Cycling-Maeder takes Giro stage six as Bernal, Evenepoel impress

Cycling - Giro d'Italia - Stage 6 - Grotte di Frasassi to Ascoli Piceno (San Giacomo), Italy - May 13, 2021 Ineos Grenadiers rider Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia finishes Stage 6 REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

ASCOLI PICENO, Italy (Reuters) -Swiss Gino Maeder claimed his maiden grand tour victory when he prevailed at the end of a long breakaway on the sixth stage as Egan Bernal underlined his title credentials again on Thursday.

A day after his Bahrain Victorious leader Mikel Landa crashed out of the race, Maeder had just enough left in the tank after 162 km in the rain from Grotte di Frasassi to give his team something to cheer.

Charging up behind him was Colombian Bernal, after the 2019 Tour de France champion had dropped most of the pre-race favourites with two kilometres to go on the final climb to San Giacomo.

Bernal took second place, 12 seconds off the pace with Ireland's Dan Martin and Belgian prospect Remco Evenepoel.

Hungary's Attila Valter limited the damage in the climb to take the overall leader's Maglia Rosa from Alessandro De Marchi, who was caught at the wrong end of a split in the peloton shortly after the stage's midway point.

Valter leads the 21-year-old Evenepoel, back racing for his grand tour debut after an eight-month injury layoff following a crash at the Giro di Lombardia, by 11 seconds.

Bernal, who had already impressed in the first summit finish on Tuesday, is third 16 seconds off the pace, while another pre-race favourite, Briton Simon Yates, lags 49 seconds adrift after failing to follow the Colombian's attack.

American Joe Dombrowski, winner of Tuesday's fourth stage, did not make the start line after suffering a concussion in a crash during the fifth stage on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately today I won't be able to start at the Giro. We did the concussion protocol last night and did a follow up this morning and I didn't pass that, so it's not safe for me today," said Dombrowski.

Belgian Pieter Serry (Deceuninck-Quick Step) was knocked off his bike when the Team Bike Exchange car hit him from behind in the final ascent.

Team Bike Exchange are likely to face sanctions over the incident, which would lead to the team car being kicked out of the race and leave the squad with only one support vehicle.

"Our sport director Gene Bates has spoken directly to Pieter Serry and to Deceuninck-Quick Step to apologise personally following the incident on today's stage 6," Team Bike Exchange said on Twitter.

"We're all happy to see that Pieter was able to finish the stage."

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)

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