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Vincenzo Nibali excited fans from his hometown Messina to Milan with his attack on the Giro d'Italia's stage to Orvieto. He used the knowledge he gained from multiple reconnaissance trips to put his rivals in danger and further distance race leader David Millar.

"I tried it and re-tried it in training with my team-mates Eros Capecchi and Valerio Agnoli. In fact, they were helpful in keeping me in contention today for the final," the Sicilian told Cycling Weekly. "It's was a difficult day, but we handled it well, trying not to lose time."

Nibali of team Liquigas attacked in the first of three white gravel sectors, the famous Strade bianche that dot the Tuscan and Umbrian hillsides. He motored ahead, used ever metre of the road when corning and bunny hopped off the gravel at the end of the sector. It was a thrilling ride, the first move by a classification favourite on the fifth day of the three-week race. However, it came to an end after a few kilometres, when he realised his work was futile.

He finished the 191-kilometre leg from Piombino to Orvieto in sixth, eight seconds back from the winner and new race leader, Pieter Weening (Rabobank). In his group were other overall favourites: Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana) - placed seventh to 10th.

"I am going well in these days, and these finishes are more or less suited to me, with the small climbs," he said to Italian television. "I am not a super sprinter, but I knew there was a big curve in the last 200 metes. I thought, try to stay ahead and go for the bonus seconds. I jumped, but Contador and Kreuziger smart to follow my wheel. The Giro still needs to start."

Danilo Di Luca, who doped during the race two years ago, said after the stage, "The Giro d'Italia is a road race, so we should ride on the road." Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi was also upset with the use of gravel roads. Nibali, however, reconnoitred the stage and used the difficulties to his advantage.

"I tried not to lose any time given what happened last year," Nibali continued. "So, I shot to the front and tried to say there."

He lost his leader's pink jersey last year when the race travelled over similar roads to Montalcino in Tuscany. Rain made the white gravel a brown mud and helped cause a crash with him and team-mate Ivan Basso.

"It was better off this way [with the dust], it made for a great stage. I knew there was a rider up head, I shot off to try to take him, but it was too difficult.

"Contador?" he added to Cycling Weekly. "It's difficult to drop him, he's going strongly."

Some possible overall favourites did lose time today, including 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, 2007 Giro winner Di Luca and last year's best young rider, Richie Porte.

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2011 Giro to start in Turin with team time trial

Giro goes one up on the Tour with spectacular route

Nygaard, Sciandri and Lloyd comment on 2011 Giro route

Nibali's Giro d'Italia?

Giro d'Italia 2011: Stage reports

Stage five: Weening holds on to take stage and maglia rosa

Stage four: Tearful Farrar and Leopard-Trek lead riders across stage four finish line

Stage three: Vicioso victory overshadowed by Weylandt crash

Stage two: Petacchi wins as Cavendish takes lead

Stage one: HTC-Highroad wins Giro's opening team time trial

Giro d'Italia 2011: Photo galleries

Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson

Giro d'Italia 2011: Live text coverage

Giro d'Italia 2011 stage five live text updates

Follow the 2011 Giro d'Italia live with Cycling Weekly

Giro d'Italia 2011: Start list

Giro d'Italia 2011: Start list

Giro d'Italia 2011: TV schedule

Giro d'Italia 2011: British Eurosport TV schedule

Related links

Giro d'Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index

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