RBA/AFP, Photo: Bettini

Belgium’s Tim Wellens enjoyed a red letter day on the Giro d’Italia on Thursday with his maiden Grand Tour stage win as Tom Dumoulin held onto the leader’s pink jersey. The 25-year-old Wellens broke early and powered up the final 18 kilometer climb to Roccaraso to come home alone after the 157km sixth stage.

On the 2016 Giro’s first gentle taste of mountain air Dumoulin held off challengers for his pink jersey, finishing fourth. Looking in good shape the Dutch rider took a fistful of seconds off some of
the main contenders for outright victory like Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, and Spanish duo Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde.

“My attack was not planned but I saw Nibali going so I went too,” said the Team Giant leader. “I really surprised myself. I was stronger than I expected. I didn’t think I’d be in that shape for climbing. It was not a high mountain but it was still a proper climb.”

Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang got closest to Wellens, the Danish rider reaching the race’s first summit finish in second, 1min19sec behind, with Russian Ilnur Zakarin on his rear wheel in third. In the overall standings Dumoulin now leads Fuglsang by 26sec, with Valverde 41s away and Nibali 47.

Wellens made his stage-winning move 15km out, when he slipped free from his companions in the breakaway, first Eugert Zhupa and Alessandro Bisolti and then Laurent Didier and Pim Ligthart. “I have Pim Ligthart to thank,” he said. “It was his idea to go away together at that point in the race.

“Then we bridged the gap to the leaders. I’m enormously happy with this victory. It’s a little bit of a surprise.”

One of the rising stars of Belgian cycling Wellens was giving himself the perfect present to mark his birthday on Tuesday. Up to this point he had come in second twice in stages on his first Giro in
2014, won last year’s Grand Prix de Montreal, and claimed the closing stage in this year’s Paris-Nice. He celebrated his career high by picking up his bike and waving it over his head.

Friday’s seventh stage is a 211km ride from Sulmona to Foligno favoring the sprinters despite a second category climb.


1. Tim Wellens (BEL/LOT) 157km en 4hr 40min 05sec, 2. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN/AST) at 1min 19sec, 3. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 1:19, 4. Tom Dumoulin (NED/GIA) 1:22, 5. Kanstantsin Siutsou (BLR/DDT) 1:24, 6. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) 1:24, 7. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) 1:29, 8. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) 1:33, 9. Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) 1:33, 10. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 1:36, 11. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/LNL) 1:36, 12. Sergey Firsanov (RUS/RVL) 1:39, 13. Bob Jungels (LUX/ETI) 1:41, 14. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 1:43, 15. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/TRE) 1:43.

1. Tom Dumoulin (NED/GIA) 24:22:15, 2. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN/AST) at 0:26sec, 3. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 0:28, 4. Bob Jungels (LUX/ETI) 0:35, 5. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/LNL) 0:38, 6. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:41, 7. Diego Ulissi (ITA/LAM) 0:41, 8. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) 0:44, 9. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 0:47, 10. Kanstantsin Siutsou (BLR/DDT) 0:49, 11. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) 0:51, 12. Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) 0:56, 13. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) 0:56, 14. Rein Taaramae (EST/KAT) 1:06,15. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 1:08.

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