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Team Movistar's Spanish rider Pelayo Sanchez celebrates after crossing the finish line to win the 6th stage of the 107th Giro d'Italia cycling race, 180 km between Torre del lago Puccini in Viareggio and Rapolano Terme, on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Rapalano Terme: Spain’s Pelayo Sanchez of the Movistar team emerged from the dust, gravel and hills after a 180km ride to Rapolano Terme to beat Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe by a bike length in the Giro d’Italia sixth stage on Thursday.

The pair broke away from the main peloton 40km from home accompanied by Australian Lucas Plapp, who took the virtual lead during this stage ensuring the big guns hunted the trio all the way to the line.

The 180km were covered in a mere 4hrs 1min and 8sec of pulsating racing, with the peloton arriving just 29sec adrift despite the hills and the gravel.

This sixth of 21 stages then was raced just as frantically as the previous five on a nervy Giro d’Italia still led by the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.

New triumph

The white gravel roads also feature in the Strade Bianche classic, won by Alaphilippe in 2019, and almost delivered the Quick Step veteran a new triumph.

Pogacar won on the same roads this year and on Thursday was reluctant to allow his overall leader’s pink jersey go as his team relentlessly chased the escape trio, likely denying Alaphilippe a win as the 24-year-old Sanchez closed out faster.

“It was an insane day. The race was out of control the whole stage. It was ridiculous for the first 80km,” third placed Plapp said.

The winner echoed the same sentiment.

“It’s crazy. I don’t have words. All day full gas,” said Sanchez. “I never imagined winning the stage.”

Pogacar leads Geraint Thomas by 46sec and Dani Martinez by 47 ahead of Friday’s long 40km individual time trial that culminates with a climb to the Perugia finish line.