The longest stage of the race thanks to a landslide which has added 10km to today’s stage. A flat route before scaling the road to the hilltop abbey of Montecassino, a visually spectacular finish and the Giro’s commemoration of a 1944 battle.
Stage 5 Wrap
This was always going to be about the finish. The day’s breakaway included several sprinters, a bid to bag the points at the intermediate sprint. They were caught on the final circuit just as the rain began to fall. The tricky descent brought several crashes but wounded only pride.
Onto the final slope and Katusha set the pace although there was enough slack for a brief Pierre Rolland Energy Wasting Attack™. At one point Katusha’s Moreno was charging so fast to the line that he split the group and it seemed Joaquim Rodriguez would get it… but finally Diego Ulissi was the best. A double-junior world champion, he’s won a stage before, is named after Maradona. This year he shone in the Tour Down Under but vanished results-wise in the Ardennes classics although that’s just age, he’s 24 and needs to learn the roads. It’s worrying for Rodriguez, he could follow through on Moreno’s effort. Cadel Evans took second place and with it the time bonus, note his aggressive racing more than the placing.
The Route: the race is already heading north now and today’s another stage that’s all about the finish. The race skirts Naples and the hills of Campania where buffalo for the famous mozzarella cheese.
The Finish: the race leaves the town of Cassino to climb to Monte Cassino. It’s 8.5km at 5% average, nothing steep. The profile above shows a a regular road but in reality it snakes up the hill via seven hairpins and more bends. The gradient softens as it approaches the finish line. The road is wide.
The Scenario: several teams will want to set up the leaders for the finish and set a high pace on the approach to the final climb. Once the race scales the rock we should see a reduced group left to contest a sprint. The maglia rosa could go from one Australian to another as Michael Matthews might find the climb too long compared to compatriot Cadel Evans.
The Contenders: we could get a replay of yesterday’s stage with similar names in the mix only the climb is longer and therefore more selective. Diego Ulissi is the prime pick as he’s clearly in form and has a fast finish.
Cadel Evans is next, he’s looking hungry but does he really want to take the race lead so early? It’s a paradox that if you want to win the race outright you don’t want to lead the race too early. Evans has been sitting the highest on GC compared to all his main rivals but has managed to outsource the actual work to Orica-Greenedge.
Julian Arredondo is the third pick. His compact rounded figure resembled a cannonball yesterday and he could surprise. Those who believe in fate might back Rafał Majka or Przemysław Niemiec as both are candidates to win but Montecassino is the site of a large Polish war cemetery. Watch Joaquim Rodriguez, he messed up yesterday’s finish and a mistake today would be a big blow to the morale.
Can Michael Matthews do it? He’s got the help of a solid team but I think this could be too long for him. If he can track the wheels then the way the road flattens out to help his sprint for a stage win. Edvald Boasson Hagen is tipped for the same reasons with the same risk factors.
|Cadel Evans, Julian Arredondo
|Rafał Majka, Rigoberto Uran
|Matthews, Boasson Hagen, Rodriguez
Weather: a chance of rain but a calmer day with only a light breeze and warmer temperatures of up to 21°C.
TV: the race is on a variety of TV channels according to where you are in the world. Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe. beIN SPORT has the rights in the US and France. There’s cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv for TV schedules and pirate feeds and more.
The finish is forecast for 5.10pm Euro time, tune in at least half an hour before to see the approach to the final climb.
History: Montecassino was the sight of a large battle in 1944. You haven’t come here to read military history and if you had, there’s not enough space to do events justice. See Wikipedia for a start.
The Air Punch: that’s Gianluca Brambilla being interviewed on TV wrapped up in a hat and a thick scarf made from a towel. It was unseasonably cool yesterday for the south but he appears dressed for a polar conditions. One reason is the Italian phobia of the colpo d’aria which translates as an “air blast” or a “strike of air”.
Nobody likes a cold draught of air and many around the world link it to illness. But the Italians take it to an extra level with a specific causality and topicality. Leave your shirt untucked and you risk an air blast to the kidneys with all the fearful consequences that entails. Leave your neck exposed and sudden gust could cause a sore neck. If you’re ill, the diagnosis can be a colpo d’aria and not a virus.
Note Brambilla’s doing the right thing, the body is tired and fragile and has little body fat for insulation against a chill. Other countries have their quirks, I should cover the French obsession with the liver one day.