Stunned Pelayo Sanchez savours Giro d'Italia stage win as Pogacar remains in pole position

Spaniard takes honours on Thursday as UAE team Emirates rider maintains 46-second lead over Geraint Thomas

Spanish rider Pelayo Sanchez celebrates after winning Stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia on May 9, 2024. AFP
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An incredulous Pelayo Sanchez won Stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia while UAE team Emirates rider Tadej Pocagar remained the overall lead on Thursday after riding on white, dusty gravel roads made famous by the Strade Bianche race.

Sanchez edged fellow breakaway riders Julian Alaphilippe and Luke Plapp in a sprint at the end of the 180 kilometer route from Torre Del Lago Puccini – on the outskirts of Viareggio – to Rapolano Terme.

Sanchez was stunned by his achievement and kept shaking his head and putting his hands over his face. The Spaniard repeatedly said, “I can’t believe it,” as he was hugged by his Movistar teammates.

His first victory in a Grand Tour, on his Giro debut, came just over a year after Sanchez's first professional win.

“This is amazing, I don’t have words. Crazy, crazy day for me," the 24-year-old said. "Since the start of the Giro, I tried to save energy because I knew I didn’t have the shape to be in the front in the first days.

“So, I tried to save energy for today and today I could be in the breakaway. But I could never imagine to win here the stage. For me, it’s crazy. I don’t have words.”

Pogacar, the two-time Tour de France champion, finished safely in the peloton to remain 46 seconds ahead of Geraint Thomas and 47 seconds ahead of Daniel Martinez.

It was a tricky stage. The first half was largely flat but the second part had three sectors of white gravel that give the Strade Bianche race its name, as well as two classified climbs.

Pogacar claimed his second Strade Bianche victory two months ago but said he was happy to let the breakaway stay out front on Thursday, after a handful of riders finally escaped on the fourth-category climb to Volterra, shortly before the halfway point.

The escapees built their advantage to over three minutes on the approach to the first gravel sector before the peloton reeled them in. There were just three left up front as Sanchez led them across the line, 29 seconds ahead of Pogacar and the rest of the contenders.

“For us it was perfect if they stay away, we were always riding normal pace when it was flat sections and on the climbs rolling,” Pogacar said. "We didn’t want to spend too much energy, so we were happy with that breakaway.

“For me was OK. Good stage. I’m happy that it’s over. And, it was, enjoyable to ride again these gravel roads, but, I prefer Strade Bianche.”

Friday’s Stage 7 is the first of only two individual time trials. The 40.6km route from Foligno to Perugia ends in a fourth-category climb. “Today I had good legs, so yeah let’s see what I can do tomorrow,” Pogacar added.

Updated: May 09, 2024, 5:01 PM