Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) took his first grand tour stage victory on the climb to Roccaraso to claim the win in stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia. He attacked at the foot of the climb after bridging to the early break midway through the stage, and finished the day 1:19 ahead of overall contenders Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha). Overall leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin) finished in fourth place, just three seconds further back to extend his lead in the general classification, while a number of overall contenders, including Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) lost over 20 seconds to Dumoulin.
It was yet another eventful day in the Giro as the pelotong took on the 157 kilometre stage from Ponte to Roccaraso. It promised to be a challenging one, with a category two climb being crested at 54 kilometres before the final category two ascent to the finish line in Roccaraso.
An early break, containing Alessandro Bisolti (Nippo – Vini Fantini), Eugert Zhupa (Wilier Trestina-Southeast), and Alexandr Kolobnev (Gazprom-Rusvelo) managed to open up a gap of close to seven minutes. However, once Giant Alpecin moved to the front of the peloton to control the time gap it quickly came down to just around the minute mark, with some 85 kilometres still to go, as Kolobnev slipped back to the peloton. This led to an easing in the peloton as they were not keen on bringing the break back that quickly, and the gap moved back out to three minutes with some 72 kilometres to go.
Back in the peloton there were a couple of other riders who felt that they had missed out, and a counter attack went clear of the peloton containing Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal), his team mate Tim Wellens, and Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo).
The group quickly opened up a two minute gap on the peloton, and by the 60 kilometre mark they had merged with the initial break, and were holding an advantage of over five minutes on the peloton. The break continued to work well, stretching out their lead to the eight minute mark, and making a stage win a very definite possibility for the better climbers in the move.
As they hit the foot of the final climb, the break held a lead of around six and a half minutes, as Ligthart, who had been doing a lot of the work for team mate Wellens, pulled off to leave the climbers to it. Didier was the first from the break to launch an attack, putting Zhupa in difficulty, before Wellens launched the decisive attack with some 15 kilometres left to go.
Back in the peloton things were starting to heat up as Astana attacked, but not with Nibali as might have been expected. Instead, with was Fuglsang heading up the road with 13 kilometres still to go. Kanstantin Suitsou (Dimension Data) was the next significant move out of a greatly reduced peloton, and he quickly joined up with Fuglsang, some 30 seconds ahead of the peloton, which was being led by Giant Alpecin.
At the front Wellens was still holding on, with Didier and Bisolti now riding together behind him. Fuglsang meanwhile was moving into the virtual pink jersey as he had built up enough of a gap over race leader Dumoulin, as Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) launched an attack from the peloton behind with some four kilometres left to go. However, Sky chased him down, and just as he was about to be brought to heel it was the race leader himself, Dumoulin, who launched a searing attack, with only Zakarin and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) able to join him.
Dumoulin and his trio quickly made it over to the duo of Suitsou and Fuglsang, while at the front of the race Wellens crossed the line for the first grand tour stage win of his career. Fuglsang led the way to the line, taking second place ahead of Zakarin, with Dumoulin in fourth, just ahead of Suitsou and Pozzovivo.
Although there were no massive time losses among the overall contenders, losing 20 seconds or more on a stage that was not supposed to be that hard, to a rider who still claims that he is nor really there racing for the overall, must be somewhat worrying to the likes of Nibali, Landa, and Hesjedal.