Giro Stage 5 Preview

Another day, another uphill sprint in a Sicilian village and that’s a good thing after yesterday’s lively finish.

Tim Wellens, Caltagirone

Stage 4 review: a hard day into a headwind. Tim Wellens won the stage after a nervous sweep around the town of Caltagirone in the final five kilometres. The Belgian was the best in the sprint among what was left of the peloton after crashes and street furniture took their toll, as well as the gradient.

UAE-Emirates earlier tried to split the race, apparently attacking just as Rohan Dennis and Tom Dumoulin had stopped for a break but the move didn’t work and the day’s breakaway was given more room to ride away. The team is now at risk of being served a dish of cold revenge during the next three weeks. Among the GC riders Simon Yates in the mix for the win while Chris Froome lost a bit more time after being caught out by the splits in the front group, as did Miguel Angel Lopez.

The Route: 153km making it the shortest road stage of the race, excluding Stage 21’s Roman victory parade. After rolling out of Agrigento the first 50km head west tracking the coast but often inland on lumpy roads and along clifftops. There are three fourth category climbs with second rate descents. The ascents are steady, often 5% and on long straight roads amid the olive groves.

The Finish: another hilltop town but a different feel. With 2.2km to go the route climbs for the most part at 6% but including 12% which will thin out the group but for the most part it’s really 4-5% at best. After arriving in town and passing under the flamme rouge the road dips down to a tight turn to the right with 400m to go and then rises gently before another sharp right-hander and the 250m finishing straight.

The Contenders: this is a flat sprint after a sharp climb and several climbs during the stage so can any of the sprinters make it to the final bend without wooden legs? Probably not and the final climb into Santa Ninfa is like yesterday’s stage, only with a flatter finish. There’s a greater chance of a breakaway staying away but once BMC Racing have contained the day’s move several teams are likely to chase in order to ensure a reduced bunch sprint.

Enrico Battaglin (Lotto-Jumbo) has won a stage before in the Giro and his third place yesterday was a good result, now he’ll find the flatter finish to his liking. He’s the prime pick for today although nobody looks like a three chainring certainty.

Tim Wellens (Lotto-FixAll) was the best yesterday and if today’s finish is not uphill to the line he’ll find the climb up into town to his liking. Max Schachmann (Quick Step) crashed in Caltagirone yesterday but got up and got back on, he was so good he kept his white jersey and he’s a pick for today.

Pello Bilbao (Astana) has a second chance. Among the GC candidates Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) can sprint well from a reduced group.

Enrico Battaglin, Max Schachmann
Wellens, Dennis, Bilbao, Yates, Betancur

Weather: cloudy, cool at 19°C and the chance of rain.

TV: Host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage, Eurosport has the rights for many countries across Europe and Australia and it’s streamed via Fubo in the US and Dazn in Japan. The finish is forecast for 5.15pm.

69 thoughts on “Giro Stage 5 Preview”

  1. I’m curious if you/anyone has a sense of what the smaller teams will mean in this, the first grand tour with only 8 riders. Perhaps on tomorrow’s shorter stage it won’t be a big deal, but deeper into the race? I’ve not read much commentary so far this season on the smaller team size and its impact, and was curious what Inrng thought.

    • It seems to be making an impact but it’s hard to prove, short of running two identical races hundreds f times over to get some stats. The big race owners are for it, the big team owners have been against it so remember this when it is praised/knocked. We’ll see more in the mountain stages.

    • It’s probably having a subtle impact. The internal competition within the bigger (budget) teams must have gotten stronger, some riders normally having a secure spot in important races probably worked a bit harder this year.

    • Equally of the radar seems to be one of last year’s hottest topics, disc brakes. Are they currently forbidden, simply not in favor by pros or now considered to offer no advantage?

      • They’re allowed, but they’re just not so useful for the pro riders or at least the benefits in braking get set against the cost of wheel changes, see Brambilla yesterday who had a long chase back because of a slow wheel change. There’s also the weight penalty. They have their uses but the pro peloton is not necessarily the best shop window for them.

  2. UAE’s attack was a curious one; I don’t recall Dennis taking a break at the time, but they certainly gunned it for several uphill km and rapidly took almost 4′ off the break – but it came just before the feed zone, quite odd?
    I could be wrong though, I was watching L’Equipe’s stream at the time – a sort of Gallic Test Match Special with Vin Rouge instead of cake, I think – and I, alas, do not speak French.

    The GC alarm bells must be clanging very loudly in the Astana and Sky camps, both their main men are almost at the point where their hopes go up in smoke.
    In fact, I’m not sure whether Miguel Angel Lopez will make up the lost real and as-yet-to-come-TT loss. I can’t see Froome doing it either.
    Perhaps an unholy Astana / Sky alliance will be needed in the mountains to damage Dumoulin?

    • “Gallic Test Match Special with Vin Rouge instead of cake” – my dear old thing, I could certainly get on board with that. I’ve really enjoyed watching foreign coverage of cycling in the past few years – sporza was particularly good for the spring classics, although I know even less flemish/dutch than french.

  3. Sky in a poor position after just 4 stages… only CF scrapping no into the top 20. No surprise really, but so far they just don’t seem on their game as a unit. What happened to them yesterday… we’re they mixed up in that pinch point crash? Very unusual to see no Sky jerseys over the last few km.

    Mitchellton Scott on the other hand, 3 riders in the top 10 yesterday.

    And Wellens… machine!

    • Agreed. It is unusual, Sky appears to have the manpower to boss the front during tricky sections of the parcours as it usually does during GT’s – why didn’t they do this yesterday, the risk was clear.

      Perhaps Froome has come in underdone in order to peak late in the Giro (considering he also needs to hold form through to France). He doesn’t look as emaciated as he usually does at the Tour.

      • The Giro is a different beast when it comes to GT’s. way more intense and technical.

        Not like the TDF’s boulevard finishes or the vuelta where 2/3’s of the pack attends only because their employer insists while riders dreams of the beach.

        • I caught finish but couldn’t see what happened with Froome, my podcast feed had title for one of pods I listen to with title “Froome struggles in stage 4”? Did he struggle or was it just a case of bad positioning?

          Seems sky do struggle tactically at times when they are not controlling the front of the race, get caught out on occasions that I assume was bad positioning.

          Etna will see where Froome is at form wise.

          • I saw a couple of Sky riders slowed a little by the crash, not all. Very unlike Sky to be in the position to be affected by such a crash .

  4. Can I register annoyance at EF-Drapac’s kit being the exact same shade of pink as Dennis’ leader’s jersey? If Lotto NL can tone down the yellow on their kit come July, how about the same courtesy being extended in May?

  5. All things considered Yates is in such a strong position already to win this Giro, although Dumoulin was very strong, just put of position yesterday, and Pinot finished well on a climb that was normally a bit punchy for him. Think they are the three main contenders.

    • I think he’s in a strong position to go into pink for a while but I worry about him in the TT and the last week. If it turns out that neither Dumoulin or Froome are in top shape then he’s definitely a contender.

  6. Loved the finish yesterday. That pinch point at around 6km to go looked like it was deliberately placed to string out the bunch before that bonkers town centre dash. Froome and Denis looked to be just behind/level with Zeitz when he went into the barrier, one of the sky guys (Either Froome or his tail gunner) got there Bike/rear mech swipped by the Astana rider’s rear wheel but both made it through with only a marginal hold up it looked like. Sky claim a second hold up with Froome ‘limiting his losses’ but there was certainly no sign and CF looked like he was puffing when I came up at about 30-40 seconds after the spectacular Wellens which Big Tom and the Pink Jersey where half wheeling each other just behind the stage victory. Etna will tell us a heck of a lot, I suspect Froome to be out the back quite early as he’s no doubt (IMHO) here not to win but to stress his pharmacokinetics

  7. Il Giro enables ambushes and gets really hard in the third week. Personally I dont cheer for CF, but if he manages to keep his loses to the minimum, will be plenty of room for his recovey in the third week. So IMO he still a contender.
    Pd. Remember Nibali in 2016

    • Yup, it’s far too early – and we’ve had far too little climbing – to be writing off Froome yet.
      He knows how to get his form into peak condition (insert own innuendo here) and it would be very odd for him not to have done that for this race.
      Wait for the long monoclimbs to see how he really is – this sort of chaos and short bursts of climbing don’t suit him.

      • But would he be here without that appearance fee? That clouds things for mine.

        And it looks, and must feel like, momentum is against him – the AAF, the crash, losing time on each of the only two stages where it was possible – it’s a sinking feeling, like one more negative and the balance tips.

        • He has bounced back from worse, including an ITT bungle up (losing a minute and half to AC) in the 2014 Vuelta.

          I think we are seeing the 2014 Froome here, he may lose a bit more time here and there; he may do his Yoyo thing; he may not even win it at the end. But except a good fight from him in week 2&3.

  8. Just caught a replay on youtube of the final 9 km. That was one mad rush through town and certainly made good tv. For a a finish it was on certainly getting to the limits of what I would think is good due to the narrowness of the downhill roads. They should have more crowd and they would help. Seemed a few times the crowd was on the road and I saw one tangle of bikes and crowd (on a corner when the first one went through I immediately thought that’s tight and then the crash occurred).
    But hats off to the route for providing a finish that rewarded real power cycling. Even sitting in the last few km’s would have been hard. I think it would be difficult to judge form as with all the corners and a few crashes I could imagine a few riders got caught out just in the mad rush. It was more like the finish of a one day classic.

  9. A proper Giro stage finish yesterday. Let’s hope today is more of the same! It’s difficult to pick a winner, I’d be tempted to go with Wellens again.

  10. We need to wait until Thursday before writing off Chris Froome and Sky however….

    This was simply not the sort of CF performance we have become accustomed to. Yes he has had the occasional slightly off day eg the steep finish in the Pyrenees last year or “Froomegal” but they were very much exceptions. He has imposed his will on the peloton, mixing in with the sprints, taking time on flat stages and downhills. Here he was nowhere, Wout Poels was leading out the main contenders at the bottom of the final drag, he looked around to check CF was there but he was nowhere to be seen. Maybe the injuries are more serious than he is letting on, maybe the “issues” are taking their toll or maybe he simply doesnt have the form. Roll on Mt Etna.

    Fabio Aru seems a sad lost cause, I guess he will win one of the mountain stages after completely falling out of contention..

    I thought yesterday was an interesting first day of the Giro, after the rather odd dull prologue through the desert, great landscapes and great racing, hopefully more today.

      • I don’t think that was him, more likely Formolo or Konrad. I think Kirby had Bennet on the brain (he also called Battaglin as George Bennet)

        • Exactly what I thought – Kirby sees whatever his brain has told him is happening, regardless of the reality. His bias towards Anglo riders causes him to assume that if it’s a rider doing well, it must be them – e.g. the Battaglin moment you mention.

  11. I like how the Giro uses challenging finishes – although others criticise them for being unsafe. Riding skill is a part of the sport and these finishes are generally more interesting than in, say, the TdF.

    • Yeah, I think everyone does don’t they? (Audience wise)

      As long as they don’t have posts sticking out like a few years back at the Ruta Del Sol (or was it Andalucia?) or anything too obstructive for a peloton – obvs that a grey area but it seems on a uphill finish it’s quite rare road furniture affects the bunch so not sure you’ll find anyone here really criticising the Giro’s finishes?

      Seems like most cycling fans agree which is possibly why the Tour been pinching the tactic in recent years?

      It might be a bit unfair to neg on the tour though – they are dealing with more fans, bigger caravan, more media in each town – plus riders and teams arrive at a different level of preparedness which may affect the spectacle? They also (I cannot say) may have less sinuous roads than Italy, in the places which can fit the Tour.

      I just think all the Tour bashing isn’t helpful – the Tour’s reach is what hooks new fans interest and draws them to P-R, the Giro and everything else, it’s also undeniably the pinnacle of the sport and so everyone who hates on it still watches but they may be holding it to unfair standards considering everything else it does for the sport – even if there are obvious negatives to it’s status, I’m not sure how it compares directly to Giro/Vuelta is one.

      • The TdF has greatly improved its first half stages in recent years (copying the Giro), showing that all the concerns about safety or whatever were essentially excuses. Yet, you’ve got some fair points, and I especially share the general one, but holding the TdF to way lower techical standards when quality of racing is concerned (in broader terms, not just about this kind of finales) only because “the TdF is the TdF” is what have been done for years with dire effects. That they’re prompted to improve even if they’re the supposed pinnacle of the sport is just good for everyone. Even a casual fan might be happy to know that cycling can be better than that (I know several people who “would have gone away” for the Tour, but “stayed for the Classics”, although, no doubt, the mass public events are the GTs and the TdF above all).

      • I wasn’t criticising the TdF, more the complaints people make about ‘unsafe Giro finishes’ – I hear that from (albeit often witless) commentators on Eurosport and from riders occasionally.

  12. Where does the theories about the UAE attack come from?
    I’ve read a variety of them around, sometimes conflicting among them.

    Surely, their behaviour was a bit strange – especially the fact of quitting the attack rather soon after a clear team car call – which can understandably give room to any sort of conjecture; but it wasn’t *extremely* strange, either: after all, they tested the rest on the most suited climb available (despite not even being a GPM); besides, it came at some 100 km from the line, which, you think about it as sort of a classic, is always a good moment to open fire.
    Then, we can imagine that Aru or Ulissi said they didn’t feel great legs, or they thought that it wasn’t worth the effort given that no big name had suddenly looked on the back foot and the climb was over (but in a stage like this, you should go on pushing hard a little more, it’s obvious that any big contender will be able to resist and possibly bluff on a single, quite short climb).

    Anyway, I’d be hugely surprised if Froome and Dumoulin had decided to take their nature break in such a key point. It would have been such a mistake that fair play might become a bit debatable. If that happened, anyway, I can see that their mistake could have been provoked by the positioning of the feed zone, far from ideal. Or, at least, far from ideal if you, as an organiser, expect a hard-fought stage. If your bet as an organiser is that things will stay calm throughout the stage, then it’s ok; and it wasn’t an easy choice, either, not many available options. Whereas you had indeed some better options for the nature break, quite more flexible than the feed zone…

    BTW, we also had a red flags moment midway through the attack which cooled things down ^__^

      • Well, at least that’s what happened according to them. That team’s also got a history of lies about Aru (and *that* would have deserved a sanction, but it never happened…).

    • +1 I fear the polemics have already begun on this normally excellent forum – I must have missed the complaints about the Irish rider who ran the Italian dangerously close to the barriers in the sprint the other day (which was easy for everyone to see) but now we’re going to get stuff like the comment below about an Italian’s tactics vs the Anglo-Saxons based on an incident that so far we know little to nothing about? I bailed out of here about halfway through last year’s Giro, but (sadly) I might have to exit sooner this year.

      • That is, they really decided to stop there? If it was so, a pity UAE’s move didn’t went on, those guys need to study the course before entering a race. Unless it was made on purpose to keep things calm in a key moment, but that would be really abusing the pink jersey rights.
        However, Dumoulin’s teammates have a story of shameful lies on tape about Aru, hence they’re not that reliable, either ^__^

          • Sorry,
            *story > history (as above) 😛
            I was referring to the 2015 Vuelta supposed slingshot which someone among Tom’s teammates denounced Aru for, saying he had witnessed it… until heli shot showed that it hadn’t happened at all.

      • Uh, can’t see where that video has a lot of credibility Mr. Inrng, but the “scandal” was discussed by Eurosport’s Italian commentators and pretty much dismissed. I think RAI’s boys pooh-poohed it as well but can’t swear to that – so I’ll butt out and let Gabriele continue the discussion.
        Meanwhile, I hope the comments here don’t devolve into either the “You suck!” “No, YOU suck!” or a circle-jerk where everyone gets off on agreeing with everyone else – especially when it descends into xenophobic name-calling and nasty insinuations of the type leveled against Aru.
        I understand the first language (and perhaps only?) for most readers here is English so that’s the viewpoint they get – but after so many years in Europe I find it often biased when it comes to riders from Italy or Spain vs English-speaking “Anglo-Saxons”.

  13. With Froome losing time early on in this race, I think it probably bodes well for a more exciting GC battle further down the road. Far from being Froome’s greatest fan I would not write him off till the fat lady sings. He’s a fighter not a quitter and I believe he knows how to win over 3 weeks!

  14. Is it possible that Froome does not intend to win the Giro?
    Inrng wrote “Hidden Motivation” – an excellent piece about mixing money, politics and sports. If Froome/SKY was offered a substantial sum of money for him to start the Giro, he might have agreed to that.
    It seems almost impossible to win the Giro and Tour d France in the same season, so when Froome announced that was his goal, I thought it was odd that he would take a great risk of loosing both races. Maybe he just did it for the money and he know that if he tries to win the Giro, he will loose the Tour, so he will not. Maybe he will even exit the race before it finishes.

    • Interesting theory and decidedly possible were it not for his possible impending ban. Relying on actually being allowed to ride the Tour would seem a gamble.

  15. Great prediction Inrng.

    Looked like it was a really exciting finale.

    Anyone else think that the best outcome of the froome saga would be an irrelevant year performance wise? If he finishes somewhere in the top 10 and has zero impact on any stage then the asterisks and useless debates can die down. Obviously the debates about what Sky has been doing to prepare their athletes will continue. But hopefully most fans can make the pragmatic conclusion about sky/Movistar/Astana/all other non-mpcc teams?

    Maybe there should be a new GC ranking called MPCC yellow jersey? Clearly the rules are different and therefore the performance is different. Maybe ASO should only award a yellow jersey and winnings to an MPCC team GC rider. My hopes are on mike woods!!

    • Hopefully most fans would also notice that Sky was by far the *closest* team to the sport’s top management, especially after some alliances that brought Cookson up were broken.

      MPCC… Wow, Nibali would have won the 2015 Tour de France (thanks to a procedural delay) and that would make for the 2013 Vuelta he lost – also – because of ’em!
      Then you get Bardet and Urán.
      Your hopes on Woods overlook just a little this couple of former “winners”, besides, dunno, Dumoulin (and Pinot)?
      However, MPCC is very interesting, but I wouldn’t take it too seriously in terms of “clean cycling” (not that you say anything like that, just a general point). It’s probably a better cycling for the athletes, though… well, until we’ll discover they were using motors as the*healthiest* way to level the playing field ^__^
      [joke alert]

      • Haha. I never said my idea was perfect. Just it may be better than the current status quo

        I am biased on woods because I am a fellow canadian. I momentarily lost my head and assumed that because dumplings is the reigning champ then he must be non-mpcc

        • I see ‘dumplings’ is your cutesy nickname for handsome-boy Tom. (Yeah, you’re going to claim it was ‘predictive text’.)

      • It’s risky by definition but in cycling often the odds often don’t suit the occasion, eg if I was right today then the picks may not be enough on the money tomorrow. Generally it seems either you place a bet very early before the bookmaker understands the market or you play very late, eg sometimes you can bet “in play” on events that you can see on a fast TV source before others.

  16. Bizarre by the normally tactically astute Astana team – all but deserting Lopez, only sending back two riders, and then only eventually, to help him post-crash, when they seemed to have more riders up front – unless I was mistaken (a lot of light blue kits this year). Do they lack faith in him?

    • The only 2 riders who wasn’t sent back to Lopez were Pello Bilbao and Kangert, both better placed in GC than Lopez. Lettting them loose also 40s like LL Sanchez and Lopez could also called bad tactics
      Other Astan riders like Hirt were already caught by the mass crash at 13 to go.

      • But do either of them have a chance of even a top 5 in this race?
        Lopez is a far better rider than those two, so it still seems like a bad tactic to me.

        • I think Pello Bilbao is capable of a top 10 at least.
          And I doubt that 2 men more could have saved a lot more for Lopez at this point of race at the pace they had with 5.6km to go, most of which uphill. On a flat, 2 more can make a difference, but there?

          • It was a most unfortunate to have to make,yet proper ,tactical decision.Astana had to sacrifice a possible Lu Lu stage win (very much in the course cards) for possible GC down the line. More riders dropping back at that point would not have saved the day. Sanchez did a nice job . There will be more days for Lopez.

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