George Bennett underwent his first real test at the Giro d'Italia this morning, and he has passed with flying colours.

A supremely strong ride from the Kiwi climber has seen him claim fourth place on stage six, a result which leaps him into ninth place on the overall general classification.

The result also doubles as an extremely positive sign of his chances for the slew of mountain-top finishes coming later in the race, after he showed no signs of weakness on the first mountain of the 2018 Giro.

On the 15 kilometre final climb on Mount Etna, Bennett was stronger than a huge array of pre-race favourites, shining brighter than the likes of Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin, Fabio Aru and Miguel Angel Lopez.

Advertisement

The only force he couldn't match was the superb showing from the Mitchelton-Scott team, who achieved a rare 1-2 finish atop the mountainous finale.

Coming out victorious was Esteban Chaves, though he was gifted the stage his ridiculously fast-finishing teammate Simon Yates, who moves into the leader's pink jersey while announcing himself as a serious contender for the overall title.

It was a perfectly constructed race by Mitchelton-Scott - a Mitchelton Masterpiece, if you will - and they had a Kiwi influence, with Sam Bewley keeping Yates protected deep into the stage. Most importantly though, the team managed to sneak the dangerous Chaves into an incredible 28 man breakaway to begin the stage.

Chaves was joined by the likes of Sergio Luis Henao, David De La Cruz and Robert Gesink in a supremely talented breakaway, meaning the race went hard and fast, with the peloton not allowing the dangerous group more than three minutes.

It would cause some tired legs at the tough conclusion, with the final 40 kilometres mostly uphill. The testing finish started with a sedate climb which then plateaued before the riders tackled the big test - Etna.

As Chaves attacked from the break, the peloton started to trim down. Bit by bit riders fell off the pace - some for good, while others such as Froome fought back on - but Bennett never wavered.

After hanging around at the back of the peloton at the start of the climb, Bennett slowly eased his way to the front, and just as easy was his response to any attacks. With five kilometres to go, Lopez kicked off proceedings, and Bennett was the first one on his wheel - a process that would continue as Dumoulin, Thibaut Pinot, and Domenico Pozzovivo all tried to escape.

Each time, Bennett was keen and able to follow, and briefly, a foursome consisting of himself, Pinot, Yates and Pozzovivo snuck up the road. However, as Bennett frantically gesticulated for them to work together, Yates decided it was his time to shine, launching an unstoppable attack with 1.5 kilometres remaining.

The diminutive Brit tore away from the pack in no time, and caught up with Chaves - the sole remaining rider from the 28 man breakaway. He had every chance to go flying by his teammate, and may regret not gaining extra time, but instead guided him to the line, gifting the stage to Chaves, and moving himself into pink.

Bennett - following the attacks once more - crossed the line in the slipstream of Pinot, 26 seconds down on Yates, but ahead of a number of his rivals.

He now sits one minute and 11 seconds down on Yates, but has launched into the top 10 of the general classification, and based on this morning's showing, there should be a lot more to come over the next two weeks.

Niall Anderson is covering every stage of the Giro d'Italia live for the Herald. He feels less silly about his decision after that stage.
Niall's Giro d'Italia wraps
Stage five
Stage four
Stage three
Stage two
Stage one