Frenchman Arnaud Démare overtook Caleb Ewan in a photo finish to claim his second straight win at the Giro d’Italia on Thursday, while Spaniard Juan Pedro López retained the overall leader after the sixth stage of the round.

In a battle between three of the best sprinters in cycling, Démare was chasing both the Australian Ewan and the British Mark Cavendish with the finish line in sight. But Démare took full advantage of the slipstream behind Ewan to stick to his rival just before the finish line and just overtook him. Cavendish entered half a wheel behind to be third.

None of them dared to celebrate immediately, not being sure who had won. Cavendish was chatting with Démare when the results were finally confirmed and he hugged the Groupama–FDJ team rider.

“It was a very close sprint, I thought I had won but I had to wait for the photo finish”, said Démare. “The victories are sometimes decided by a few centimeters… The team has done a resounding job today, they have guided me well in all the rounds. It was a team victory. I only had 100 meters to pass Cavendish, the spin of the wheel was decisive”.

It was the seventh stage win in the Giro for Démare, the greatest harvest among French cyclists.

“Some may underestimate me, but today is the 86th victory of my career. It’s wonderful,” he added.

Most of the title contenders crossed the finish line as part of the peloton at the end of the 192-kilometre (119-mile) flat route between Palmi and Scalea. The race moved to the Italian mainland after three stages in Hungary and two in Sicily.

López maintained his 39-second lead over Germany’s Lennard Kämna in the overall standings. Estonian Rein Taaramäe is third, 58 seconds behind López.

“I don’t know why today’s stage has been so slow, the sprinter teams have controlled it all day”, commented López. “Tomorrow will be very different, but we will try to defend the pink jersey.”

Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz, 2019 Giro champion, remains in 11th place, 2:06 behind López. Colombian Santiago Buitrago is 15th, with a delay of 2:18.

It was a bland stage, with the peloton pedaling at a very slow pace, something that even went against the estimates of the race organizers.

The slowness and little desire to launch leaks could be due to what is coming on Friday, a day that will have several ascents and descents. The route of the seventh stage will be 196 kilometers (122 miles) between Diamante and Potenza, with four category climbs.

The Giro will end on May 29 in Verona.

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