On another hot and beautiful day in spectacular scenery, the 2013 Giro Rosa entered the final mountain day, where Mara Abbott of the USA National Team would fight to keep the maglia rosa, while the rest of the General Classification contenders would try to stop her.
Once more, the best climbers in the world were demonstrating their abilities, but there was a different kind of shuffle in the GC, with a surprise disqualification at the end of the stage - while the middle of the race brought the most touching moment of the Giro so far.
Stage 6 results: Order of arrival
- Mara Abbott (USA National Team) 3hr16'01"
- Claudia Hausler (Tibco To The Top) 24"
- Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fasso Bortolo) 34"
- Fabiana Luperini (Faren Kuota) 41"
- Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giordana) 1'03"
- Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) 1'32"
- Marianne Vos (Rabobank) 1'39"
- Shara Gillow (Orica Ais) 1'46"
- Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto Belisol) 1'52"
- Yegvenia Vysotska (Sc Michela Fanini Rox) 1'53"
Like Stage 5, the route of Stage 6 finished on a long climb, but it was a different kind of parcours. The stage, in the most northern province of Italy, Verbanio-Cusio-Ossola, started from Terme di Premia, 800m above sea-level, with 20km of descending, before running for around 40km along the Toce valley to the western tip of Lake Maggiore, and then back again along the other side of the river, before climbing for around 11km to the ski resort at San Domenico - 121km in total.
Once more it was fast from the start, with Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv/giant) attacking almost immediately. This was typical behaviour from Vos - although she had lost the maglia rosa after Stage 5, and was 3'20" behind the new race leader, Mara Abbott, she wasn't going to give up without a fight, and while it was very unlikely she'd stay away, of course she had to try.
Despite the fact this was a tactic everyone must have been expecting, only three riders went with her - Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini-Giordana), who's attacked on every stage, American sprinter Shelley Olds (Tibco), and racing to support her Rabobank team leader, Lucinda Brand. Although they gained time, the descent wasn't technical enough to let them gain any real advantage, and with a very fast pace - averaging 49.4kph in the first half an hour - the peloton neutralised the breakaway once the road flattened out.
Soon after the four were caught, another break of nine riders had their turn, staying free until the last 10km. The USA National Team had kept tight control, even though there were no threats to their maglia rosa, within the first few kilometres of the climb the break was caught. From here it was all about the climbers. Where the climb on Stage 5 was a relentless drag, this one was an average 7.8%, with the last 4km being the most difficult.
A group of around 18, with most of the GC top 10 soon thinned out - Vos was dropped, but came back and was dropped again, until it was Mara Abbott, Fabiana Luperini (Faren), Evelyn Stevens (lululemon), Best Young Rider Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo), Claudia Häusler (Tibco) and Tatiana Guderzo (Cipollini) - a group with 7 Giro and a World Champion's title between them.
Once again Abbott's attack was the only one to get away, despite Stevens trying to follow - she broke away in the difficult last 4km, to win solo, taking her second stage and, barring disasters, the overall maglia rosa.
The chasers suffered up the climb behind her - while Vos took advantage of areas where the road flattened, to make sure she didn't lose too much time.
General classifications after Stage 6:
- Mara Abbott (USA National Team) 17h14'34"
- Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giordana) +2'40"
- Claudia Hausler (Tibco To The Top) +2'55"
- Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) +3'10"
- Shara Gillow (Orica Ais) +4'50"
Cauz cemented her lead as Best Young Rider, Abbott overtook ORICA's Tiffany Cromwell in the Queen of the Mountains competition, and Vos kept her lead in the Points competition.
You may notice something from the results - the lack of Fabiana Luperini. She had finished fourth, just behind Cauz, but at the end of the stage, the first five riders had their bikes weighed and Luperini's was found to be under-weight, 6.6kg instead of the regulation 6.8kg - and the 39-year-old five-times Giro winner was disqualified from the race.
Jerseys wearer's after Stage 6:
- Maglia Rosa (General classifications) Mara Abbott (USA National Team)
- Purple Jersey (Points classification) Marianne Vos (Rabobank)
- White Jersey (Youth classification) Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fasso Bortolo)
- Green Jersey (Queen of the Mountains) Mara Abbott (USA National Team)
- Blue Jersey (Best Italian rider) Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giordana)