’t come off, and with 500m remaining Stuyven found himself on the front of the three leading riders, doing the correct thing to put himself close against the barriers on the right hand side of the road, but only keeping an eye on Pöstlberger while Dillier sat on his wheel.
With 200m to go Stuyven took a look over his left shoulder, before turning forward, and at that moment Dillier jumped.
In the second it took Stuyven to react it was too late, and although he was able to come alongside his Swiss rival in the final 50m, he was left frustrated and slamming his bars as he was forced to settle for second.
Cannondale-Drapac and Wilier Triestina work hard for little reward
Most of today’s stage consisted of Cannondale-Drapac and Wilier Triestina riding incredibly hard on the front of the bunch after missing the break.
However all that hard work was for naught as they were not able to make any in-roads into the break’s lead and both team’s slipped back through the bunch on the fourth category climb with 22km remaining.
There was some consolation for Cannondale as Michael Woods led the bunch across the line in fifth place, but this just shows what might have been if they’d been able bring the break’s advantage down earlier in the day.
GC contenders play it cool
If the break had been brought back, then the finish (and the bonus seconds) could have been contested by the GC contenders.
But as it was they were left to scrap it out for fifth place, with only Woods putting in any real effort to cross the line at the head of the peloton.
Still, it was telling who was towards the front of the bunch on the final run to the line, and on the climb with five kilometres to go, with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) all looking particularly comfortable, while Mikel Landa (Team Sky), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) sat further back.
None lost time, but it would certainly be better for morale to be at the front of that group rather than the back.
A fast day in the saddle
Especially in the opening few days on Sardinia, the peloton has enjoyed a few leisurely days so far at the Giro d’Italia, with stage finishes past 6pm local time not uncommon.
However stage six was contested at high speed from the start, with a cross-tailwind helping to get the riders to the finish ahead of the race organiser’s fastest schedule.
This is even more impressive when you consider that the breakaway stayed away, meaning what was effectively a 217km team time trial to cover the course quicker than race organisers had expected a full bunch to do it in.