Arnaud Demare warned he was not to be underestimated after becoming the most successful French rider on the Giro d'Italia with his second win in two days on stage six Thursday.
The 30-year-old Groupama-FDJ rider won a thrilling sprint finish to pip Australian Caleb Ewan in a photo finish after the 192km ride from Palmi to Scalea in the southern Calabria region.
Demare's seventh Giro stage win makes him the most successful French rider in the race around Italy ahead of legends Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, who have six each.
"Many people underestimate me but it's my 86th victory today, my seventh at the Giro d'Italia. It counts," said Demare.
Briton Mark Cavendish, stage winner on Sunday in Hungary, finished third in the bunched sprint with Spaniard Juan Pedro Lopez of Trek holding onto the leader's pink jersey which he grabbed Tuesday on Mount Etna.
"It was very tight. I had the feeling that I had won but it was hot so I waited for the photo-finish," continued Demare.
"The team has done a tremendous job. I only had 100 metres to overhaul Cavendish.
"I threw my bike on the line and it made the difference."
Italian Diego Rosa had led a long breakaway over 141km but was kept in check by the teams of Demare, Ewan and Cavendish.
But on the long straights hugging the the Tyrrhenian Sea on the western coast, the outcome was inevitable with the Italian caught heading into the final 30km before the sprint.
"The lights are green," warned Demare, wearing the points leader's Maglia Ciclamino jersey, after a frustrating start to the season.
"We think about it more and more but I know very well that a grand tour is long, that a points jersey is won over time," he added.
Friday's seventh stage is a gruelling 196km ride between Diamante and Potenza including four climbs between the Calabrian coast inland to Basilicata with a summit finish.
"(Today) was all under the control of the sprinters' teams," said race leader Lopez.
"It will be very different tomorrow but we're ready with the team to defend the Maglia Rosa."