This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Colombian rider Miguel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli) produced the best performance of his career to win stage six of the 2012 Giro d’Italia at Porto Sant'Elpidio, as the race headed to the hills for the first time.
The 27-year-old was part of a breakaway group that put some distance between themselves and the peloton early on in the race and he made his bid for glory with around 45km to go. He crossed the line in a time of 5:38:30, earning himself the 20-second time bonus on offer. He also seized control of the mountains classification.
“At first I was just aiming for the mountain points, but then when I heard how far behind the group was I decided to take a risk and try a breakaway, and it went well,” a delighted Rubiano said afterwards.
Lampre-ISD’s Adriano Malori takes over the pink jersey from Garmin-Barracuda’s Ramunas Navardauskas as overall race leader. The Italian finished second in the stage, just edging out Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) for a 12-second bonus that helped to catapult him to the top of the standings and sent the home fans into raptures.
The beautiful walled city of Urbino, which is classified as a World Heritage site, was the starting point for the riders ahead of the 207km stage. Relentless undulations provided the peloton with their first tough assignment of the Giro and the rolling hills certainly left their mark on some of the big names.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), Thor Hushovd (BMC) and Roman Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) all failed to finish, while stage winners Mark Cavendish (Sky) and Taylor Phinney (BMC) trailed home as part of a group that were 33:12 behind Rubiano. Today’s stage had been labelled as the one where the Giro starts in earnest, and it lived up to expectations.
At the 40km point a group of riders had forged almost five minutes clear. Rubiano, Malori and Golas were joined by several others including Alfredo Balloni (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Jack Bauer (Garmin-Barracuda) and Luke Roberts (Saxo Bank), who was the highest placed member of the pack in the overall GC. Just 15km later the gap had widened dramatically to 8:36 as the pressure was applied to the peloton from a long way out.
The first climb, at the 95km point, took its toll on some of the leaders as they lost touch with the other breakaway riders. Surprisingly, Balloni, who led the mountains classification heading into the stage, was one of those to crack.
The race for pink
Adriano Malori rides into the pink jersey
As the stage progressed past the halfway point Liquigas-Cannondale was doing the lion’s share of the work in the main chasing group, looking to protect Ivan Basso and move him into contention. Race leader Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda) appeared to be struggling at one point, but managed to drag himself back onto the tail of the main group with around 70km to go. At this point the calculators came out – for the first time people sensed the possibility that the breakaway group might not be caught. Just how far behind them could Navardauskas finish and hang on to the pink jersey? The Lithuanian was still clinging onto the main peloton but his chances of retaining the jersey were fading fast as he reached the top of the day's third classified climb, the category 3 Montelupone.
Rubiano clinched more mountain points and then committed himself to the finish line from 45km out. His move splintered the breakaway group into two, with Malori, Golas, Cesare Benedetti (Team NetApp) and Alex Dyachenko (Astana) comprising the first chase group ahead of Bauer, Roberts and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha). It appeared that Roberts, who was in 25th position in the GC before the stage, was in pole position for pink if he could hold his position and consolidate the time gap between Rubiano in front and those trying to close behind.
With 27km to go Rubiano was 4:33 ahead of the main chasing peloton and almost a minute clear of the first chasing pack. Garmin-Barracuda made a late bid to drag Ryder Hesjedal to the top of the GC but left it too late. Roberts faded badly in the final few kilometres and as Rubiano crossed the line in splendid isolation to cap the greatest day of his cycling life, eyes immediately switched to the race for second place, that would potentially decide which shoulders the pink jersey would rest on ahead of the Giro’s second weekend.
It was Malori who prevailed, narrowly out-sprinting Golas to claim that 12-second time bonus that lifted him ahead of his Polish rival in the overall GC and ensure that an Italian would be awarded the precious maglia rosa on the podium in Porto Sant'Elpidio.