Giro d'Italia 2024 stage five preview - another battle of the fastmen

The peloton heads for an operatic sprint finish in Lucca

Date: Wednesday May 8, 2024
Distance: 178km
Start location: Genova
Finish location: Lucca
Start time: 12:45 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:15 CET

The pride of Lucca, the historical city which is the destination of today’s Giro d'Italia stage, is the composer Giacomo Puccini. Puccini was born and raised here, and later ventured out of the city’s famously well-preserved Renaissance walls to live in a remote, isolated villa in Torre del Lago, near the coast about 20km west of town, during which time he became the most popular Italian composer of his generation. A hundred years since his death, operas of his such as La bohème, Tosca and Madame Butterfly are among the most frequently performed in the world, and his legacy is celebrated throughout Lucca, from the opera house that plays his works to a museum built at his birthplace, while a festival in his honour is held every summer at Torre del Lago. 

‘Operatic’ has come to be a way of describing the kind of over-the-top extravagance associated with the medium of opera, yet Puccini’s career coincided with the popularity of the Verismo genre, which sought to tell stories and subject matter that was more realistic. Ordinary poor people rather than royalty and mythological figures were the subject of these operas. That said, these ordinary lives were still greatly enhanced by melodrama — Puccini’s Tosca, for example, has everything from murder, torture and war in its story of two lovers and a sadistic police chief. 

Stage five of the Giro is unlikely to match the drama of the kind playing at the opera house in Lucca. The route, which sets off from Genova and heads along the Ligurian coast for a while, before continuing inland in a south-easterly direction before arriving at Lucca, is predominantly flat. The riders do have to climb the Passo del Branco, which, lasting 15km, is deemed long enough to be given a category three rating, even though it only averages about 4%. But the 116km between it and the finish means it shouldn’t have any significant impact. 

This should therefore be a day for the sprinters, and possibly the most straightforward stage for them so far. Unlike the previous two stages, the final 20km are either downhill or flat, with no nasty late sting in the tail to complicate things. The last climb for them to negotiate is Montemagno, crested 21km from the finish, which, rising at a shallow 3.6% for 4.7km, does not look steep enough for the sprinters to be removed from contention. As watchers of operas know, it’s not over until the fat lady sings, but any sprinter who fell out of contention over the late rises of the previous stages should be able to survive and have a shot at redeeming themselves today. 

Giro d'Italia 2024 stage five profile

Stage profile sourced via the Giro d'Italia website


This is another chance for the sprinters to secure a much sought-after stage win in the race's opening stages. With an expected straightforward sprint to finish, there are two riders who will favourites for the stage win – stage three winner Tim Merlier (Soudal–Quick-Step) and stage four winner Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek). Both riders have looked incredibly strong, but the closing kilometres of this stage may favour Milan more, especially with a strong Lidl-Trek lead out to assist him. 

Beyond these two powerhouses, Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike) is another fast finisher who, on Grand Tour debut, appears to be improving with each sprint. He came sixth in stage three’s chaotic finish and fourth in stage four but will hope to find a first Grand Tour stage win before the stages get harder again. Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) proved to be back into the groove of sprinting, taking third place on stage four with an impressive sprint after coming 14th on stage three. 

Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is another rider who just slipped out of the top 10 in the first sprint opportunity, however, the Australian and his Alpecin team looked a lot stronger during stage four, sprinting to second place. This stage is much more straightforward in comparison to the other two sprint stages, so this could be where we see Groves take a stage win. 

Team DSM-Fermenich PostNL have two options able to rival the other sprinters and can alter who to send for the stage win depending on how the day unfolds. This was evident on stage three when Tobias Lund Andresen survived the stage's climbs better than his teammate Fabio Jakobsen and placed a strong fifth in the sprint. Stage five features much less climbing in the run-in to the finish, so this could be an opportunity for Jakobsen, who will want to restore order as the team’s lead sprinter. 

Other possible contenders for the stage include Fernando Gaviria (Movistar), Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates), Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe), Ethan Vernon (Israel-Premier Tech), and Caleb Ewan (Jayco-Alula). 


With the stage likely to finish in a full-on pure sprint with the fastest man coming out on top, we think Jonathan Milan will clinch the victory in Lucca. 

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