Spain's Francisco Ventoso won the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday, while Dutch rider Pieter Weening of Rabobank held on to the overall leader's pink jersey. Movistar's Ventoso won a sprint finish on a slight hill ahead of Italy's Alessandro Petacchi, winner of Sunday's second stage at Parma, after the 216km hilly run around the Latium region of Rome. Italy's Roberto Ferrari finished third ahead of compatriot Danilo Di Luca, who had launched an attack on the final 1km climb before being caught.
"It was one of the stages that I had imagined in my head in this Giro," said Ventoso, after achieving his first Giro stage win. "Alessandro (Petacchi) was behind me, I felt that he was trying to overtake me and I was afraid that he'd overtake me. Luckily it didn't happen that way. Now I hope to achieve another good result," added the 29-year-old, who won the Paris-Brussels race last year, and achieved his fifth success of this season.
Lampre rider Petacchi admitted he made a bad mistake in his strategy. "Danilo Di Luca accelerated very strong in the final kilometer. I took off in pursuit and I let Ventoso overtake me on purpose. But in the end I found myself 'dry'. I couldn't overtake him. I hoped he'd weaken but with 40 meters to go I knew. There were quite a few climbs on this stage. Maybe he climbs better than me, in any case he was in better shape."
The stage was controlled early by a breakaway group of five riders that included Jussi Veikkanen, Kristof Vandewalle, Frederik Veuchelen, Sacha Modolo and Yaroslav Popovych. The break built up a lead of nearly six minutes at the half-way point. After a big effort from Ukraine's Popovych, it was Belgian Vandewalle who prolonged the effort until 1500 meters from the line. Britain's Mark Cavendish could not participate in the final sprint as he was already trailing on the climb towards Fiuggi and after holding the pink jersey four days ago is now trailing down the field over 35 minutes behind Weening.
Friday's seventh stage sees the riders head for the hills with a 110km run from Maddaloni to Montevergine di Mercogliano, in which the final 17.1km is at a five percent gradient.