MACERATA, Italy (VN) – Cadel Evans clawed his way to the top of Macerata’s Rampa Zara ahead of his top GC rivals Monday to triumph in stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico. The BMC Racing rider countered a late acceleration by Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottol) onto the steep, cobbled finish straight and held off Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) to defend his leaders jersey.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Scarponi dislodged Evans low on the terraced climb to the finish, but appeared to sit up 200 meters from the line. That hesitation allowed Visconti to surge past, Evans a meter behind. The maglia azzura aced the final, right-hand corner 170 meters from the finish and took control.
“I tried to anticipate them at corner and carry extra speed through last two corners,” said Evans. “Everyone did their job today, but especially (teammates) Ballan and Hincapie. This win is a big compliment to them.”
The 182km course, which organizers revised due to flooding from last week’s torrential rains, finished with nearly four laps of a tough 15km circuit. In each lap, riders felt the teeth of the rough roads and the Madonna del Monte and Borgo San Giuliano climbs. In the final lap, the 18-percent maximum ramps led to a 160-degree left-hand corner and the final, 90-degree bend onto the finish straight. It was there that the race was made.
Scarponi’s Lampre squad put six riders on the front of the roughly 40-rider lead group in the second lap. When their top-placed GC rider Damiano Cunego suffered a mishap 24km from the finish, the pink and blue Italians sent three riders back to support his recovery.
That effort would be one too many for Cunego.
First, however, the Lampre train drew in the early escapees Bert Grabsch (HTC-Highroad) and Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil). The pair held on all the way until the penultimate circuit around Macerata. By then gritting to crawl up Borgo San Giuliano wall, Bozic turned for a look over his left shoulder as Scarponi led the maglia azzura group past them 16km too soon.
After being caught out of position on the first entrance to the circuits, Evans’ teammate Alessandro Ballan and later George Hincapie went to the front of the group in the final lap. Hincapie led the group into the final two kilometers where first Cunego then Angel Madrazo (Moviestar) led out the first attacks. Neither move troubled Evans or Scarponi and when Cunego faded to the team cars, Scarponi was isolated for the first time this week.
As they neared the top of Leopardi and the final corners below the Piazza della Libertà, the top GC favorites crouched in their saddles, flagging their shoulders back and forth. Scarponi and Thomas Lövkvist (Sky) led the chase of Ruiz, Tiago Machado (RadioShack) attempting to bridge. Evans sat patiently in the wheel until Scarponi jumped onto his pedals and surged ahead of the sharp left-hander 240 meters from the finish. Nibali jumped onto the wheel and the pair had a quick five-second gap.
“With Scarponi’s attacks, I see he’s — I don’t know if he’s at his best level yet — but he’s further progressed than I am,” said Evans. “His accelerations on the climbs are incredible.”
Winning the stage would have landed Scarponi in the jersey with the 10-second time bonus, but the pair appeared to back off the accelerator.
When Visconti jumped into pursuit, Evans fought through a squeeze from Sunday’s winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) to match him and made the winning move around the final corner as he came into view of the thousands packing the plaza.
“I had a moment I wanted to be in front and fortunately I had the legs to be there,” said Evans. “Last year got a bit squeezed in the corner and had to brake into the finish straight.”
Evans went to the front for the first time with 170 meters to go and opened a six-meter gap. He stood low over his bars, churning up to the plaza and across the line. Visconti held on for second, Scarponi for third, with Nibali and teammate Ivan Basso coming fourth and fifth.
Tuesday’s final-stage time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto is pancake flat and short at 9.3km. Evans enters the stage with a nine-second lead over Scarponi. Basso and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) sit at 12 and 15 seconds, respectively. Evans is a strong prologue rider, but said Sunday that a short TT at the end of a stage race is tough to prepare for. Gesink is perhaps the most dangerous rival. Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) will enter the stage as the favorite.
Liquigas’ sprinter Daniel Oss did not start today.
Stage 6 preliminary results:
- 1. Cadel EVANS, (AUS) BMC Racing Team, in 4:37:58
- 2. Giovanni VISCONTI, (ITA) , at s.t.
- 3. Michele SCARPONI, (ITA) Lampre-Farnese Vini, at s.t.
- 4. Vincenzo NIBALI, (ITA) Liquigas-Doimo, at s.t.
- 5. Ivan BASSO, (ITA) Liquigas-Doimo, at s.t.
- 1. Cadel EVANS, (Australia) BMC Racing Team, in 27:26:33
- 2. Michele SCARPONI, (Italy) Lampre-Farnese Vini, at 9
- 3. Ivan BASSO, (Italy) Liquigas-Doimo, at 12
- 4. Robert GESINK, (Netherlands) Rabobank Cycling Team, at 15
- 5. Vincenzo NIBALI, (Italy) Liquigas-Doimo, at 21