Giro Stage 5 Preview

A hilly start to encourage a breakaway before a flat run along the coast and then a circuit around the city of Messina, birthplace of Vincenzo Nibali, and a likely sprint finish awaits.

Jan Polanc Etna

Stage 4 Wrap: the thing about volcanoes is that they can erupt but most of the time they sit still. The Giro was the same and yesterday’s stage predictably didn’t see the GC contenders trade big blows. That’s no bad thing because big action would have sucked the suspense out of the rest of the race, just as Contador’s crushing win did in 2011: the mother of all spoilers. So yesterday’s neutralisation thanks to the wind on the slopes of Etna – at one point the top group was fanned across the road like they were riding to De Panne – might have had its frustrations to watch live but to see the bidon half-full it prolongs the suspense because we don’t yet know the vertical pecking order for the mountains.

The early break went immediately and it was a surprise to see just four go clear at the first attempt because here was a stage where a move had a strong chance to stay away but there was no fight. Of the four escapees Pavel Brutt and Eugenio Alafacio looked out of place as non-climbers, Brutt at least added horsepower to keep the move away. By the time they reached the early ramps of Etna is was just Jan Polanc and Jacques van Rensburg only for Polanc to go went solo soon. The Slovenian, a mountain stage winner in 2015, had spent two weeks training on Etna a month ago so he knew every crack in the road. At times it looked like he was going to fall into them, chopping at the pedals butit worked as he stayed away for the stage win.

Behind there were few attacks. Pierre Rolland and Jesper Hansen tried. Vincenzo Nibali passed his test, he attacked and crucially this wasn’t a “boomerang” move that went forwards only to go into reverse. The successful attack came from Ilnur Zakarin who turned on the torque late to reclaim ten seconds, half of the time lost the other day in Tortolì. Bob Jungels impressed with steady riding to take the maglia rosa.

The Route: the race loops around the flanks of Mount Etna. The profile looks lumpy but these are gentle climbs for the most part. The road to Taormina twists up via tight hairpins to the intermediate sprint before dropping back to seaside and the coastal road.

From here it’s flat as the road runs parallel to the railway line all the way to Messina, passing by beaches and through various towns on what is generally a fast road to encourage the bunch to bring back any move that went clear earlier.

Messina Giro

The Finish: the race rides into Messina – passing the Nibali family’s video rental and photocopier store – and does a loop around the city, crosses the finish line and then rides the loop again to the finish. There’s a sharp U-turn with 1.5km to go and then a long boulevard style run to the finish.

The Contenders: Caleb Ewan has shown great speed but hasn’t turned this into a win yet but he should find today’s stage suits him just fine, a pure test of speed. André Greipel has a stage win already and is looking as good too.

The rest of the field look a level below the pair but Sacha Modolo is probably the best of the rest. Fernando Gaviria is fast but has been off the pace in straight sprints so far. Sam Bennett has been struggling in the mountains with food poisoning but sometimes these things can go as quick as they come. Otherwise Jakub Mareczko is still very fast but the level of opposition is so high for him.

Caleb Ewan, André Greipel
Sacha Modolo, Fernando Gaviria
Bennett, Mareczko

Weather: sunny and mild with a top temperature of 24°C. A gentle 5-10km/h breeze from the north-west is forecast.

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. and are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.

30 thoughts on “Giro Stage 5 Preview”

  1. The Nibali family’s video rental store? I appreciate the intimate detail you bring and am intrigued that you can still make money renting videos/DVDs in the western world.

    • Likewise.
      Also pleasing that the internet age hasn’t fully landed on Sicily yet – video rental and photocopying, very 1980’s!
      Not quite the Mario Puzo imagery I’d dream of, but still pleasantly agreeable nonetheless.

    • According to Daniel friebe on a recent cycling podcast, Nibali got into cycling by watching DVDs (perhaps VHSs?) of cycling greats, borrowed from his fathers store. If this is the case then perhaps they’re holding onto the shop for sentimental reasons?!

    • DVD renting indeed lives on, at least in some specific places, where it survived the critical impact of the web.
      Generally speaking, access to internet – even in western Europe – is way more fragmented from a geographical and social (age, wealth, education…) POV than we might imagine. In several countries, most users just use internet through their mobile phone, and that’s not great to watch a movie. Besides, after the first Grande Bouffe downloading/streaming phase of “it’s for free, grab it and forget about everything else”, it looks like that the “quality” and “edition” elements factored in once again in cultural markets (not only the movies but also, say, the press and others).

      • The Italian TV folks call Nibali’s family biz a “COPISTERIA” which means copy-shop. Most of these places in Italy do a little bit of a lot of things in addition to making photocopies. Local folks want to rent DVD’s? OK we’ll get some. They probably sell cell-phone minutes, pens and pencils, paper, greeting cards and stuff like that if their store is like the ones I’ve used in Italy. One of the kinds of businesses that provides a decent living for those uninterested in getting rich. Might be hard for non-Italians to understand, but I think businesses of this kind are the backbone of the Italian economy, especially in times like these.

  2. In many ways yesterday was entirely predictable, all the perceived contenders marking each other and coming in pretty much together (the wind being a large factor). As has seemed likely from the start the stages either side of the second rest day look to be the first key point in the race.

    Quick Step will be happy to be in pink and have the team to be able to defend it for the rest of the week.

    Sky were a bit surprising yesterday, Geraint Thomas was lively enough but when Mikel Landa suffered his puncture help seemed thin on the ground. Yes he got a wheel and then was paced back but this left GT on his own. Other teams seemed to have more presence in the front group. Cant imagine this in France in July.

    Nairo Quintana seems to be following the predicted conservative strategy, presumably the plan is to conserve energy for later in the race. Not convinced it will pay off, perhaps it will, perhaps he needs to ride for a good few days to find his best form .

    • Your opening sentence lacks the words “in hindsight”?
      Apart from Don Ringese, who called it pretty much to a ‘T’ yesterday.

      I’d like to see Caleb Ewan get his rewards today, he’s been so unlucky to date.
      I’d also love to see Nibali get a champion’s welcome, that should really be some sight.

  3. Is there any news on the Jan Polanc/Jacques van Rensburg slapperama? I didn’t see it – was there anything in it? And what caused it?
    Enjoyed the mountain echelons and Polanc’s fantastic ride – great to see a rider win it solo.
    Again, the direction at the end was weird, with lots of empty road shown in the last kilometre.
    As you say, it was probably worth watching little happen for the race not to be over already.
    Do the Nibalis also sell fax machines and Amstrad E mailers?

  4. I was there yesterday with what looked like everyone else in Sicily! No blog post yet, most likely it’ll be up today as I’m not as industrious as Mr. INRNG and have some other tasks as well. WINDY was the word yesterday. We were at 2 km on a long, straight stretch almost dead-on into a headwind. No attack was going to work, there were PLENTY of lower-placed riders drafting cars as they passed us.
    The Sunweb team might have an interesting story to tell – as we drove from Catania to Siracusa after the race we saw two of their team cars with bikes heading in the same direction. We kept wondering where could they be a hotel for them in this direction? Hard to believe there weren’t enough hotels in and around Catania, as there’s nothing much going this way until Siracusa, so they must have made a very wrong turn, spending a bunch of time going the wrong way?

  5. I’ll be honest, I was surprised yesterday was so stale. The lack of MTF in this Giro compared to 70k of TT means I expected the more pure climbers to have to need to have a go in order to make enough of a gap to Dumoulin, Thomas and maybe Jungels. Surprised they didn’t.

  6. Shame about the wind. I dissent from the view that togetherness “keeps the race interesting”. Making it a race keeps it interesting in my book. After last year, and the Shark’s resurrection in the last week, I would thought we’d have learned that keeping it all together is not all its cracked up to be. Now the Pinot’s, Thomas’s and Dumoulin’s have one less chance to make a move and Senor Quintana will breathe easier.

    • Or it could be the opposite. While Quintana is not terrible at TTs, he’s still a pure climber really – yes he might put a bit of time into Yates and Landa, but Thomas, TVG and especially Dumoulin will use the time trials to gain time on the likes of Quintana. So every uphill finish where he and the other lightweight climbers don’t attack means that they have more work to do later in the race in order to pad a lead before the final TT. Otherwise it could be a repeat of 2012 with a Hesjedal type prevailing over a Rodríguez-esque rider.

      • My own view, pre-race, had been that Quintana’s biggest challenger here might actually be Dumoulin. He will surely win both ITTs and, arguably, can climb, certainly on the long steady climbs, as well as a Thomas and a Pinot. I take the view that the more opportunities there are to attack the main favourites (Quintana and Nibali going by palmares), the better. Saving yourself and keeping it tight may seem sensible but it can also be said that bringing it down to less and less opportunities to do something ends up working against you. Quintana might only need one stellar mountain performance to break some of these so-called contenders for 2 minutes. The others might need several bites at the cherry to do the same thing. On Blockhaus some people need to be less cautious.

        • He might, or it could be another massive miscalculation along the lines of Movistar’s famously conservative tactics. There’s an interview on Cyclingnews today where Quintana says he’s not at his best which is why he didn’t attack, or it could be the usual media mind games. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the Blockhaus climb and the TT the next day to see who really has a shot and who doesn’t.

  7. I see nothing wrong with the GC guys being cagey. All-out attacking is for one-day races. Three-week races are about avoiding mistakes and choosing your moment. Into a strong headwind on your own is not your moment – unless of course you’re already a few seconds down and want to get back on terms a little bit. Kudos to Zakarin for getting back off the floor and giving it a dig.

    • Yeah it was a reminder, especially with classics season still fresh in our memory, of how much more entertaining the Classics are and why riders like Sagan, GVA and Gilbert are seen as heroic whereas GC men are more respected than worshipped. By me at least. I just cant get away from how horribly skinny the GC men are these days as well. I know all cyclists, except maybe Kittel, appear weedy when compared to your normal human but the current generation of GC men take the weight loss thing to extremes I find it hard to get on board with.

  8. Good points by RonDe, Augie March and jollygoodvelo, too. Don’t ask me how can they be all spot on at the same time if they disagree. The magic of cycling, I guess ^__^

    Jollygoodvelo is absolutely right, but I think that the question others are posing is if everybody was *really* right thinking that “it wasn’t their moment”, or if that might have been not so great a decision.
    Attacking in the wind isn’t very effective, indeed, especially if you end up being alone and the pack can get back with the work of some gregario: all the same, the number of occasions available to different riders isn’t unlimited. Those who are in better form now (Thomas, Pinot, Dumoulin…) will probably see their form advantage decrease as weeks go by, while at the same time the pure climbers won’t have many stages with a significant total altitude gain and an uphill finish.

    Perhaps those who should have tried something are those who started the Giro with good form *and* aren’t top TT’s. Zakarin, indeed, even if he’s fine in ITTs; maybe Yates (not sure about his current form, just one racing day in the last six weeks, but that being a Liège top-ten I’d say it’s pretty good); Pinot if he hadn’t improved so much in ITTs (he must feel confident about that); maybe Mollema (but he apparently said he was having a bad day). Pozzovivo, Formolo and Woods are the only other names I’d come up with… (the rest didn’t show up before the Giro – or showed that they weren’t in top shape).

    However, it’s generally hard to make a serious difference when all the world is still relatively fresh.
    I already pointed out that even the huge 2011 Contador (one of his top performances ever) still had seven riders less than one minute back and a total of 17 riders within 90″: and, among the 8 previous stages, we already had had another uphill finish before (albeit easy), a very rugged strade bianche stage, plus a couple of complicated tricky stages, the kind which prevents pure sprinters from winning and get some climbers in the daily top ten. Etna was a huge psychological blow, and technically it was devastating if you consider all the factors, but the Giro was really locked up on the Grossglockner, stage 12 (besides Rujano, no rider under the one minute mark, only 4 riders under 90″, including Rujano).

    This is only stage 4 (!), and the previous flattish windy stages probably were wearing out more the pure climbers than heavier men.

    • One final comment on this stage – from one who was standing outside (just past the Selle Italia balloon) on Etna at 2 km to go, NOBODY without a motor was going much of anywhere into THAT wind! See the photos of guys drafting the cars here
      Keyboard experts can go on all they want with coulda/woulda/shoulda, the wind was truly fierce on the long, straight stretches on this climb. I’d say this stage has already made a difference as one simply couldn’t hope to hang in there without some decent form – meaning the race will likely be won by the racer who loses less form as the race goes on?

  9. here’s hoping all of the 20 odd ‘names’ make it to Blockhaus – only Dennis out so far. Can the Stork stay upright for a few days running?
    I guess Quickstep knew they were going to have to work the front over the next few days for Gaviria anyway, so will be happy with the pink.
    Ewan looks quickest, but still gets bundled out of the action too often in the big races, still young and learning I guess
    Personally I like the slow burn aspect of GTs as much as I like the bang crash of the one-dayers…

  10. It is interesting to read the comments with some saying yesterday was a missed opportunity for Quintana and others saying for his rivals.
    I first thought that it was a missed opportunity for Quintana as he is the one who needs to make up time in the mountains. But reading the comments I am no longer sure. I think we will see in the next few weeks if it was a missed opportunity. But then what is the point of attacking into the wind if you are just going to get caught by the bunch ? So most probably, yesterday was status quo because nobody would have won much from attacking.

  11. Without the headwind, things would have been different. I loved Zakarin’s move at the end. At that place on the road, it was a tailwind, and he reacted decisively. Smart!

    With Quitana’s double attempt, every chance to attack him that’s passed up, favors him. He wants to win, doing the least amount of work possible. What strategy best addresses this situation? If I wanted to beat him, I’d target stages that don’t favor him, but do favor me.

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