Norway's Andreas Leknessund wears the pink jersey of the race...

Norway's Andreas Leknessund wears the pink jersey of the race overall leader ahead of the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia, tour of Italy cycling race in Naples, Italy, Thursday, May 11, 2023. Credit: AP/Gian Mattia D'Alberto

NAPLES, Italy — Mads Pedersen won the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday after a two-man breakaway was caught with the line in sight.

Andreas Leknessund kept hold of the pink jersey.

Pedersen beat Jonathan Milan and Pascal Ackermann in a bunch sprint at the end of the picturesque 162-kilometer (101-mile) route that started and finished in Naples.

It looked as though Alessandro De Marchi and Simon Clarke were going to contest the victory after they were in a breakaway that went early in the day, but they were swallowed up less than 300 meters from the end. De Marchi shook his head and they embraced each other as they crossed the line.

“I’m very happy. That’s what we came here for," Pedersen said. "It was difficult to catch the breakaway riders. We had to use all our teammates early.”

There were two categorized climbs along the stage that went around Mount Vesuvius before going through Sorrento and along the Amalfi coast on a relatively calm day.

That would have come as a relief to the riders after miserable weather the previous day caused several crashes.

Cyclists ride along the coastline during the sixth stage of...

Cyclists ride along the coastline during the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia, tour of Italy cycling race, from Naples to Naples, Italy, Thursday, May 11, 2023. Credit: AP/Fabio Ferrari

Pre-race favorite Remco Evenepoel was in a lot of pain after being involved in two of those incidents but he appeared not to be too affected by that as he finished safely in the peloton on Thursday to remain 28 seconds behind Leknessund.

Aurélien Paret-Peintre was third overall, 30 seconds behind Leknessund.

The color of the Giro is pink but the streets in and around Naples were festooned with blue in honor of the city’s soccer team after Napoli ended its 33-year wait for the Serie A title last week.

Despite the crashes the previous day, the only rider not to start was Clément Russo after testing positive for coronavirus.

Cyclists pedal during the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia,...

Cyclists pedal during the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia, tour of Italy cycling race, from Naples to Naples, Italy, Thursday, May 11, 2023. Credit: AP/Fabio Ferrari

The Giro hits the high mountains on Friday’s seventh stage with the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters. The 218-kilometer (135-mile) route from Capua ends in a daunting top-category climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore.

“Today was a really nice day for being in the Maglia Rosa," Leknessund said. "We also wanted to go for the stage win with Marius Mayrhofer but it didn’t work. I feel ready for the mountain stage tomorrow. I’ll do my best to keep the Maglia Rosa.”

The Giro ends in Rome on May 28.

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