Tim Wellens made it two consecutive Giro d'Italia stage victories for Lotto-Belisol with a devastating solo attack out of the day-long breakaway, while the general classification saw some slight shaking up as Tom Dumoulin preserved his maglia rosa and gained a handful of seconds over some of the big names.
The Giro's sixth stage, across Molise to the mountains of Abruzzo, was a day for the breakaway as the peloton took the foot off the gas following the descent off the climb to Bocca della Selva. Wellens and teammate Pim Ligtart, joined all day by Eugert Zhupa of Wilier-Southeast, Alessandro Bisolti of Nippo Fantini and Laurent Didier of Trek-Segafredo, got themselves a nice healthy lead (nearly eight minutes) as the peloton rode piano behind them. Approaching the final 16km of mostly gentle climbing from Castel di Sangro, Ligtart dropped away. Didier almost immediately attempted to go clear, and when the group came back to him it was Wellens' turn to go (following a minute of very puzzling, wobbly riding), with only Didier able to respond at all, if faintly. Zhupa and Albania's hopes of a stage win faded straight away, as did Bisolti, to be swept up by the heads of state in the final kilometer.
Behind them, Astana took over the front of the race as soon as it went up. With under 13km Jakob Fuglsang, a secondary GC threat, took off and left the peloton behind, forcing Giant-Alpecin to take over the chase to save the magila rosa for Tom Dumoulin. Kanstantin Siutsou of Dimension Data bridged across as well, giving Dumoulin multiple threats to his status to worry about. Movistar took over with 7km remaining as the gap to Fuglsang and Siutsou approached 40 seconds, and brought them back into the picture.
Vincenzo Nibali took a short jab at his rivals with an attack at 2.5km to go, but Mikel Landa brought him back whereupon Dumoulin attacked, with Domenico Pozzovivo and Ilnur Zakarin for company. That three caught Siutsou and Fuglsang, putting the other favorites under pressure, and Fuglsang rolled in second on the day. Nibali's effort cost him precious seconds as well as the top dog status on his team, for now, though it's still very early in this Giro.
Wellens, for his part, gains a precious victory, his first in a grand tour, in a style we are accustomed to from the Belgian, attacking alone. Northern teams continue to dominate this Giro d'Italia, and for Dumoulin his combination of early form and a looming time trial might mean a long stay in pink. Esteban Chaves improved his standing a bit, as did Dumoulin, Siutsou and Pozzovivo. The losers on the day were definitely Mikel Landa, who now lies over a minute back on GC,
- Tim Wellens, Lotto-Soudal, 4:40:05
- Jakob Fuglsang, Astana, at 1:19
- Ilnur Zakarin, Katusha, at 1:19
- Tom Dumoulin, Giant-Alpecin, at 1:22
- Kanstantsin Siutsou, Dimension Data, at 1:24
- Domenico Pozzovivo, AG2R, 1:24
- Jhoan Esteban Chaves, Orica-GreenEdge, at 1:29
- Rigoberto Uran, Cannondale, at 1:33
- Rafal Majka, Tinkoff, at 1:33
- Alejandro Valverde, Movistar, at 1:36
- Fuglsang, at 0.26
- Zakarin, at 0.28
- Bob Jungels, EQS, at 0.35
- Steven Kruijswijk, LottoNL-Jumbo, at 0.38
- Valverde, at 0.41
- Diego Ulissi, Lampre, s.t.
- Chaves, at 0.44
- Vincenzo Nibali, Astana, at 0.47
- Siutsou, at 0.49