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Thomas Dekker moved closer to the biggest win of his short career when he finished in the pack behind stage-winner Leonardo Bertagnolli on the sixth stage into Torricella Sicura. With just Tuesday's final stage to negotiate, 21-year-old Dekker retains a 14-second advantage over Jrg Jaksche, with Alessandro Ballan a further six seconds back in third.
As expected, Monday's stage was rescheduled because of bad weather in the Abruzzo mountains. Instead of the planned San Giacomo summit finish, the stage concluded with five laps of a 14.5km circuit in Torricella Sicura. Dekker's Rabobank team-mates kept tight control on the race, allowing one five-man break a two-minute advantage at halfway but quickly shutting down any late attempts once that had been brought back.
When Bertagnolli launched his attack just 800 metres from the line, it was Rabobank's interests to let the Italian get clear and take the 10 bonus seconds for winning. However, Milram's Alessandro Petacchi will have been less pleased as he won the bunch sprint contested by about 30 riders but could not catch Bertagnolli before the line.
Now resident in Italy at Lido di Camaiore, Dekker has been tipped for big things by his coach, Luigi Cecchini, who has said the Dutchman will "win the Tour de France within the next three or four seasons".
Asked why he decided to up sticks from Holland and move to Italy, Dekker, one of procycling's Fab 4 last season, quipped: "The cols are longer than in Holland, the weather's better, they serve the pasta al dente and the ice cream's good. And, of course, the women are beautiful in Italy."
Although many of Dekker's rivals are regretting the loss of the San Giacomo finish, it seems likely given the Rabobank rider's form and that of team-mates such as Michael Boogerd and Juan Antonio Flecha that he could have held on there anyway.
Stage 6, San Benedetto del Tronto-Torricella Sicura
1 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis 179km in 4.40.40 (38.91kph)
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Milram
3 Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval
4 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step
5 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Barloworld
6 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
7 Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr) LPR
8 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
9 Peio Arreitunandia (Spa) Barloworld
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
15 Thomas Dekker (Hol) Rabobank
1 Thomas Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 23.09.24
2 Jrg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros 0.14
3 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre 0.20
4 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.40
5 Michael Boogerd (Hol) Rabobank 0.46
6 Bertagnolli 0.54
7 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
8 Karsten Kroon (Hol) CSC 0.59
9 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel
10 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 1.01
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