(CNN) -- Controversial Italian Michele Scarponi claimed the biggest victory of his career by coming home alone to win the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday.
Scarponi crosses the line alone to secure the biggest victory of his career on Thursday.
The Diquigiovanni rider, who recently returned to action after an 18-month ban for being implicated in the Operation Puerto doping scandal, finished the 244km stage to Mayrhofen, Austria, in a time of five hours, 49 minutes and 57 seconds, 32 seconds ahead of the rapidly-closing peloton.
Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen won the sprint for second place, with Australian Allan Davis coming home third.
All the race leaders finished safely in the pack, although seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong again struggled, coming home in a group of riders that finished 39 seconds behind the peloton.
Italian Danilo di Luca, the Giro winner two years ago, retains his slender five-second advantage over Sweden's Thomas Lovkvist with another Columbia rider, Australian Michael Rogers, 38 seconds back in third place.
Scarponi was initially among a five-man group that escaped after 50km and remained together until the climb at Hochkrimml, 50km from the finish.
Only Belarussian Vasik Kiryienka managed to stay with Scarponi on the ascent before dropping behind due to cramp -- leaving the 29-year-old Italian to dig deep and hold on for victory.