Giro d'Italia stage 5 may provide some respite after a cruel day on stage 4 which featured 3000 metres of climbing and biblical weather conditions.
A breakaway of 25 riders went up the road after a prolonged fight for the front, and it quickly became clear why. The break gained an unassailable lead, where both the stage win and the maglia rosa were up for grabs.
After Rein Taaramäe, Chris Juul-Jensen and Quinten Hermans attacked the rest of the group early, they were caught on the climb to Sestola. Joe Dombrowski won the stage after moving away from Alessandro De Marchi, but the 34-year-old Italian resisted well to claim the maglia rosa for the first time in his career.
We also saw the first movement in the GC, with Mikel Landa and Egan Bernal demonstrating strong legs and gaining time, whilst João Almeida would lose four minutes on his rivals. Deceuninck must now place their eggs in the basket of Remco Evenepoel.
Giro d’Italia Stage 5 profile
After the first GC-day in the medium mountains, the peloton should enjoy a more straightforward stage here. A medium-length stage at 177km, the route is almost entirely flat with just 300 metres of climbing.
Starting in Modena, the race heads in an almost arrow-straight line towards the Adriatic coast. The first intermediate sprint takes place in the town of Imola. In spite of losing the maglia rosa yesterday, Pippo Ganna will have fond memories here; this is where he became World Champion eight months ago.
Bonus seconds are available at the second intermediate in Savignano sul Rubicone. If the breakaway have been caught we may see some GC riders attempt to sneak some seconds, a la Remco Evenepoel on stage 2.
The final 25km of the stage thunder along the Adriatic coastline. The finish takes place in the town of Cattolica, where the road is very technical with multiple roundabouts to navigate and a 90-degree turn before the run to the finish.
Adding to the day’s allure, strong winds are forecast throughout with more rain showers too. We may even see teams come to the front in an attempt to create echelons, though many will want an easier day in the saddle with the longest climb of the race so far approaching on stage 6.
Caleb Ewan (Image credit: Presse Sports / Offside)
Considering the lack of climbing, stage 5 will be circled by all of the sprint teams. They will look to control which riders enter the early breakaway and then the gap to them. After Taco van der Hoorn’s spectacular breakaway win in Canale just days ago and Joe Dombrowski's win yesterday, surely the breakaway won't make it three in a row?
We can’t start with anyone other than Tim Merlier. The Belgian is making his Grand Tour debut but that did not deter him when he romped to victory in Novara on stage two. Alpecin-Fenix have already proven that they have a very competitive team here with numerous riders that can look after Merlier. On current form, he may just start as the favourite.
Caleb Ewan was almost completely anonymous on stage 2, but his team were at fault as much as the Australian. He was completely out of position in the finale meaning he was unable to challenge for the stage win, and only just sneaked into the top 10. Will the Australian continue to trust his leadout or will he look to jump into the wheels and follow a rival into the finish?
One man who has always excelled at that is Peter Sagan. The Slovak has enjoyed a respectable start to the Giro d'Italia. His team worked hard on stage 3 to no avail, but two top 5 finishes mean a good start to Sagan’s chase for the maglia ciclamino. Sagan is currently fourth in that competition, but he’d love to win a stage at the Giro for a second consecutive year. He may not be able to do that in a pure sprint, but the technical finish in Cattolica could play into his hands — Sagan’s positioning has always been one of his best attributes. If the heavens open and the wind blows this could add to Bora’s advantage.
Although Taco stole stage three, the day still provided indicators regarding the sprinters' form. Most of the pure sprinters were dropped, but Elia Viviani survived. He's known for almost anything but his climbing ability, but Viviani demonstrated good legs to remain in the bunch and finish fourth. Now 32-years-old, Viviani is looking like his old self again. It has been three years since he won at his home Grand Tour, and it’s looking more and more likely that he could win again soon.
Another of the sprinters to make the front group that day was Fernando Gaviria. He only finished seventh though when he could have done with a confidence-building result. This is particularly the case after he inadvertently collided with his teammate Juan Sebastián Molano when he was winding up his sprint in Novara. We still aren’t certain of Gaviria’s form, but if he is on, he is rapid.
After claiming his 10th runner up spot at the Giro d’Italia, Giacomo Nizzolo will be as desperate as ever to win his first stage. The Italian was well positioned on stage 2 and although he didn’t possess the acceleration to kick past Merlier, he’ll be hopeful it’s a sign of things to come. He hasn't climbed particularly well over the past couple of stages but that won’t be an issue here.
Dylan Groenewegen appears to be settling into the peloton well after he went nine months without racing — he can be satisfied with fourth in Novara. The Dutchman has won a stage in all of the previous three Grand Tours he's entered, will this be his day at the Giro?
After demonstrating good legs throughout the Giro d'Italia thus far, we are going for an Elia Viviani stage win. It’s been a difficult period in Viviani’s career — after joining Cofidis he struggled to replicate his form of old and then underwent heart surgery. However, Cofidis are built almost solely around their sprinter and have already proven that they can position him well, a crucial element in the stage 5 sprint in Cattolica.
Cover image: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images