Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

UAE Team Emirates rider Valerio Conti claims overall Giro d'Italia lead

Fellow Italian Fausto Masnada wins the 238km sixth stage from Cassino to San Giovanni Rotondo

Valerio Conti celebrates on the podium after taking the pink jersey as the overall leader of the Giro d'Italia. AFP
Valerio Conti celebrates on the podium after taking the pink jersey as the overall leader of the Giro d'Italia. AFP

UAE Team Emirates rider Valerio Conti grabbed the overall lead at the Giro d'Italia on Thursday as fellow Italian Fausto Masnada won the sixth stage as the home fans were given two reasons to celebrate.

"For an Italian rider, it's fantastic," Conti said.

The two men had been part of a 13-man breakaway which was never chased by the peloton. Primoz Roglic, who started the day in the lead, cruised in with the pack, seven minute and 18 seconds behind Masnada.

Masnada finished the rolling 238km stage from Cassino to San Giovanni Rotondo in five hours, 45 minutes and one second. Conti crossed the line, tiredly punching the air, five seconds later.

Masnada, a 25-year-old with the second division Italian Androni-Sidermec team, is only in his second Giro and was an unlikely candidate to provide a first home victory in this year's race.

"I'm delighted," Masnada said at the finish. "I've done it. I knew I was in good shape but it's hard to win at the Giro d'Italia and I've done it. I dedicate the win to my uncle, who died just before the Giro d'Italia started."

"It was our team's goal to win a stage."

Conti was part of the original seven-man escape after 49 kilometres. Masnada, was part of a six-man pursuit that caught the leaders a few kilometres later.

With no long-term threats in the breakaway, the leading teams seemed happy to lend out the pink jersey.

"When the breakaway goes that was the plan," said Antwan Tolhoek one of Roglic's Jumbo-Visma teammates.

Conti grabbed his chance. "Very, very happy," he said at the finish. "Repeat, very, very, very, happy."

The two Italians dropped the rest of the breakaway with 29km to go early on the 15km Coppa Casarinelle climb.

While Conti had won one stage in the Spanish Vuelta in 2016 and was better placed in the general classification, Masnada was chasing the biggest stage victory of his career.

Masnada, who looked stronger, briefly tried to shake Conti, but, with the pink jersey awaiting, the UAE man held on grimly.

After a chat, the two worked together until the final kilometre, although Masnada had a scare when he had to swerve to avoid a dog.

By the final kilometre, the pair had 34 seconds over their pursuers and Conti was happy to pull Masnada to the line.

"I was targeting both stage win and the pink jersey but Fausto Masnada is an incredibly strong rider," Conti said. "I'm very happy with what I got."

"This is my first time leading a stage race. I'm thrilled."

In the provisional general classification the top 10 is made up of men from the breakaway. Conti leads another Italian, Giovanni Carboni of Bardani, by 1min 41sec with Frenchman Nans Peters of AG2R 2min 9sec off the lead in third. Roglic is 11th at 5min 24sec.

Roglic had a painful crash after 34 km. The Slovenian landed on his backside and ripped his shorts. He climbed back onto his bike with a nasty circle of road rash clearly visible on his exposed right buttock.

After being patched up in the saddle while leaning on the medical car, he rode back to the pack

"Luckily he didn't really get worse," Tolhoek said.

Updated: May 16, 2019 08:47 PM

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