Crash Mars Stage 6 of Giro d'Italia; Matthews Takes Win
Stage 6 of the 2014 Giro d'Italia was supposed to be a competitive stage but not a standing shaker. However, a series of crashes toward the end of the 257-km ride from Sassano to Monte Cassino has shaken up the Giro. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) took a four-up sprint to win the stage in 6:37:01, and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) outsprinted Cadel Evans (BMC) for second. Matthews remains the maglia rosa.
The race organizers lengthened the stage by 10 km because of a landslide. The break of the day wasted little time in forming, with Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF), Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo), and Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) sallying off of the front. By 60 km, the quartet’s lead had ballooned to 60 km. Sky chased for a long time, and Orica-GreenEdge, Giant-Shimano, and Trek lent muscle to bring back the break.
For most of the stage, the riders rode in fair weather, but rain started falling in the last 30 km. The peloton accelerated to reel in the break, which it did with 12 km remaining. As the climb to the finish approached, the riders began battling for position at the front. And then, all hell broke loose.
At least two crashes struck the peloton, and at least a dozen riders went down. Every team had riders who were in the crash or were delayed by it. Katusha might have suffered most, with Gianpaolo Caruso abandoning with hip and leg contusions, captain Joaquim Rodriguez finishing the stage but then abandoning with broken ribs and a left thumb fracture, and Angel Vicioso calling it a Giro with a fractured femur. In addition, Janez Brajkovic (Astana) and Davide Villella (Cannondale) abandoned. Many other riders, such as Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) and Rick Flens (Belkin), suffered severe road rash. Only eight riders got clear of the carnage.
Those eight riders went on with the race. They were Matthews, Luke Durbridge, and Ivan Santamorita (all from Orica-GreenEdge); Daniel Oss, Steve Morabito, and Evans (all from BMC); Wellens; and Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo). The octet immediately forged a 30-second lead. Oss and Morabito hammered for Evans, and Durbridge and Santamorita did the same for Matthews. Behind, Movistar tried to organize a chase on behalf of Nairo Quintana, but the leaders were staying clear. In the last km, Evans took over at the front. Matthews, Wellens and Rabottini followed, with Matthews and Wellens passing the BMC man in the final m.
The crashes wreaked havoc on the GC. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank), Quintana, Michele Scarponi (Astana), and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) lost between 1:00 and 1:15. Nicolas Roche, Majka’s teammate, lost 15 minutes and is out of contention. The directeurs sportifs have been sent back to the drawing board.
Matthews was elated to take a victory from Evans on an uphill finish. “It was all for the win today. Fair play. It was me against him [Cadel Evans] for the jersey and the stage, and I was lucky enough to have really good legs in the final after my team put me in the perfect condition at the bottom of the climb. On this sort of terrain, it’s definitely my best win, and totally a dream come true. Winning a hilltop finish over Cadel Evans while wearing the maglia rosa in the Giro d’Italia: It doesn’t get much better than that.”
As for the conditions that produced the crash, Matthews said the following: “Everyone wanted to be in the front because of the wet conditions. The road narrowed before the roundabout, we were riding at 60 kph, and everyone wanted to be in the front. If you’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, you’re okay. That’s racing these days. It’s all about positioning.”
Evans said he heard the noise of a crash behind him, but did not look back in order to stay upright himself. "It was only when I saw our group was so small and the types of riders that were there that, that it wasn't because of the normal racing conditions that we had a selection like that unfortunately," Evans explained.
"The communication in the final isn't clear and to make rational decisions for such an unexpected situation isn't easy," Evans said. "Our job is to race and to race to the finish. That's the first thing on our mind. What happened behind, I really have no idea. I haven't seen it. Unfortunately, it has been a very bad day for some of the riders."
In the overall, Matthews leads Evans by 0:21 and Uran by 1:18. Stage 7 will not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 218-km ride from Frosinone to Foligno will feature two Category 4 ascents but will end with a flat run to the finish, which should give a sprinter a chance to win. Who will it be? Elia Viviani (Cannondale)? Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr)? Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!