Van Hoecke formed part of a seven-rider breakaway immediately after the flag dropped to mark the start of the 195-kilometer stage but with an expected bunch sprint in Jesi on the horizon, the sprinters’ teams didn’t let their advantage grow beyond four minutes.
The race was calm until four laps of the finish circuit, at which point the breakaway was still two minutes ahead when the sprinters’ teams began to increase the pace.
On the second-to-last lap, the breakaway split when Davide Ballerini (Astana Pro Team) and José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar Team) went clear, while Van Hoecke chased solo behind, and the peloton continued their chase one-minute behind.
Van Hoecke was eventually caught approaching the final lap and the leading duo was brought back just three kilometers before the slightly uphill finish line in Jesi.
Van Avermaet had remained attentive at the front of the race and as the sprinters’ teams formed their sprint trains, Van Avermaet was well positioned in around 20th place.
Inside the final kilometer, Van Avermaet put in a big effort to reach the front of the group and slip into third wheel with around 300 meters remaining but was unable to go around Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who was the surprise winner of the day.
Van Avermaet held on for eighth place, his second top ten result of the race, and moved into 18th place on the General Classification.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I wanted to see the finish line first before deciding if I would go for the sprint, but it was quite good for me with a long stretch to the last kilometer and finish. The team did quite a good job to bring me into position I think. I lost my chain with three kilometers to go so there I lost a lot of positions. Then, I came back but that’s why I think I was a bit far to start the sprint. I wanted to anticipate the sprint and go from 500 meters to go, when I came almost in the wheel of the QuickStep guys. I launched my sprint again but it was a pity that I couldn’t get directly in the wheel of Alaphilippe and I maybe could have done better. I’m a little bit disappointed with how it went but super happy with how my legs were feeling in the last kilometer. I had the feeling that I could have done better than eighth place but that’s how it went.”
Gijs Van Hoecke:
“It was quite easy to get into the breakaway today. Guillaume and I were the riders who were supposed to try for the breakaway. Guillaume jumped the first time, and the second time I tried and this was the one that went. It was good to have someone in there for the team. In the end, I was surprised that we stayed away for so long. In the beginning, I thought that two minutes was nothing. But, we had quite a good group and we were working together really well, and we could go faster. Some guys were not so strong, so maybe if we had some stronger guys we could have had a chance to stay to the end.”
Stage 6: Matelica > Jesi (195km)
Top 3: 1. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 2. Davide Cimolai (Israel Cycling Academy), 3. Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
CCC Team top 3: 8. Greg Van Avermaet, 23. Łukasz Wiśniowski, 37. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck
Photos: Cor Vos