A spicy finish with hills and hairpins lend this stage an air of Milan-Sanremo but the final two kilometres are all uphill so even if there’s a sprint we’ll see some different names in the mix.
Stage 5 Wrap: sprint win for Fernando Gaviria. The race did a lap of Messina and as they approached the finish line with a lap to go Luka Pibernik clipped away and did a victory salute. He didn’t know there was a lap to go, apparently the battery in his radio had gone according to Nibali who chuckled on RAI at the event… but he could have checked the roadbook or even a preview online before. Pibernik’s gaff was funny but look closely and it seemed that Caleb Ewan also launched his sprint for a brief moment until a team mate warned him off, perhaps a more tragic error? As the real finish loomed several riders including Ewan were out of place and Gaviria was delivered into place by his team to win ahead of a fast-finishing Jakub Mareczko, the Italian with the Polish name.
The Route: 217km north along the coast. The first climb to Barriterri is steady at 11km at 4% but a good launchpad for the breakaway.
The Finish: a technical finish with climbing and cornering. With 7km to go they turn away from the coast on a sharp bend that doubles back and climb uphill on a medium to narrow-sized road that twists up to Acquapesa and then takes a balcony road that’s reminiscent of the section across the top of the Cipressa. They descent via a series of hairpin bends that will offer great views of the peloton snaking down the ramparts and a hard place for any riders to make up lost ground. It’s back to the coastal road taking the other direction they came on and then a sharp turn at the 2km to go point. From here it’s up to the finish line and after a gentle slope it pitches up towards 8% for the final kilometre, all on a wide and straight road.
The Contenders: it’s only a short uphill finish but it shouldn’t take much to see the big names test themselves, similar to the Mûr-de-Bretagne stage finishes in the Tour de France, especially because if there’s a split in the field nobody can afford to be caught on the wrong side. There’s a good chance a breakaway sticks because plenty of riders are now a long way down on GC after Etna so they won’t threaten Bob Jungels’ maglia rosa.
If it’s a breakaway it’s a lottery to know who stays away but lowly riders on GC with a good profile for the uphill sprint include the likes of Matteo Montaguti and Ben Gastauer (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data). One leftfield pick is Vincenzo Albanese (Bardiani-CSF) who was winning these kind of finishes all the time in the U23 ranks last year. What about Dylan Theuns of BMC Racing, he’s good for a climb like this from a breakaway but could be on team duty.
If it’s all brought together for the finish then Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) is good for a finish like this as he has plenty of uphill power and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) has been winning sprints too but he might lack a little tradecraft. Rui Costa (UAE Emirates) is a diesel who not find this selective enough but could slip away in move in the final kilometres. Otherwise Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) is punchy, the same for Andrey Amador (Movistar) and Ben Hermans (BMC Racing)
If it’s a sprint Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) is a great for a sprint like this too as long as he can restrain himself from hitting the front too soon and he tweeted yesterday he was having a hard time. Can Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) hold on? He is more than bunch sprinter, he has some punch for this kind of climb but will need to be on just the right wheel to make it.
|Geraint Thomas, Nathan Haas
|Gaviria, Hermans, Dumoulin, Pinot, Battaglin, Nizzolo, Slagter
Weather: (updated 11.45 CET as yesterday’s forecast has gone with the wind) sunshine and clouds and warm with a top temperature of 23°C. The wind will blow at 25-35km/h and could gust more although it is forecast to drop during the stage. It’ll blow from the west, meaning a crosswind for much of the stage and the final 2km will be in a headwind.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CET. There’s live coverage on home broadcaster RAI in Italy and Eurosport for much of Europe and beyond. Otherwise cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.