Giro Stage 5: Great Sprinting & Bad Crashing
A flat, easy stage produces a thrilling sprint finish & bad crashes in the final few kilometers
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Caleb Ewan won stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia with an impressive display of handling skills and raw speed in the final few meters. Giacomo Nizzolo looked to have the stage won while Ewan appeared to be stuck in the muck behind with only 50 meters remaining. But, the explosive Australian carved and weaved his wave through rival sprinters like they were traffic cones to win the stage.
The fight for the general classification was virtually non-existent as the GC contenders used the flat stage to recover from yesterday’s hard summit finish and prepare for tomorrow’s even harder mountain stage.
However, Mikel Landa (15th place) and Joe Dombrowski (2nd place) crashed hard in the final few kilometers. Dombrowski was able to get up and finish the stage, but lost over eight minutes in the process and fell out of GC contention, while Landa, a legitimate contender for overall victory, was unable to finish the stage and had to leave the race.
Stage 5 Stage Notes:
66.7km: A token break is dangling right up the road but we can see that the peloton is lined out across the road, actively trying to ride slowly and block the road so nobody can attack. But even though the pace is slow, things are really nervous due to the prospects of crosswinds. However, I have to imagine that after yesterday, there is little appetite for any team to take on the work of breaking the race up and riders just want to get to the finish with as little energy spent as possible.
47km: The break has built up a lead of close to a minute, which has caused the peloton to increase the pace slightly and string out. This is a much safer position and pace and shows why breakaways can help smooth things out in the peloton and why it is desirable for them to dangle off the front.
15km: On the run-in to the finish, things get dicey to the large group, small city roads, and relatively slow pace. This causes riders to bunch up and we see that Ineos suffers a major miscommunication here and accidentally (I hope) rides their B-leader Pavel Sivakov off the road. He looks extremely hurt and struggles to get back on his bike. Any GC hope for him is over here.
4.3km: Dombrowski and Landa crash into a traffic island incredibly hard. Dombrowski gets up and is able to ride, but Landa can’t get up and looks incredibly hurt. Devastating for Landa since he looked so strong yesterday.
2.1km: Unlike stage 2, Lotto has Ewan positioned at the front of the peloton going into the final few kilometers. He is actually too far forward here and has to work himself back in the group. But this is better than trying to work up.
1.4km: Bora comes forward and takes over which helps Ewan slot back a few positions.
250m-ish: Molano on UAE sits up when he sees his sprinter Fernando Gaviria isn’t on his wheel. This causes Tim Merlier to move to avoid hitting him and pushes him into Caleb Ewan on the right side of the road. Meanwhile, Nizzolo comes from behind everyone and is able to build up a great head of steam and get a very clean run to the finish on the left side of the road.
200m: Ewan is pinned against the right side barriers while Nizzolo is alone on the left and appears to be streaking to an uncontested stage win.
Merlier’s chain appears to pop off his chainring after the contact with Ewan and he falls out of contention. But Ewan is still pinned on the right side of the road by the barriers while Nizzolo is in the lead as the finish line approaches. Viviani, Sagan, and Gaviria are lined up in that order on Ewan’s wheel.
But this is where Ewan proves he is one of the best sprinters in the world. Depsite being equal with Viviani, Sagan, and Gaviria and lagging behind Nizzolo a few moments earlier, he is able to weave around and carve through the traffic to nearly pull equal with Nizzolo.
By the time he gets to the finish line just a few moments later, he has blown by Nizzolo and is showing him a clean set of wheels.
Finish at full speed:
Stage Top Five
GC Top Ten
Ewan shows us why he is the best sprinter in the world in these tricky finishes when he is dropped off in a good position. This win is almost a carbon copy of his win at stage 3 of the 2020 Tour de France.
When watching at full speed, it looks like Nizzolo has it locked up due to his great jump. But in the end, it wasn’t even that close despite Ewan having to weave through the field and come from behind in the last 50 meters.
Nizzolo has a great sprint but loses another heartbreaker. He has never won a Giro stage but gets his 11th 2nd place finish.
Nizzolo’s consolation prize is the sprint jersey after Merlier finished outside the top ten due to his dropped chain.
It is clear that Sagan can position himself but just doesn’t have the top-end speed he used to have. He and Ewan were level with around 50 meters to go, but Ewan finished around 5 meters in front of him.
Molano and Gaviria screw up their leadout again. They ran into each other on stage 2 and UAE is clearly out-of-sorts in these sprint finishes. But the biggest issue is that Gaviria doesn’t seem to have the necessarily top-end speed anymore.
Dylan Groenewegen was MIA in the last 500 meters and is still struggling to get used to full-speed racing after his 9-month suspension.
Alessandro De Marchi holds the pink leader’s jersey and interestingly, is only the 5th rider from the Fruili region to ever hold the lead in the Giro.
Landa fails to finish and so his race is officially over. This is really disappointing since he was racing so well yesterday and I was looking forward to watching him in the coming mountain stages.
Someone in the BTP discord chat says that he crashed due to Dombrowski running into the barrier marshall. If true, this shows a major issue with positioning, since his Bahrain team should have never left him that far back in the bunch and riding behind a rider with a history of crashing in technical areas.
Same story, different race for Sivakov. His propensity to crash is going to hold him back until he can remedy it. He might not even catch back on at this point and it only cements that Ineos is here all-in for Bernal. Lucky for them, the guy looks incredible at the moment.
Dombrowski manages to finish the stage and looks to avoid injury, but he loses minutes and is now out of any GC contention. I thought he could get the jersey on tomorrow’s summit finish, so this is disappointing for him, but in the end, it will free him up to attack in the third week and chase another stage win.
Stage 6 Preview & Predictions
Tomorrow’s 6th stage keeps taking us south down the Italian peninsula to Ascoli Piceno and serves up a 160km-long mountainous route with roughly 12,000 feet of climbing. It isn’t the hardest stage, but the Apennine mountains, while lacking the raw heights of the Alps, can still pack a punch.
The final climb, while only averaging 6%, is 15kms-long, and will certainly create time gaps among the GC favorites.
It will be interesting to watch how Remco Evenepoel handles such a long climb. He’s never raced long sustained climbs at this level, so I don’t know what to expect from him and his performance tomorrow could tell us how he will handle the longer, steeper climbs waiting in the Dolomites.
It isn’t a particularly difficult climb, but many riders will still be feeling the effects of cold rain on stage 4 and could struggle to match the pace of those on better days.
Like stage 4, this could be another great day for the breakaway. With teams like Bahrain now without a leader and riders like Joao Almeida and Joe Dombrowski so far down on the GC, the quality of the break could be incredibly high.
But, I have a hunch that Ineos senses an opportunity to press their advantage and capitalize on Bernal’s incredible form.
Prediction: Ineos takes control of the race early after De Marchi gets into the breakaway so his ISN isn’t forced to defend the jersey. Bernal wins the stage but can’ shake Vlasov, who takes the overall lead.
Where/When to Watch Stage 6:
Free: Tiz Cycling
Paid: GCN Racepass (USA), Eurosport Player (Europe, UK)
Broadcast Time: 6:35 a.m. – 11:35 a.m. EST