By Emily Goddard

Michael Matthews celebrates his overall leader pink jersey on the podium after winning the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia ©AFP/Getty ImagesAustralia's Michael Matthews claimed his first individual victory today on the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia and in doing so extended his overall lead to 21 seconds.

The Orica-GreenEdge rider pulled away from compatriot Cadel Evans - who finished third but sits in second place overall - and Tim Wellens of Belgium, who finished in second place - with about 40 metres to go to take the 247-kilometre leg, which ran from Sassano to Monte Cassino.

"I still can't believe what happened," Matthews, who will wear the pink jersey for a fifth day, said.

"The team put me in a perfect position for the climb.

"We controlled the break, and then it was up to me to defend the jersey.

"I didn't think I'd be able to win the stage, too.

"I've got to thank the team, they were incredible.

"I was lucky to have Luke Durbridge in front of me, he did an awesome job.

"I wouldn't be here without him on the climb."

Cadel Evans is in second place overall ©AFP/Getty ImagesCadel Evans is in second place overall ©AFP/Getty Images

The stage was, however, overshadowed by a significant crash that left Italy's Giampaolo Caruso seriously injured.

The Katusha rider was taken to hospital with unknown injuries after lying motionless - but conscious - on the road following the accident, which involved a number of cyclists and occurred on the wet road approaching the final climb.

Spain's Joaquim Rodríguez, one of the pre-race favourites, was also hospitalised.

"The crash happened in the front of the group because we were all up there," Colombia's Rigoberto Urán, third overall, said.

"All of the GC guys went down or were held up except [Cadel] Evans.

"Fortunately, I only have a few scratches and a contusion on my left side, the elbow and hip specifically.

"Fortunately it is nothing serious."

The action continues tomorrow with a 211km seventh stage ride from Frosinone to Foligno.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
May 2014: Italian Ulissi wins fifth Giro stage
May 2014: Bouhanni wins stage four of Giro d'Italia as rain sparks rider protest
May 2014: Kittel seals second consecutive Giro d'Italia stage win with sprint finish in Dublin
May 2014: German Kittel wins second stage of Giro d'Italia
May 2014: Irish favourite suffers broken collar as Giro d'Italia gets underway in Belfast